Joker is a beautiful movie that shows the progressive derangement of Arthur Fleck, who turns into one of DC's favorite villains: the Joker. Joker is about how a regular guy, Fleck, transitions into this maniacal villain. We know that the Joker thinks that he's a comedian (while still being self aware) and everything he does is sort of an act -- but attached to some good in his view -- and in Joker, we finally see how he gets to that point psychologically. I'm thinking about the scene in the hospital

(when he kills his mother)

when he says, "I used to think my life was a tragedy, but now I realize that it's a comedy". What specifically triggers that change in his attitude towards his life? On first glance, it might seem like the answer to that question is obvious, but there's so much going on in the movie at the same time that I'm confused about what specifically causes this change.

2 Answers 2


I will once again venture to answer a question about a movie I have not yet seen ( but I do have tickets for this Sunday )

First, let me start with a quote from Mel Brooks, one of the greatest minds of our time.

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”

There is very subtle difference here (I'm not being too sarcastic here, I hope). The tragedy is when we personally experience loss, pain, injury because of the pain we feel. From the trailers, Arthur Fleck is seen to go through plenty in his life. The comedy aspect is from watching something as an uninvolved observer. Depending on who you are and your sense of humor, you may find some things funny (comedy) or not. That part is subjective to each individual.

Back to Arthur and the spoiler in your post. Not sure where it falls in the plot, but it is a movie about the mental breakdown of an individual who becomes a villain. Perhaps committing acts of evil are comedic to him after he has made the full transition from a functional human being to a comic-book level mega-villain.

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    i think you hit on the philosophical/psychological side - tragedy is when you live it, comedy is when you observe it. This is describing a state of mind which i think is correct. But then you go into the literal "comedy" and i think you're incorrect there. It's not about a sense of humor or something being funny. If you look at the Batman series/history, it's heavily influenced by philosophy and works by the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche, for example. Oct 11, 2019 at 15:47
  • Note that it's a commonly used trope where someone under presure can snap and lose all sense of the gravity of the situation. Armageddon is the first movie that comes to mind, where they need to strap one guy down because he loses his self control. Arthurs start laughing rather than panicking or getting angry, but it's the same sort of breakdown. In Arthur's case, it's not due to high pressure but rather a long and consistent life of pain and depression.
    – Flater
    May 24, 2020 at 21:46

What he means by that is something similar to a quote by the Joker I read in Batman: The Killing Joke.

After Arthur discovers his father is not Thomas Wayne (Batman's father), and that he'd been constantly abused by one of his Mother's boyfriends, and that he was, he concludes that life is nothing more than a monstrous, demented comedy, and that death is the punchline.

  • "And that he was" ... what, exactly?
    – Joachim
    May 24, 2020 at 17:53

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