Todd Phillips’ Joker looks to be a very different type of comic book movie and feature a very different interpretation of the iconic Batman villain than we’ve seen before. But despite the uniqueness of the film, Joker will still feature a cackling criminal in clown makeup. That meant that actor Joaquin Phoenix needed to come up with his own take on Joker’s signature laugh. To do this, Joaquin Phoenix turned to an interesting real world source, as he explained:
I watched videos of people suffering from pathological laughter, a neurological disorder that makes individuals laugh uncontrollably.
To come up with his Joker laugh, it sounds like Joaquin Phoenix took a unique and possibly quite difficult approach. The actor researched by watching videos of people suffering from pathological laughter, which is also referred to as pathological laughter and crying (PLC) or the pseudobulbar affect. Pathological laughter is often linked to an underlying neurological disorder, like multiple sclerosis, ALS or traumatic brain injuries.
People suffering from this condition will laugh or cry or both uncontrollably, without a stimulus to trigger the laughter. This isn’t laughing your head off because of a hilarious joke, it’s laughter that is sometimes exaggerated, goes on too long and might not fit the context of the situation in which it occurs. And unlike regular laughter, pathological laughter isn’t enjoyable for those who have no control over it.
Joaquin Phoenix’s approach to developing his laugh that he revealed to Il Venerdi (via CBR) is actually quite interesting. On the one hand, it sounds rather difficult and uncomfortable, because he was watching video after video of people who were essentially in pain, dealing with something they can’t control. I’m not sure how he knew about this condition or how he knew that it was the direction he wanted to take for his character, but it makes a lot of sense.
While I don’t think Arthur Fleck is supposed to have pathological laughter himself, Joker is criminally insane and there definitely is something off in his brain. Maybe it’s a brain injury from the beatings we see him take in the trailer. Either way, that kind of exaggerated and uncontrollable laughter fits.
We’ve already seen some of the results of Joaquin Phoenix’s approach to his character’s laugh in the trailer for Joker. There is a shot of Arthur Fleck in a comedy club and the laugh Joaquin Phoenix gives off is hugely unsettling. It comes off as forced, exaggerated and unnatural. His eyes dart around as he’s laughing and it’s almost as if he’s learning to laugh for the first time and is looking to see if he’s doing it right.
It’s definitely not a normal laugh, and whatever Joaquin Phoenix took from the pathological laughter videos and whatever spin he put on it works to give us the most disturbing laugh since Pennywise.
You can see what Joaquin Phoenix’s Clown Prince of Crime has to laugh about when Joker opens in theaters on October 4. Check out our premiere guide to keep track of all this year’s biggest titles and for the latest movie news, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.