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In the realm of comic book villains, there are few more iconic than The Joker. And in the realm of actors who have played The Joker, there are few actors more iconic than Mark Hamill. The fan-favorite Mr. J has become an absolute powerhouse in the Batman corner of the DCU, and much of that stems from his instantly recognizable (yet ever-changing) laugh used in Batman: The Animated Series. It seems that he has a version of the chuckle for every occasion, and much of that stemmed from his experience as a stage actor. The Star Wars star explained:
I had done Mozart in Amadeus in the first national tour, and then they transferred me over to Broadway, and one of the things that is relevant to my audition [for the Joker] is that Mozart had this sort of ghastly laugh that threw everybody. I played with that laugh a lot. I'd do a little Dwight Frye, I'd do a little Sydney Greenstreet. I love all those old Warner Bros. movies, so I was just slipping people in. Sometimes I'd get notes like, 'It was a little too Jerry Lewis at the matinee. Reel it back.' I'm telling you this because, in retrospect, after getting the part, I asked Andrea Romano,'"How did I get it? What was the process? How did you know that you wanted me'" And she said, 'The laugh.' I didn't want to get pigeonholed into a specific laugh. With the Joker, I said, 'This is like an artist with a very big palette. I want a range of laughs.' One thing that stuck with me was, when Frank Gorshin was talking about the Riddler [whom Gorshin played in the 1960s series], I was reading about him and he said, 'A lot of times, it's not that the Riddler laughs, it's what he laughs at' I said, 'Oh, that's interesting. If I can find places to open a little window into the psyche of this psycho, I'm going to use that.'
During his recent chat with Vulture about the genesis of his now famous Joker laugh, Mark Hamill dove deep and talked about his theatre experience before getting the role, which he famously won from Pennywise the Clown actor Tim Curry after Curry came down with bronchitis. During his time a Mozart in Amadeus, he would tinker and toy with all sorts of laughs, so by the time he walked in for his Batman: The Animated Series audition, he already had an arsenal of laughs just waiting for the right clown to come along.
From there, it was merely a matter of diving into motivation for the character. Taking a cue from Frank Gorshin's legendary portrayal of The Riddler, Mark Hamill then spent much of his time figuring out which situations warranted which type of laugh. In fact, Hamill has famously stated that one of the things that he noticed about the character was that, in the comics, his laughs are seldom only written as "haha." Joker's laugh is also written with "ho" and "hee," in many famous Batman comics, lending the sense that he too has a broad range of laughs.
In the end, all of the prep seems to have paid off, as Mark Hamill has delivered some of the best Joker performances ever recorded for classic DC animation. Check out some of his best moments below.
What's your favorite incarnation of The Joker's iconic laugh? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to take a look at CinemaBlend's fall TV premiere guide for more information on any and every great show set to debut over the next few months!