Hi! I’m Travis. I love comics, and have ever since I was 5 and got my first hand-me-down comic from a distant cousin (unfortunately, I never really had the chance to build a praiseworthy collection of my own). I had a Batman-themed birthday party in 1989, shortly after the release of Tim Burton’s Batman – even as a three-year-old I was a hapless nerd whose birthday parties were attended by my parents, my grandma, and my babysitter’s daughter (I still think her being there was just a nicety, but hey, at least I had one non-family member there, right?).
So it came as no surprise that when I found out there was a Batman cartoon, I jumped all over that like a peruvian jumping spider (that’s a thing, right?). Without further ado, here’s my review of the Batman: The Animated Series episode “The Last Laugh”.
(Part 1, subsequent parts can be found in the sidebar on youtube)
First off, can I just say that I love the musical scores in this show? That menacing be-bop that starts this off is wonderful – seemingly taking a cue from west coast g-funk of the early 1990s, it’s both simultaneously dance-able and invokes a sense of menace. As it just so happens, this episode is set on April Fools Day, which should give you a major hint as to who the main villain is going to be (the title should give it away too). SPOILER: It’s The Joker! A clown drives a barge under the Gotham bridge – I’m not sure he has the license to operate that, don’t you have to have a license to operate machinery like that? – and a powerful bad smell wafts over Gotham. But this isn’t just any normal stink! It’s making people break out into laughing fits, including an armored car driver who narrowly misses plunging straight into the river.
Ah, scenic Wayne Manor, which I just realized is shaped like the top of Batman’s cowl! I can’t believe I never saw that before. Inside, Bruce Wayne is having a shave when he nicks himself with the razor and everyone’s favorite butler Alfred makes his entrance, telling Bruce that he drew him a bath.
Ha-ha! Get it? Drew him a bath?! It’s April Fools! Alfred is the best. As Alfred exits the room he turns the radio on for Master Bruce, where we learn that “hundreds of Gothamites” have begun acting like laughing fools, causing a bunch of accidents. Our Intrepid Hero twigs on pretty quick that this is a Joker scheme, and before he’s even had a chance to shampoo his hair he’s off to investigate.
Cut to a submarine underneath the barge from the opening, its focus on the armored car that careened off the bridge earlier. Two divers come out of the sub and begin to ransack the car, as the Joker preps inside the sub. This is a pretty ridiculously complex plan if the whole endgame was to steal gold and money out of an armored car, but the Joker’s anything if not totally insane.
As the rest of Gotham breaks down into laughter, Joker and his men take the opportunity to bring out their shopping carts and casually stroll into jewelers, steal purses and wallets, and generally just.. steal things. They’re thieves. It’s what they do. Meanwhile, back at the Batcave, Batman has sent out a bat-weather balloon that’s testing the gas released by the Joker’s bargarine (submabarge?), learning that lengthy exposure to the gas results in permanent insanity – and, as it turns out, his butler. Definitely can’t have that, especially with the way he’s just smashing things to pieces upstairs. Batman takes this as his queue to get to Gotham, and I’m assuming it just wasn’t that important that the denizens of Gotham were going crazy – apparently things weren’t bad enough until his butler started smashing vases in his mansion. Selfish, Batman. Selfish. As Vicki Vale reports on how the stock market is crashing, Joker comes up with a brilliant one-liner:
“The only things gaining now are the laughing stocks!” Brilliant. However, before Joker can congratulate himself, a grappling hook cinches onto his barge and Joker mans the periscope to see what’s going on – when a Batman pops into his sights (“Dah!”) and punches the periscope’s lights out, before towing the barge away with the Bat.. boat, I guess. An incensed Joker and his thugs go up top to meet him, and it heralds the return of that awesome menacing bebop music! A bunch of bad jokes about getting dirty and some thugs try to beat Batman up. Joker must get his henchmen from Arkham, because they have to be crazy to think they can take on the Batman, yeah? Joker’s driver, however doesn’t count. Largely because he’s a robot capable of snaping the cable between the speedboat and the barge, sending Batman’s speedboat off into the distance. Uh-oh. Captain Clown (the robot) airplane spins Bats round and round, throws him into a specially made trash-can, and Joker locks the lid on him, then starts to stab the trashcan repeatedly. That must be one tough trash can if Batman can’t break out. The trashcan’s heaved into the river, and Batman begins to sink like a rock. Oh no! Has the Batman been bested?!
Of course not. His batboat is a batsub has lasers and is able to break him out. As Joker instructs his goons to spray more laughing gas on the barge, The Caped Crusader shows up and cuts them off with a well-thrown Batarang. More beating of thugs ensues, including Captain Clown being knocked down with a few shots from a lead pipe. What is this, Extreme Championship Wrestling? More bad Joker jokes. Batman manages to knock Captain Clown down into a trash compactor and turn it on, crushing the Captain. RIP Captain Clown. For that atrocity, Joker dumps a bunch of trash on him (“you stink so bad I can smell you from here!”) and rides Captain’s crushed up, neatly cubed corpse up an escalator into a warehouse. Batman follows, and we’re treated to a scene in which a grinning Joker, not moving a muscle, rides Captain Clown’s cubed corpse further into the warehouse.
This, of course, leads to the big showdown in the warehouse between Batman and The Joker, in which Batman narrowly escapes dying a few times, the Joker falls off a ledge, and Batman – being begged by The Joker – saves him. The look Batman gives Joker is absolutely fantastic, too:
And with that, the episode draws to its end. People commonly call Batman: The Animated Series the “dark, gritty Batman”, and in most cases they aren’t far off – this show deals with some pretty heavy themes at times, and was made just as much for adults to enjoy as it was for kids. But episodes like this prove that the show can blend action, suspense, and goofy humor quite well, something that I’ve always admired about this show.