Comedy behind the scenes of the 2019 Joker movie

As the new Joker movie becomes a bonafide smash hit at the box office, it’s not only become a continued topic of conversation, but also a tourist attraction for one particular site in The Bronx.

Leave it to Desus & Mero to break it down in the boogie down, as they provide realistic commentary to this news report about the “Joker stairs.”

But what about the actual comedy from the movie?

Say what you will about director Todd Phillips and his views on comedy, but he always finds plenty of onscreen opportunities for working comedians in his movies. For Joker, he cast Greer Barnes and Bryan Callen as clowns working alongside Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck. Callen’s appearance is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. You might not have even seen Chris Redd, either, in Joker, but you can hear his voice as the host at the open mic where Fleck goes onstage and bombs.

But before that, as seen in the trailer, there’s Gary Gulman performing at the comedy club pogo’s (the real-life Dangerfield’s on the Upper East Side, which is preserved in early ’80s glory), with Fleck in the audience dutifully taking notes and laughing quite a bit louder and more often than everyone else. Perhaps it’s because of Fleck’s brain disorder. Perhaps it’s because Gulman is telling his own jokes; in particular, his bit about role playing with his girlfriend, in which he’s a professor and she’s his student.

You can see and hear the full routine from Gulman’s performance on Conan in 2015.

Similarly, Sam Morril tells his own jokes for the scene at the open mic. We only get to hear part of Morril’s routine as Fleck is backstage getting ready to go on, as Morril jokes about how women view sex as buying a car, whereas men view sex as parking the car.

He told a variation on the bit as his closer when he performed on Colbert in 2016. Roll the clip!

And you may want to check out Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, not just because it’s a classic comedy film from the end of the silent era, but also because it features in multiple ways in Joker.

The 1936 film, available on the Criterion Channel, offers commentary on class struggle during the Great Depression, which makes an ironic choice for Gotham’s 1 percenters to be taking in during Gotham City’s own descent into class warfare.

Modern Times also gave us the song “Smile,” which as sung by Jimmy Durante, pops up in the Joker trailer and film.

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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