I can't believe it took me over 30 years to sit down and watch The King of Comedy, Martin Scorsese's 1982 comedy about fan culture and the changing state of fame. My friends John and Sheldon (me with Sheldon, pictured; image by John Stanton) invited me to see it at MoMA, and it was—as you may know—perfection.
Also, I have met people like just about everyone in the movie. Or been them.
Jerry Lewis was impossibly good, perfect even, and I finally got to sample Sandra Bernhard's career-making supporting performance, which felt a lot like she improvised most of it.
Maybe the scene in the film that most succinctly captured fan culture was when a woman at a pay phone sees Lewis's famous character and asks for an autograph, which he grants, then wants him to speak to her husband on the phone. When he politely states he's late and can't, she yells after him, “You should only get cancer!” (Scorsese has said the scene was suggested by Lewis, who directed the actress in it based on an incident that really happened to him.)
There was an actual star in the audience for the show, Patrick Wilson. I love him, and we were chatting about how hot he is or isn't (I vote is). I thought it would be perfect to ask him for a selfie after, then tell him he should only get cancer if he refused. However, we didn't get the chance because the woman he was seated with was on her cellphone more than a few times, texting. Not that discreetly. A man behind her, and one row in front of us, tapped her and asked her to stop, and this woman turned and seethed that he shouldn't touch her.
Isn't that typical? Caught red-handed doing something indefensibly rude, and when called on it—politely, civilly—she tries to turn it into the other person crossing some line.
I've got news for you, lady—you were wrong. Put your fucking phone away. Yes, you are seated with Patrick Wilson, but that should be all the more reason to put your fucking phone away because he is an actor in movies and probably doesn't appreciate it and yet is too polite to tell you so, and it reflects badly on him, actually, that he didn't tell you.
After all that, the man who called her out left the moment the film ended, and the offending woman turned as if she were disappointed not to get to confront him, talking to her group (including Patrick) about the encounter.
She may think being a friend of Patrick's made her the queen of The King of Comedy, but her manners made her a schmuck for a night.
P.S. Yes, I fully realize the irony of this type of post happening around this type of movie!