Inside The Joker

12 June 2012 | 5:45 am | Paul Andrew

Expecting an encounter with Russall Beattie of The Batman Follies, Paul Andrew instead is heckled by a man who bears a striking resemblance to The Joker.

Imagine it's 1929 and you're sitting in a plush and very crowded Art Deco club. You notice the glow of the incandescent footlights, the red velvet curtains on stage. The air is charged with anticipation, there is chinking of glasses; whisky sours, martinis and manhattans. “Who will it be up next?” asks the tall blonde sporting a satin flapper dress and a five o'clock shadow, “Cat Woman, Bat Girl and Two-Face. No, look at the fine bow-tie, and my, what a very big grin he has; yes, yes,” he/she sighs, “it's The Joker.”

The Joker and his signature wide circus grin are sitting in a booth at The Vanguard chatting about The Batman Follies Of 1929 and that adrenalin-charged moment just before the red velvet curtain goes up. It's a variety show with all the Batman regulars he tells me. The Joker snickers, there is a long devilish pause. “Imagine,” he continues while flourishing both hands, “that in 1929 Batman is not fighting crime but producing Follies-style extravaganzas, stage shows of extraordinary music, song and dance, a la Star Wars Burlesque. We adore popular culture.”

While relaying exact details about the musical styles of the follies from the theatrical direction to details about costumery, including the detailed leather masks made in Russia, the great bat wings that are hand-sewn, the Dandy suits and the heavy silent movie-style make-up, he intersperses the details with random asides. He calls loudly, emphatically, “NO spoilers.” So I veer clear of recounting the details he's mentioned just now for the Drum column and continue with a different line of questioning, maybe, an exclusive inside story of The Joker.

It must be stressful being an archenemy? I enquire.

He doesn't budge. Drat. His painted smile turns upwards at the corners. “Next question?” he cackles..

What's your star sign?

“Fatty Arbuckle,” he winks.

Are you single? 

“Isn't ever-yyy-one under the right cir-cum-stances?” The Joker snarls in an awful, nightmarish manner.

What do you look for in a love interest?

“Mmm, let me see,” he considers the question and runs his fingers through greasy black oiled hair. “Yes, someone with a unique flair for abuse and who owns at least one or more rubber chickens.”

How would you describe yourself on a dating site?

“Easy,” he replies earnestly. “Fun, outgoing, likes to laa-aaa-aaauuugh. That is, laugh.”

Do you have a good sense of humour?

“Well humour is like sex; as long as you're having fun, no one else matters.”

What do you have to offer that special someone?

“The security that lies in the unpredictable and the excitement that lies in fear.”

The interview is going so terribly well that I decide to ask the most difficult Joker question of all. I compose myself. Okay. What do you admire in Batman?

He doesn't even bat a painted eyelid.

“His height, I have always looked up to him.”

What do you loathe about Batman? 

“His height,” he growls low in his belly. “Batman has always looked down on me.”

Wednesday 13-Sunday 17 June, The Vanguard, Newtown.