Batman The Animated Series: Be a Clown

"What? Compare me to Batman?! I've got more style, more brains, I'm certainly a better dresser!"

Gotham City politicians should really know better than to mouth off in public.

After one of his PR events literally comes crashing down around him, Mayor Hamilton Hill, the poster boy for "How does this idiot keep getting reelected?", makes the mistake of comparing Batman to the Joker on live TV. Gotham's most wanted doesn't take too kindly to that and soon enough is crashing the birthday party the mayor is throwing for his son, wannabe magician Jordan, intent on making sure it ends with a very big bang.

'Be a Clown' is a rare misfire for Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime. It's certainly not for a lack of good ideas. I honestly can't think of a more fascinating concept than accidentally kidnapping a young boy and then trying to corrupt him. Unfortunately, it's an idea the episode never really capitalises on, probably because Standards and Practices would've come down on them hard if they'd shown anything too disturbing involving a child. So the absolute worst we ever get to see is the Joker teaching Jordan how do some slightly dangerous magic tricks.

The episode also suffers from the extended focus on Mayor Hill and Jordan, two characters I didn't much care for at the start of the episode and couldn't wait to see the back of by the end of it. Ted Pedersen and Steve Hayes' script fails to offer up a single decent reason why we should care about either of these characters or their broken relationship.

It also sets up character arcs that never go anywhere. Hill neglects his son for most of the episode and uses his birthday party as an opportunity to impress all of the city's bigwigs. Once Jordan goes missing he feels bad about his earlier behaviour and that is pretty much it. Character arc over and done with. I know they can't fit much into these episodes, given the short runtime, but surely they could've given Hill more to do than that? Like, maybe a moment of heroic redemption where he helps save Jordan from the Joker, rather than just stay at his mansion while Batman does all the work.

I Know That Voice

Hill was voiced by veteran character actor Lloyd Bochner, whose most famous role is probably in 'To Serve Man', an episode of The Twilight Zone, which he parodied years later in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear. Jordan was voiced by Justin Shenkarow (Picket Fences, Eerie, Indiana, Hey Arnold!). The real Jekko was voiced by the legend that is Jim Cummings. To call him prolific would be an understatement. The man has more than five hundred acting credits to his name. In his long career he's been voice of, deep breath, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Taz, Don Karnage on TaleSpin, Ed in The Lion King, Fat Cat, Professor Nimnul and Monterey Jack on Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Hondo Ohnaka on The Clone Wars and Rebels, and, of course, Darkwing Duck.

Comic Book Connections

Mayor Hamilton Hill was created by Gerry Conway and Don Newton and first appeared in Detective Comics #503. In the comics he was a corrupt politician in the pocket of Rupert Throne and a far more villainous character than he is in the show.

Notes and Quotes

--The abandoned fairground that the Joker sets up shop in is in surprisingly good condition.

--Once again Batman is captured by the bad guy and no attempt is made to unmask him. I'll let it slide on this occasion because it's the Joker and doing something logical isn't really his thing.

--Love Bruce saving the day by "accidentally" knocking the birthday cake into the pool.

--These early episodes have Batman making a lot of really groansome one-liners.

--As meh as this episode is it still gave us the Batman thumbs up gif, so it ain't all bad.


Jordan: "He did it! He got free!"
The Joker: "They don't make straightjackets like they used to. I should know."

Jordan: "How can I get to be a great magician like you?"
The Joker: "Well, there are three steps. Step one: Run away. Step two: Find a magician with a great act. And step three: Steal it."

Two out of four thumbs up gifs.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

2 comments:

sunbunny said...

I like the episode more than you do but not by a lot. It just feels kind of blah. Fortunately the next one is really, really good.

Chris said...

I don't dislike this one either, so I agree it's one of the weaker Joker episodes. That said, Mark Hamill's Joker elevates every episode he is in.