Grading The Joker As A Stand-Up Comic
The Joker was created over 80 years ago and has had quite a number of different takes throughout his lifetime. One of the more popular origins of The Joker is the one presented in Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, wherein a down-on-his-luck stand-up comedian has "one bad day" and ends up becoming an iconic character that is an intriguing villain and an idol for the most insufferable people you know.
One question really sticks out to me, though. How was Joker as a stand-up comic? As an on-and-off stand-up for over a decade, I've wondered how good he actually was on the stage. Sure, he improvises quips and has one-liners in his pocket for nearly every encounter with Batman, but in terms of prepared material in the proper nightclub setting, how good (or bad) is he?
As popular as that origin is, there doesn't seem to be a lot of accessible media of The Joker, before or after Jokerization, actually performing stand-up comedy. I am sure there may be some comic panels with him telling punny jokes on stage throughout 80+ years of publication, but I couldn't readily find any via Google, and Cracked wanted a nice quick write-up, not a deep dive article that would transform into a serialized podcast.
The best and most prominent examples I could find were the following.
First, the most recent example I could find is Arthur Fleck's first time doing stand-up at an open mic in 2019's Joker:
I mean, look, open mics are a gym where comedians work out material, so sometimes you get someone who curls a 20 lb. dumbbell and still somehow throws their back out. It's his first time, so it's not really fair to grade him on this. Say what you want about Joker, but it got one thing right: Most first-time comedians delude themselves into thinking that they killed on stage.
The second example I can find isn't "canon" (whatever that means in this context) but is "there": a Robot Chicken sketch of The Joker performing.
The tax day joke is technically a joke, so we got something. Then a depression confession breakdown, which I've actually seen happen on stage multiple times for comedians that bomb. I've never seen Batman beat the piddles out of anyone live on a stage, so that would be new if it were real.
Okay, the last stand-up incident I can find is The Joker posing as "Smilin" Shecky Rimshot in a Tony Clifton/Larry the Cable Guy character act from the Batman: The Animated Series episode titled "Make 'Em Laugh":
Personally, I thought the delivery of his frog-wart-butt joke seemed rushed, and I didn't think the punchline was strong, but the crowd seemed to like it. While it was obvious the contest was over, I think I'd let him go a little longer since the audience seemed to be having a good time. Bad joke, great reaction, so maybe a C- grade?
Whether The Joker is actually a good stand-up comedian or not still remains as much of a mystery as the canon identity of The Joker himself. That said, based on the scarce material out there, he should probably stick to being a danger and a nuisance to the general public who just want to live their lives. In other words, he should join Improv Everywhere.
Top Image: Warner Bros.