Friday, February 16, 2007

The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud

I don't chat about the Joker much. That's not because I don't respect the character; I do. He's almost flawless. Immediately comprehensible, a perfect archtype, and phenomenally adaptable, the Joker is one of the great character creations not merely of comics, but of all literature.

That, of course, is why it's not necessarily to write lots about him. Everyone knows it; everyone gets it. But there is one thing I want to ask you:

What's the funniest thing the Joker's ever said or done?

Now, by funny I don't mean "sardonically wicked or wackily crazy so that it perfectly captured his demented sense of humor". No, I actually mean funny as in, "hey, that made me laugh, out loud, for a long time."

The Joker can be funny, not just to himself but to us. That's part of what makes him so disturbing; we'd really rather not get the Joker's nihilistic sense of humor, but sometimes we can't help but understand why he finds certain things funny.

"Pardon me, sir. May I ask: by any chance,
is your refrigerator running?"

Playing the Joker must have been a dream come true for Cesar Romero, a big old queen who for most of his career was typecast as a Macho Latino and stuck playing the Sullen Latin Lover Who Doesn't Get The Girl. Finally, a chance to flame away and the burn the house down while doing so!

His joy in finally being free to fully flaunt his fabulousness was irrepressible and shines through his every moment in the role. If there is anything gayer than him patting his hands together while going, "Ooo-hoo-hooo ... deLICious!" I've never seen it (and trust, folks, I've seen my share, and quite a lot of it in the mirror). His Joker isn't driven or tortured: he's having the time of his life, just as Cesar was.

Who's this sleepy-eyed young hottie, smelling sweetly of the Morning After?
Cesar Romero!

Ooo-hoo-hooo ... deLICious!

So it's no surprise to me that my own best "The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud" moment came from him. You may remember it...

The Joker brazenly pops into Commissioner Gordon's office to let him know he's currently stealing the priceless carrera marble statue of Justice in front of Police Headquarters (almost everything in Gotham City was "priceless"; no wonder there's so much crime there). Sputtering with indignity, Gordon huffs, "Stealing 'Justice'? Have you no scruples, man!?" To which, the Joker gently replies as if to a little child:

"Oh, Commissioner, the cash value of scruples is zero; I prefer carrera marble."

Perhaps you had to be there, but I swear that once made me laugh so hard I thought I would need oxygen.

What's your "The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud" Moment?


totaltoyz said...

For the comics, I'd have to say it was in Robin II: The Joker's Wild #1. Mr. Freeze has taken control of the Joker's old gang while he was in Arkham (can you say "asking for trouble", Mr. Fries?). Of course, the Joker gets back and immediately kills Mr. Freeze (he got better).

Bones: "You iced him, boss!"
Joker: "For the last time, Bones, I do the jokes around here!"

Of course, had Steve Englehart been writing the story, Joker would have immediately shoved Bones under a truck.

totaltoyz said...

And I agree 100% about Romero's Joker. My favorite moment was from when Joker had Batman and Robin trapped and offered them a "fair chance" of escape. He asked them if they were good swimmers, then said he was going to put them in an abandoned smokestack and start filling it. (That's all he said, "filling" it.) He told them if they could stay afloat for an hour, he'd let them go. Of course, once they were locked in the smokestack, he started filling it...with gas.

Batman: "But that's gas!"
Joker: "I believe you're right! But then, who said anything about water?"
Robin: "You can't float in gas!"
Joker: "No, but you can drown in it!"

Devon said...

In "Batman: The Man Who Laughs," The Joker attempts to poison Gotham's water supply and just as he's about to hit the plunger, Batman blows up the reservoir before he can.

The Joker just...


and pauses...

and calmly asks Batman, hand on hip, "What did you just do?"

Batman stole The Joker's punchline.

Comedy gold!

Anonymous said...

I know they're not very good jokes but I always laugh outloud when the Mark Hamill-voiced Joker insults Batman. Especially his commentary during the JL Las Vegas episode w/ the RFG.

Hamill's Joker and the Cesar Romero Joker have the most resonance for me. I wish more DC writers would emphasize the humorous aspects instead of the deadly psychopath aspects. The DCAU demonstrated that he doesn't need to leave a gigantic body count in order to be an effective character.

-alex p

Anonymous said...

For my money, Batman of all people delivered the best Joker joke. This is from the "World's Finest" cartoon, where Superman and Batman battled Lex and the Joker; the climactic finish took place aboard a damaged aircraft. Everyone managed to parachute away except for the Joker, and when the plane finally exploded, Harley Quinn shouted out, "PUDDIN!" To which, Batman said: "Actually, he probably is."

I still have to credit that joke to the Joker, since every bit of the setup was the Joker's doing -- all Batman had to do was come up with the punchline.

Your Ol' Pal Rob said...

While everything said in the article about Romero's Joker is spot-on, I have to join the growing DCAU Joker lovefest. My biggest laugh from Mr. J: Two words in Mad Love:

"Too 'Riddler'"

Laura said...

In fact he's a vastly *more* effective character when the body count is low. His only real power is that he's a scary clown. This can be reasonably effective when he is terrifying a couple of people. Things like Emperor Joker and Last Laugh where he's supposed to be a global or cosmic level threat just make me roll my eyes.

Dreadful overuse, both in scale and number of appearances, have killed any interest in the character I ever had.

Christopher said...

My favorite Batman-Joker moment was in Batman 251 by the O'Neil-Neal Adams the end the Joker is making his escape but trips on an oil slick on the which Batman replies "Cheer up Joker, who would have thought YOU would make me grateful for pollution!"..... but then this was during the so-called Bruce Wayne with gold medallions and manly hair stage....

The Scarlet Slacker said...

While I normally don't get too worked up for the DC/Marvel crossovers, I absolutely loved the way that the Joker completely upstaged Carnage and showed him to be a hollow villain. And he did it with the humor and panache that oly the Joker can deliver. Some may think that puns are juvenile and lowbrow, but to me few things can surpass the comedic brilliance of "Chile con Carnage".

Ariel said...

Not so much of a laugh as a gasp and choke in equal parts disgust and admiration of the Joker's absolute freedom from moraility: from Death in the Family.

Joker and Batman are in the Iranian Embassy after brutally murdering Jason Todd. Joker asks Bats, "So what are you going to do?" Pan to a scary shot of Joker's face uplit. "Let your assistant handle it?!"


rachelle said...

Is it totally square to reference the first Batman movie? The first Joker quote that I thought of, in terms of things that make me laugh out loud, is this exchange:

Batman: I'm going to kill you!
The Joker: You IDIOT! You made me. Remember, you dropped me into that vat of chemicals. That wasn't easy to get over, and don't think that I didn't try.
Batman: You killed my parents.
The Joker: What? What? What are you talking about?
Batman: I made you, you made me first.
The Joker: Give me a break. I was a kid when I killed your parents. When I say "I made you" you gotta say "you made me." How childish can you get?

Julian said...

I laughed out loud with most of the Joker's antics in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

- said to a robot mannequin of a housewife: Whaddaya say hon', feeling the old electricity tonight?

- said to Phantasm, prior to starting a huge, powerful fan: Well if it isn't Smokey the Babe, just in time to meet her biggest fan.

- when fighting the Phantasm in a kitchen of sorts, he has her at a disadvantage and between a big ham and a knife, he picks the ham and tries to maul her with it.

I really liked the recent issue of Detective Comics (#826) where Robin is kidnapped by the Joker and must survive their drive through Gotham while preventing as many civilian casualties as he can. This issue was also written by Paul Dini. The funniest gag in that story was not by the Joker, but by Robin. The J. is about to drive over Santa Claus with children gathered around him. He asks Robin: Last chance, Junior. Sure you've got nothing to say for dear old Santa Claus? Robin answers: You can't fool me. There ain't no sanity claus. Joker (and I) laughs out loud and drives by the children without harming them. Now that I think of it, it was perhaps a set up on Joker's part for Robin to deliver this classic Marx Brothers line.

Rachelle: right after that, he proceeds to wear an, obviously fake, pair of glasses and says: Now you wouldn't hit a man with glasses? Huh? Would ya? (Batman punches him)

Devon: I just read The Man who Laughs and it's not Batman stealing his punchline why Joker is upset. It reads more like that the Joker is pissed with Batman for destroying his meticulously organized plan to perpetrate such a grand crime. But anyway, maybe that's just how *I* interpret that scene.

Anonymous said...

No rachelle, I'm with. Nearly anything and everything Jack Nicholson does as the Joker slays me in the first Batman film.

Even my mother can't contain her laughed whenever the scene where the Joker is dancing on the parade float comes on. It's Nicholson having a ball with the character.

There's a reason why it's his all-time favorite performance of his to watch. That and probably the $50-million-plus he made off of merchandising alone.

plok said...

Actually, I believe it's a salami or something that the Joker grabs in Mask of the Phantasm...


Julian said...

It probably is a salami and not a ham.

danijel said...

When he equated Carnage to David Hasselhoff and blew him to smithereens in that one Marvel vs. DC crossover.

J. M. DeMatties is a genius.

Anonymous said...

In the Arkham Asylum mini-series, he and Two-Face are casually walking out and leaving it to lower-level crooks, when Two-Face asks boredly, "So what are you going to do next?"

Joker, bright-eyed, with a phonebook and notepad in hand: "I'm going to kill everyone who's name is a palindrome!"

More effectively demented than on-panel violence, and just brilliantly random.

Jon Hex said...

"You'll turn off the flashlight when I'm halfway across."

Jacob said...

Not with you there, jon hex. Moore's a god, the Killing Joke is brutally effective at restoring the Joker to his horrific grandeur, etc. etc... but the ending just fell flat for me. That final scene, joke included, is probably my least-favorite Moore-written bit in his DC career.

Scotus said...

From "Devil's Advocate":

Batman: "Ironic, isn't it? That fly is going to live longer than you."
Joker: (Claps hands together, killing the fly.) "Says who?" (Eats fly.)

Also, a lot of really great Joker moments are in "The Further Adventures of the Joker," a book of short stories which came out when the first Batman movie was released, and every comic book fan should own.

"You're all going to do your routines. I'm the judge for this. But guess what? I'm not looking for the funniest one anymore. I am searching for the worst, dumbest, least-funny among you. That one, I'm guessing, will be the Batman. Then we'll see just how a bad comedian dies on stage."

Julian said...

Scotus, was there a story in that book where the Joker has kidnapped Robin and grinds his body in a mill? A friend of mine had read that book when we were both 10 years old and then narrated that sequence to me. Of course, I freaked out and couldn't believe what DC had gone and published.

But I could be wrong about this book being it (or many other steps to this "truth" could be wrong for that matter).

Andrew Ironwood said...

Julian: I believe you're thinking of "The Further Adventures of Batman", which contained Batman short stories by Robert Sheckley (who I think did the story with the mill sequence you recall), Max Allan Collins, and Isaac Asimov, amongst several others (some of which were very good - others [like the Asimov one] not so much...)

Scotus said...

As Andrew said, the story was in "The Further Adventures of Batman," but it's the Joker who gets ground up in the mill. I don't think Robin even appears in the story.

Dave said...

Include me in the "I loathe pretty much everything Nicholson did in the movie" club, but I love "Butch" Romero and his manic energy -- about the only thing I do like about the TV show.

As for the Joker himself, my two highspots would be having him sing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells . . ." in "Christmas with the Joker," and his having a midget sidekick named Gaggy.

It doesn't get much better than Gaggy.

The Mutt said...

If Mark Hamill had never played Luke Skywalker, he would still be in the Geek Pantheon for his portrayal of the The Joker. Never underestimate the power of a scary clown.

"Sanity Claus." -- If you are going to homage, homage from the best.

And I'm a little ashamed to admit that the only Joker moment that ever made me laugh out loud was when he pushed his henchman in front of a truck because he had given him a good idea without being asked. That, to me, is the defining Joker moment. Why the other henchmen didn't bug out is beyond me.

The only thing that bugs me about Romero's portrayal of The Joker is his refusal to shave his mustache. It make it clear that The Joker is wearing make-up. That's just wrong. C'mon, man. I shaved my head for a role and I wasn't even making scale!

Julian said...

Mutt: Paul Pope referenced that in Solo (#3) where we can clearly see that Joker has a mustache which matches his skin's colour. That Robin story, besides being really good, is a homage to Romero's performance, especially his mannerisms, which Pope nails with his art.

After checking Amazon, perhaps it could be this story my friend was referring to:
"Bone by Will Murray is worth the price of the book alone. "Oh, I'm collecting kitties and puttin' 'em in bags," sings our emerald-topped antagonist. What he does with them is, well, horrific." - from The Further Adventures of Joker.

Peter said...

Pope's Joker in that Solo story is my favorite Joker ever, though the best Joker/Batman scene ever was their final confrontation in "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker".

Jack Nicholson was horrible as the Joker and ruined the Burton movie.

totaltoyz said...

The only thing that bugs me about Romero's portrayal of The Joker is his refusal to shave his mustache.

It's odd that no one ever mentions John Astin's refusal to shave his 'stache for his portrayal of the Riddler. I guess there were just so many other things wrong with his performance nobody notices that.

Accursed Interloper said...

Oh call me pedestrian, but I really fell out when I first saw that "patented jokerfish" gag.

Shane Rollins said...

I may have to go with Julian on this one, Joker was great in Phantasm