Comic Whitmer Thomas Explains His Obsession With the Joker

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whitmer thomas joker

Thrillist/Maitane Romagosa

Whitmer Thomas needs you to know that his insatiable love for the Joker isn’t ironic. On the title monitor of his new EP Can’t Consider You’re Completely happy Right here, a nimble assortment of people songs written in the course of the pandemic after the discharge of his 2020 HBO particular The Golden One, there’s a pattern of a YouTube video counting down “The Most Twisted Joker Moments.” It would appear to be a throwaway joke, however these countdowns have a particular use for Thomas: They’re what he reaches for when he can’t sleep, an try to quiet the nervousness he explores in his slyly humorous music and achingly private comedy. Regardless of his disruptive nature, the Joker can present peace on the finish of a protracted day.

However Thomas’s Joker obsession extends past utilizing the character as a sleep help. For years, the unrepentantly Jokerfied comic has peppered his stand-up with references to The Darkish Knight, posted Instagram photographs of his associates with Joker filters on their faces, and even hosted a present known as Joker Fest, the place all of the performers on the lineup gown because the Clown Prince of Crime. “It might be kinda towards their will,” he remembers. “However I all the time tried to be probably the most good-looking Joker I might presumably be and do my make-up pretty much as good as potential.”

With Robert Pattinson’s brooding flip because the Caped Crusader, The Batman, now in theaters, teasing yet one more spin on the villain, it’s a great time to take inventory of the numerous Jokers of the previous, current, and future. From his emergence within the pages of Batman #1 in 1940 to the present second of superhero-franchise overload, the place the function has netted two Oscar wins, the Joker continues to gasoline hypothesis and debate. What precisely makes the proper Joker? Is it the cackling giggle? The caked-on make-up? The garish purple go well with? Or maybe it is so simple as Michael Caine put it: Some males simply need to watch the world burn.

Thomas, a Joker loyalist since his childhood in Alabama, is aware of there’s a component of sarcasm to how folks work together with the Joker on-line, however he insists his fandom comes from a totally honest place. Whereas breaking down the historical past of the character, guiding us by way of the onscreen variations and explaining a handful of ridiculous Joker memes, Thomas clarified that the Joker is an aspirational determine for him. “He represents one thing mysterious and chaotic in a method that I positively want I might be,” he says. “If I might be as mysterious because the Heath Ledger Joker, that’s the fucking dream.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

batman joker
The Joker in ‘Batman #1’ | DC Comics

1940: The unique comic-book Joker from Batman #1

Created by Invoice Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson, the comic-book model of the Joker took inspiration from the joker taking part in card and from Conrad Veidt’s efficiency because the disfigured Gwynplaine within the 1928 movie The Man Who Laughs. From his first look, the Joker already has his iconic look down. 

My introduction to Batman was the film with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton, after which Batman: The Animated Collection. However my mother and pa all the time had Batman comics mendacity round that I’d take a look at even earlier than I might learn. I bear in mind this sneaky little man. I really like this man. It’s so humorous how they put virtually an excessive amount of element. It’s onerous to determine the place his eye luggage start and the place his pupils are.

[As a kid] I used to be all the time into issues mutating and altering. Issues with bizarre liquid chemical compounds. I additionally beloved Swamp Factor. I simply beloved that he falls into some stuff and transforms into this man. That’s what it was. I additionally simply beloved how colourful he was. Once I was a child, I’d draw the tub after which sneak into the kitchen and seize inexperienced meals coloring and pour it into the bath and take a shower in inexperienced meals coloring. It might dye the tub and my pores and skin. However I beloved it and I’d play with toys in there and stuff. I beloved the concept of leaping into some shit and popping out and being this freak.

batman joker
Cesar Romero as The Joker in ‘Batman’ | ABC

1966: Cesar Romero because the Joker within the tv collection Batman

In ABC’s Batman, which ran for 3 seasons from 1966 to 1968, Cesar Romero performed the prank-loving Joker. He additionally appeared in 1966’s spin-off film Batman. Memorably, Romero refused to shave his trademark mustache for the function and as a substitute utilized clown make-up over it. 

I had the Adam West film. I beloved this man and I beloved the shark scene, too. I feel he’s a wacky man. I’d watch it, however whilst a child I wasn’t happy by this Batman. However I preferred that Robin was in it, and also you’ve gotta love this Joker. He’s the funniest Joker, in all probability. Possibly not? It’s humorous that he’s sporting board shorts. Truly, now that I give it some thought, he’s the funniest Joker. Why’s he sporting shorts over his Joker go well with?

This can be a drawback I’ve bought with the Joker generally. Within the new takes, everybody needs to make Joker a bizarre creep. However the fascinating take is to make him extra of a Broadway, pretentious, New Yorker, humorous, articulate, conversational individual. I feel that might be the good method to do Joker. Heath might be the funniest Joker, or perhaps Jack Nicholson. However [Romero] is fairly humorous. I imply, take a look at him in his shorts. I’d watch him rising up, and I’ve reminiscences of not having cable and this is able to come on some random channel and I’d actually love that. I additionally preferred the film as a result of all of the villains have been hanging out and goofing off collectively.

batman jack nicholson
Warner Bros.

1989: Jack Nicholson because the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman

Nicholson acquired prime billing over Micheal Keaton for his efficiency in Batman, a Prince-soundtracked, Artwork Deco-inspired action-adventure freak-out that went on to earn greater than $400 million and launch the character as a blockbuster attraction. 

He’s bought his personal origin, and he’s in all probability the scariest-looking Joker. However he’s humorous, too. He seems nice. This Joker was the primary man to essentially legitimize being a comic-book villain [on-screen], and he modified the sport the place everybody wished to do it. It’s humorous how lengthy it took them to determine it out once more.

I’d watch this film a lot and rewind all my favourite elements, like when he falls into the chemical compounds. Folks will say this can be a horrible Batman film, however I really like how contained it’s and I really like how Joker dies on the finish. That’s what I really like about each of these Tim Burton Batman motion pictures: I want comic-book motion pictures have been nonetheless made like that, the place there’s no setup for one more one. It’s simply over on the finish.

However Jack Nicholson is my man. I really like his Joker and the way he burns that man alive by shaking his hand. It’s bizarre as fuck that he places on that make-up to look regular.

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Joker in ‘Batman: The Animated Collection’ | Warner Brothers Animation

1992: Mark Hamill because the Joker in Batman: The Animated Collection

For some followers, Mark Hamill’s flip because the Joker on this acclaimed animated collection stays the definitive Joker efficiency. He glided by the identify Jack Napier, like Nicholson in Burton’s Batman, however Hamill discovered his personal unsettling spin on the character. 

I rewatched all of this in lockdown, and now I watch it to go to sleep. I really simply watched this episode—I can’t bear in mind the identify of it, but it surely’s a very good episode—the place some man owes him and Joker finds him three years later. This Joker is so scary.

Mark Hamill simply kills it, and now everybody who does the voice of the Joker is all the time kinda copying Mark Hamill in a method. I really like this Joker. Finally, within the third season, they modified the animation fashion to make it extra fluid and so they needed to lose a few of the colours of Batman and Joker, and I don’t just like the third-season design of the Joker, however I actually like this design from the primary two seasons of TheAnimated Collection

heath ledger joker
Heath Ledger as The Joker in ‘The Darkish Knight’ | Warner Brothers

2008: Heath Ledger because the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Darkish Knight

Launched after Ledger’s tragic dying on the age of 28, The Darkish Knight modified the superhero film ceaselessly and earned Ledger a posthumous Finest Supporting Actor Oscar for his efficiency. 

This was large. I feel I used to be 18 when this got here out, and I had simply moved to L.A. I used to be obsessive about Hollywood actors, and Heath Ledger was my favourite actor. It was the primary time I ever bought into the web, and I used to go to Batman on Movie to attempt to see behind-the-scenes photos. Then he died and it was such a shock. I’d have desires I used to be hanging out with Heath Ledger earlier than this film got here out. Then I noticed it thrice within the theater, I feel. Possibly extra. I simply fucking beloved each second of him on there. He’s humorous, too! When he walks out in his introduction and he does that pretend giggle? “Ha, ha, ha, he, he, he.” Fuck, dude. He’s additionally probably the most convincing. I might see him tricking the mob into being beneath his management and all that stuff. Yeah, he’s essential. He’s a very essential man to me.

I used to be actually not on-line then, and I’m late to the sport with the whole lot. I don’t even know if I’d Google issues again then. I’d simply sort in an internet site and hope it existed. I do bear in mind Domino’s did a promotion the place you’d get a cardboard Batman masks. So I had a Batman masks and we might stencil Batman on our shirts, and that’s what we wore to the opening evening of the film. I noticed it on the Landmark Theater on the West Facet in L.A., which was a reasonably fancy theater. Wanting again, I want I had seen it at an AMC simply with regular folks screaming.

jared leto joker
Warner Brothers

2016: Jared Leto as Joker in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad

On this film a few workforce of villains compelled to work collectively on a world-saving mission, Jared Leto’s Sizzling Subject-core Joker does not get a lot display time. However that did not cease the actor from sending lifeless animals to his fellow solid members. 

I don’t like how this Joker seems. I feel Jared Leto might be Joker if he talked like he usually talks. There’s one thing odd about Jared Leto: He’s like 50 years previous however he seems so younger and he kinda acts like a cult chief. That may be an fascinating take—simply him being himself because the Joker.

He bites Heath a bit with the voice, and clearly this film isn’t written in a method that even when Heath existed on this film, it wouldn’t actually work. I don’t assume this film actually works for any of the actors in it. That is simply not one of the best. Look, he’s bought “broken” on his brow. I don’t assume the Joker thinks he’s broken.

joaquin phoenix joker
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘Joker’ | Warner Brothers

2019: Joaquin Phoenix as Joker in Todd Phillips’s Joker

Launched in the course of the Trump presidency, Joker generated controversy and likewise earned Phoenix a Finest Actor Oscar for his efficiency because the mentally unstable aspiring comic Arthur Fleck. 

I feel Joker is cool as a film. However I can’t actually think about this man being a Batman villain. My concern with this film is that it ties him into the Wayne household and so they attempt to make it appear to be he thinks he’s Bruce Wayne’s brother or one thing like that. I don’t love that stuff. However as a film a few man who has a situation, it’s very a lot a Taxi Driver and King of Comedy factor. I like that he unintentionally turns into a logo for folks. And I really like Joaquin’s efficiency, and that’s why it’s so cool. It’s a distinct take and he’s actually fascinating. However in case you simply put some Joker make-up on Robert De Niro in King of Comedy, it’s like shit, let’s see these guys go head-to-head. Batman and De Niro Joker!

I do like this film. I noticed this in a theater. My aircraft needed to emergency land in Dallas and I needed to keep the evening there so I went to the theater at midnight in a packed theater, and it was simply an effective way to look at this film. I had a blast. I simply have a tough time when the “cinematic universe” factor occurs. I don’t like that new fashion of filmmaking the place you’re all the time enthusiastic about a cinematic universe. This film says it’s not doing that, however then why are you organising Bruce Wayne and the Wayne household? Fuck that.

barry keoghan joker
Barry Keoghan on the premiere of ‘The Batman’ | Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Photographs

2022: Barry Keoghan because the “Akrham Prisoner” in Matt Reeves’s The Batman

After Ben Affleck hung up the cowl, Robert Pattinson took on the function of Batman at the hours of darkness, brooding The Batman, which options Catwoman, the Riddler, and the Penguin. However the film could not resist the pull of the Joker, saving Barry Keoghan for a mysterious look on the finish. 

That’s the identical shit. Do away with it. That’s how I felt. That was the worst a part of the film. And I preferred that film! However it sells the film out a bit. Let’s deal with the Riddler, Batman, Catwoman, and the Penguin. Why do we want this pop-culture kingpin, the Joker, to be on this film that’s alleged to be a cool, new take? You then’ve bought this man being Joker. It didn’t work for me in any respect, and I hated that entire scene. It seems like clearly the studio was like, “We’ve gotta put some Joker in there so folks will probably be excited for the subsequent one.” 

I beloved the Batman Begins ending. It’s identical to, “He’s bought a calling card.” They present it and he’s like, “I’ll look into it.” That’s all it’s.

Additionally, this actor [Barry Keoghan], I really like him. However he’s bizarre. He’s a bizarre man and when he’s in stuff he’s very unusual. I’m simply over the unusual Joker. I feel Heath did it and Joaquin did it. I simply want to see a charismatic, social Joker who has events and I think about him to be a man who goes to performs and likes to drink martinis. Kinda just like the Darkish Knight Returns Joker, who’s simply this good-looking, freaky-looking man.

I used to be speaking about it with some friends final evening: I’d love if Lakeith Stanfield was the Joker. Simply this stoic man. I’m over the “bizarre” performing with villains. The “bizarre man” take. However I’m certain [Barry Keoghan] will determine it out and it’ll be nice for the subsequent film. His giggle jogged my memory of that half in Billy Madison the place the man is like, “He did the weasel giggle.” After which the opposite man is like, “What’s the weasel giggle?” After which he goes [does weasel laugh.] However he’s such actor, I’m certain he’ll determine it out. No shade.

joker meme
A Joker meme from the after the discharge of ‘The Darkish Knight’ | Google Photographs

Joker burns the cash meme

The Darkish Knight gave the web period its first Joker, turning the character right into a extremely adaptable supply of jokes and gags. 

I really like this. There are photos of the Joker hanging out with Tony Soprano, like work on Venice Seashore. I do know that individuals have all the time romanticized being within the mafia, but it surely’s humorous to think about them being like, “Possibly I may be the Joker-type mafia man?” Me and my buddies, each time there’s a scenario the place it looks as if somebody is making a self-sabotaging alternative, we are saying, “The Joker’s burning the cash.”

joker meme
A Joker meme from after the discharge of ‘Joker’ | Know Your Meme

Joker saying “I’ll grow to be the Joker” meme

Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t say this line within the film, however that did not cease the meme from spreading everywhere in the web.
 
I’ve seen this one. I want he actually stated that within the film: “I’m going to grow to be the Joker.” It’s like Workplace House when the man is like, “I’ll burn this place down. I’m going to burn down the constructing.”

joker meme
A Joker meme from after the discharge of ‘Suicide Squad’ | Google Photographs

“Joker and Harley Quinn as relationship targets” meme

With its over-the-top depiction of the doomed romance between Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Suicide Squad turned a supply of inspiration for troubled {couples} internationally. 

It’s difficult. I really like Harley Quinn within the cartoon. I like that she was a psychologist or generally she was an intern at Arkham Asylum. However the factor with this Joker, with the slicked-back hair and the jewellery and stuff, it makes me assume, “Joker is certainly hitting Harley Quinn lots.” Instantly, I’m like, “Nobody is rooting for Harley Quinn to be with the Joker.” Possibly they’re not alleged to. Harley Quinn as an antihero is de facto cool although. I simply want it was in numerous motion pictures. It’s onerous with these DC characters generally as a result of they’re so cartoonish. Nonetheless, I’m certain that the couple that aspires to be just like the Joker and Harley Quinn is happier than I’ll ever be in any kind of relationship.

joker bitcoin
A crypto Joker meme | Twitter Account @CryptoJoker6

Joker as crypto meme lord

Because the world adjustments, Heath Ledger’s Joker stays a potent political image. It does not even matter what your affiliations are. 

It’s humorous to me that every one these tech, crypto, Bitcoin bros love Joker. In a method, I’m like, “The Darkish Knight is without doubt one of the finest motion pictures ever made and Joker represents upsetting the established order.” I’m wondering how these guys really feel about Bernie Sanders? He’s kinda just like the Joker in a method. To me, he’s fairly cool. I do know of their thoughts they’re like, “Bitcoin goes to alter the whole lot, it’s identical to the Joker.” And in case you watch The Darkish Knight, particularly now, that entire trilogy is so pro-cop. So I’m Crew Joker and Crew Bane a bit bit.

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Dan Jackson is a senior employees author at Thrillist Leisure. He is on Twitter @danielvjackson.





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