Hold up: Was The Joker just an extremely frustrated open-micer?

As a lifelong fan of Batman but only a casual reader of his DC Comics during my childhood, I confess to not knowing the canonical origin story for his greatest nemesis, The Joker. There was the movie version from 1989, in which Jack Nicholson’s criminal character gets dumped into a vat of acid, and that’s what gives him his iconic look.

But The Joker as a wannabe comedian? Literally leaning into the title?

As Louis Virtel wrote on Twitter: “‘Mediocre man wants to be funny’ is the realest villain explanation I’ve heard yet.”

Todd Phillips, who wrote and directed the forthcoming Joker film starring Joaquin Phoenix, also has a long history of loving comedy and comedians. He always looks to cast improv, sketch and stand-ups before they’re famous into his films, going back to 2003’s Old School, through School for Scoundrels, and of course, allowing Zach Galifianakis to shine in The Hangover.

So here’s how Phillips views Phoenix in this first teaser trailer for Joker. We’ll have a lot more to dig into later this year when we see the full movie, but for now, enjoy the fact that Phoenix is performing as an actual clown on the street, writing in a joke book, and watching Gary Gulman onstage in a club made to look suspiciously like Dangerfield’s. There’s also a nod to King of Comedy in here, with Robert De Niro playing a late-night TV host!

And according to IMDB, we’re also due for some scenes with Bryan Callen and Marc Maron, too.

Roll the clip!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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