By Doug Brod
Updated January 10, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Martin Scorsese’s cynical take on the nature of celebrity remains shockingly topical and hilariously squirm-inducing nearly 20 years after its initial theatrical release. In a role he would essentially revisit with diminishing returns in 1996’s ”The Fan,” Robert De Niro plays delusional nobody Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy, an aspiring stand-up who ends up kidnapping a talk-show host (Jerry Lewis, at his supercilious best) in order to get his one shot at TV stardom. Whether Rupert’s whining to his (unseen) buttinsky of a mother or mishandling cue cards crucial to his abduction scheme, De Niro proves he was a master comic actor way before starring in ”Analyze This” and ”Meet the Parents.”

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