This is 500 words about a Batman episode. This is the BATMAN 500.
Despite the fact that “Be A Clown” is an uneven episode, it’s probably the only episode of Batman: The Animated Series that features a kid in a major role that doesn’t make you wish Batman took the kid aside at the beginning of the show to say “Look. You stay right here until everything is done. Don’t speak, and don’t come close to whatever I’m doing, no matter what. I hate you. Sorry, I didn’t mean that. But I do.” Because rather than use the kid as the prime source of comedy, or as the main focus of the adventure, “Be A Clown” tells the story of Jordan, a kid whose Dad doesn’t really care about him. Feeling abandoned, Jordan looks for comfort and guidance in another place. And because this is a Batman cartoon, that other place is the Joker.
In “Be A Clown,” Joker decides to get back at Mayor Hamilton Hill, a stuffy politician that uses his son’s birthday party as a front to schmooze with other rich parents, for talking trash about him. Hill said that he’d get rid of Joker, and it’s nice to see a plot that arises from Joker’s bruised, insane ego, rather than a petty need for cash. Joker dresses up as “Jekko the Clown,” a disguise that is 90% bald cap, and infiltrates Jordan’s birthday party. After covertly trying to blow the party up with a dynamite candle (Bruce Wayne, a party guest, is the only person to notice that A) It’s dynamite, and B) it’s dynamite that has the Joker’s fucking face on it, so he pretends to stumble and knock the cake into a pool so that the explosion doesn’t kill anyone,) Joker discovers that Jordan stowed away in his clown van in an effort to learn more about “Jekko’s” tricks.
The Joker uses Jordan to lure Batman into a trap, and I wish that this had gotten the two-parter treatment. There’s so much to be mined from the idea that a grandstanding, super-confident, psycho clown could have a weirdly alluring effect on the disillusioned and angry. We’d eventually get to see what happens when Joker rips your mind apart with Harley Quinn, but how do children view larger-than-life heroes and villains? Their parents worry about crime and property values, but it’s got to be kind of awe-inspiring to be a kid and know that you live in a world of colorful, quarreling demigods.
“Be A Clown” is the last part of the Underwhelming Joker Trilogy. This is the ninth episode, and he’s been in a third of them so far, with the combined quality of those three episodes nearly adding up to the quality of one good episode. And while “Be A Clown” is leaps and bounds better than “The Last Laugh,” the break that the show takes from the Joker is a helpful one. Fourteen episodes from now, he returns in “Joker’s Favor,” and that is when his reign as the Clown Prince of Crime really begins.