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For fans of comedian Gary Gulman, the actor’s brief cameo in a pivotal scene during director Todd Phillips’ Joker must come as a complete surprise. What’s even more surprising is that during his big scene, a bout of constant laughter was throwing Gulman’s act just a little off its game. An audience member with an off-beat sense of timing to their reaction to Gulman's comedy set was to blame, and that someone, as it turns out, was none other than Arthur Fleck himself, actor Joaquin Phoenix.
During a recent interview, Gulman explained his path to understanding just where that laughter came from:
The one thing I will say that was a little bit irritating is that when I was running through my set, there were all these extras, and they’d clearly been told that I was doing well, so they were laughing and enthusiastic. And there was one extra who was so enthusiastic in his laughter that it was throwing off my timing. He was just laughing too loud, and right when I was about to say something to Todd about maybe getting the guy not to laugh so loud, I realized that it was Joaquin Phoenix. It’s my best Joker story. I can’t believe it took me six takes to figure out that the man with the really bizarre laugh was the Joker.
If you’ve seen the trailers for Joker, and judging by the box office success the film’s experiencing you probably have, you see a scene where Phoenix’s Arthur is attending a comedian’s set at Pogo’s Comedy Club in Gotham City. That same enthusiastic laughter is heard in the trailer, but in the context of Gary Gulman’s comedy set in Joker, that laughter isn’t always heard during the typical laugh lines.
With Gulman going into the film with a sort of blindness to what’s going on at that point in the story, it’s no surprise that while he was sinking into his routine of telling one of his jokes, that sort of laughter would throw him off. Luckily for him, after those six takes of his set, the seemless result seen in Joker goes off without a hitch, with Arthur’s arrhythmic laughter making for another deep clue to his fractured psyche.
This certainly isn’t the first story of how in character Joaquin Phoenix had gotten for the role of Joker’s lead protagonist, and it’s definitely not the weirdest when it comes to any actor playing the part in a major motion picture. As long as Jared Leto’s antics as Suicide Squad’s clown prince of crime stand in the public record, that latter claim will never be spoken for by anyone else.
But, the story Gary Gulman told Collider is certainly one of the most interesting stories told about how an outsider’s perspective into such a crucial moment to Joker almost threw things off even more than they already were. You don’t feel it in the movie upon first viewing, but now that the story’s been told, it’s going to be hard not to view that scene the same way again. And that just makes returning to Joker all the more rewarding for its fans.
You can still return to Gotham City’s gritty underbelly with Joker, as the film is still chugging away in theaters now.