“Be A Clown”
Written by Ted Pedersen and Steve Hayes
Directed by Frank Paur
“Be A Clown” is the third episode to feature the Joker; it also happens to be the best episode to feature The Clown Prince of Crime yet. It’s an interesting episode as it features, if only for a second, a character named Senator Finch. The New York senator did not appear in the comic books and only appearance was in this episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
The reason I mention this is because Holly Hunter, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, will be playing a character named Senator Finch. While it’s probably a case of pure irony, it is worth mentioning that the name Senator Finch does have a place within the DC Animated Universe.
The heart of the episode concerns itself with Mayor Hill’s son, Jordan, running away with the Joker. His son feels unappreciated and unloved as his father is more concerned with the politics of the birthday party than the actual celebration. So Jordan stays in his room, content with playing magic tricks to an audience of one – himself. Earlier, at Gotham Acres, his father irked the Joker’s ire by claiming that he and the Batman were both “rotten tomatoes” and that the Batman was no different from himself. The Joker, believing himself nothing like Batman and a higher class of criminal, begins to plot his revenge against Mayor Hill.
Disguising himself as Jekko the Clown, the Joker infiltrates Mayor Hill’s son’s birthday and begins to entertain the children. With Jordan watching excitedly, he tells him there are only three steps to becoming a great magician. 1) Run away, 2) Find a magician with a great act, and 3) Steal it. Mark Hamill gives a devilish performance as the Joker, especially in this scene. He plays Jekko like an average, goofy clown, but when he tells Jordan that the last step is to “steal it”, he immediately switches back to his devious and sly Joker voice. The Joker is in the details.
The Joker lights dynamite shaped like a candle and prepares to blow up the party. After he sneaks away, Bruce Wayne arrives and spots the explosive. He fumbles his way to the cake and pretends to fall into it which knocks it into the pool. He smiles as he waits for it to explode, which it does only moments later. The police arrive, Gordon and Bullock, and they review the tapes. They also wonder where Jordan went and Mayor Hill vows that if his son returns, priorities will be different. As they watch the tapes, Bruce notices that the Joker has a poster for the clown he said was his mentor – Prosciutto. Bruce, being a great detective, figures out that the Joker is at an amusement park and then heads there as Batman.
The Joker, praying on Jordan’s naivety, uses him as his assistant and manages to trap the Batman. He hangs the Caped Crusader upside down, in a straight jacket, inside a water tank. Jordan feels uncomfortable and while Batman attempts to break free, Jordan helps by taking an ax to the water tank. The Joker, furious, chases after Jordan and they get on a roller coaster to evade Batman. With Batman in pursuit, Joker lobs grenades at the Caped Crusader. He eventually blows a part off of the tracks and goes off the rails. Batman manages to swiftly come in and rescue Jordan before the entire roller coaster track comes down.
“Be A Clown” concludes with Batman returning Jordan to his father. Mayor Hill is so overjoyed to have his son back and finally embraces him. Jordan, while hugging his father, gives the thumbs up to Batman and he returns the gesture.
This was a great episode and probably the best of The Joker episodes as it didn’t become to cartoonish. There’s a risk that using the Joker could result in an episode that upsets the overall tone for the show, but “Be A Clown” has tremendous balance. It’s not only a terrific Joker episode, but a terrific episode in general. There’s a real comfort that Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have with their roles. It’s no wonder they’ve become so well-known for these characters and this animated series.
We also saw our first taste of the particular kind of evil the Joker is. He singles out the mayor, attempts to kill Batman, and preys on an innocent child. It’s particularly unsettling as the Joker heads out after Jordan in the amusement park. Batman: The Animated Series laid a great foundation for the character and it appears as if Jared Leto will bring a similar kind of menace to his performance.
If there is one episode out of this first season (up to now) I’d easily place “Be A Clown” at the top of the list.
Stay tuned for more of Batman Animated as our next write up will feature Two-Face!