In the final scene of Martin Scorsese's 'King of Comedy' a news report suggests that Rupert Pupkin (played by Robert De Niro), after coming out of prison, becomes a sensation and releases his much awaited autobiography. At the same time he is shown to be holding various offers for shows.

Is it possible that he would have imagined this bit too like his previous conversations and stage shows with Jerry Langford? Is there any suggestive evidence leading to reality or otherwise?

  • 2
    The same question is often asked of the final scene of Taxi Driver. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 1:46

7 Answers 7


There appears to be some debate over this (on IMDb boards and Rotten Tomatoes et al), but I found a Wikipedia snippet that suggests the following:

Film scholar David Bordwell, writing in Film Viewer's Guide, mentioned the (un)reality of the ending as a topic for debate. A number of scenes in the film — Rupert and Jerry in the restaurant, Jerry meeting Rupert after having listened to his tape and calling him a genius, Rupert getting married "live" on Jerry's show — exist solely in Rupert's imagination, and Bordwell suggested that some viewers would think the final sequence is another fantasy.

  • I'll continue to dig...
    – Nobby
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 21:16
  • It looks open to interpretation. However one difference between the final scene and the other fantasies of Rupert Pupkin (mentioned by you) is the presence of Jerry Langford. Jerry Langford is present in each of his fantasies but in the final scene there is no mention of a meeting between the two. Hence I think it is reality.
    – Qrious
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 5:50
  • The best art is often ambiguous in this manner. Which is better: real or fantasy? (Answer: both!) Leaves you wondering, which is precisely the point, or the director would have been explicit. For instance, at the end of Inception, is he still in the dream? The character makes a decision that he doesn't care, and the audience is denied absolute validation he is not (shot cuts just as the top is starting to wobble, but before it drops.) Good anwser!
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 23:58

The background curtains, as stated above, look like prison bars. In addition, he's wearing a very loud red suit consistent of what would be worn by someone in prison. Finally, if you happen to look he positions his hands in what would normally be some form of a restraint position.

All this, in addition to the very weak material in his stand up would lead one to believe that he's imagining all of this from some from of Prison/Mental institution.


That's clearly Pupkin's imagination. Think about all the times he was day dreaming, it was EXAGGERATED, a lot, and now read the last lines of the script (which, by the way, different from the original draft where it is clearly not day dreaming, here is instead not that obvious..), after stating that the biography has been sold for a million (a million!) dollars, and that a movies will be made on it soon, and that "he and his people were weighing attractive offers":

And now, ladies and gentlemen the man we've all been waiting for, and waiting for. Would you welcome home please television's brightest new star The legendary, inspirational, the one and only king of comedy! Ladies and gentlemen, Rupert Pupkin! Rupert Pupkin, ladies and gentlemen! Let's hear it for Rupert Pupkin! Wonderful! Rupert Pupkin, ladies and gentlemen! Rupert Pupkin, ladies and gentlemen! Let's hear it for Rupert Pupkin! Wonderful! Rupert Pupkin, ladies and gentlemen!

You get it.. This is no different from when, during the movie, his teacher is thanking him because.. he changed their lives.. :D


Having had this discussion many times, I am convinced it is a fantasy.

My primary reasoning is that, beyond the symbolism people have already pointed out, his end rise to "King" level doesn't really make that much rational sense. The short prison sentence, the fact that somehow he would be even more popular 6 years later, and the fact that he is just given a show of his own are all incredibly extreme.

I believe the lack of Jerry in the final sequence is meant to show a change in his fantasy life. He no longer needs Jerry to be a crutch for his fantasies, he can pour them all into himself.


Fantasy. And here is my theory: Remember that every scene in Rupert's imagination is outweighed by scenes in Rupert's reality.

Now, think of it like this:

  • Rupert's fantasy = positive life situation.
  • Rupert's reality = negative life situation.

The movie follows a certain pattern of balance​, it follows a shift of positive fantasy and negative reality.

For every negative situations in his reality, it had to be balanced by the same amount of positive situations in his fantasy. For example, he got his tape rejected by Jerry (negative reality), next scene shows Jerry praising him (positive fantasy). We find another example at the end of the movie: Rupert goes to jail (very negative reality).
If the movie follows this pattern then the last scene with Rupert's success, a very positive situation, has to be fantasy.


I think the ending is a fantasy by the sheer magnitude of the reception he receives in the end...which is consistent in regard to viewing himself as the KING...

  • 3
    Hello and welcome to the Stack Exchange. Quick note: if your answer begins with the words "I think," there's a really good chance it's opinion and not a verifiable definitive answer. Might I suggest checking out the Tour to get a better idea of how to ask and answer questions here? We're not a typical discussion forum. When you get 50 reputation points you'll be able to comment, and that's what this would be better suited as. Don't be discouraged, we were all new here at some point. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 0:40

When Rupert is being introduced during the end scene the curtains in the background resemble prison bars, quite a strong hint towards reality or fantasy.

The point is there is evidence to both sides of the argument, it's up to the viewer to make a decision depending on their interpretation of the film. That's what the director has intended to do.


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