In Joker, after attending stand up comedy where he was seen taking notes about what makes people laugh, just after this scene there is one another scene where he is writing different jokes. Ironically, one of them that we see was:

The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don't.

Image depicting Arthur's notebook. Titled JOKES

Now, one thing that is more horrifying apart from the statement itself is that our protagonist literally believes that this is a joke. Why? There are two reason:

  1. It is written under the section "Jokes".

  2. The smile at his face during the scene was different from other smiles. It looked like he is actually thinking that this is a joke while this a horrifying reality.

Now, the point that I am stuck at is the following: Does he think that people will laugh at this statement? I think I am missing the part of the character because knowing this answer will tell me more about his psyche.

  • 1
    Not having seen the movie yet, the "joke" you point out seems to be observational comedy, which is common in standup and is not always supposed to be "haha" funny. Coupled with the fact that he's taking a class on comedy and is therefore not yet experienced; this seems perfectly in line with it being an observational joke with a missing punchline, or one that falls flat. I'm not claiming he doesn't have mental issues, I'm just not sure this particular joke has to be more than a failed attempt at a joke written by a fledgling comedian.
    – Flater
    Feb 23, 2020 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


To a 'rational' mind, none of Arthur's jokes are funny.

To my recollection, he doesn't make one 'actually funny' statement in the entire movie. He doesn't laugh at things that other people say that are, & he responds 'incorrectly' to some that aren't.
[This is aside from his well-acknowledged 'nervous laugh' when under emotional pressure, and not to be confused with that.]

From a cinematic perspective, someone had to actually construct that page for the audience to see it wasn't a single thought on an otherwise blank page, but also to be credible if, as we're doing here, someone snapshots the page to read and examine at leisure later.

Arthur has grasped the idea that a simple two-liner joke sets up a premise, then destroys it by having the punch-line either reverse that premise by 'surprise', or at least leave a double-entendre as to which of two interpretations could be the correct one.

The jokes you see on that page are written evidence of that, all neatly in one place for us to grab a snapshot and examine after the fact.

  • Insomniac doesn't want to sleep with his wife - play on words… 'sleep' - not funny.

  • Poor people are confused because they don't make any cents.
    another play on words… not funny.
    He used this sense/cents elsewhere in the movie, establishing his failure to grasp that just because it's a play on words doesn't actually in and of itself make it funny.

  • You say to a straight-jacket, "Loosen up a little." - which is the closest you get to a 'real joke' except that the subject matter is 'mental patient' & most comedy club audiences don't comprise that demographic, even if they probably understand it as 'a joke'… so it's a stretch.
    Personally, I think that one is to give the cinema audience a clearer guide as to his thought processes. Had he told that joke as part of a recognised 'actually funny' act, it may have got a laugh. Just because a stand-up comic gets close to the edge doesn't make them not funny, even if their audience can only imagine the real-life circumstance. Arthur doesn't grasp this & I feel cinematically we're expected to see this as a character flaw rather than edgy comedy.

So the last one - the joke we actually get time enough to read as the action unfolds is an extrapolation of that. The audience is given the chance to see what he is writing whilst ostensibly taking notes on how a comedian structures his act live on stage. Arthur so clearly doesn't "get it". He's seen to be laughing in all the wrong places.
This is a 'movie short-cut' allowing the audience to see what he is thinking whilst supposedly taking notes on what he is seeing.

  • Yeah, I agree that if the audience is warmed up a good comedian could get laughs from all of these - but aside from that they are mildly amusing at most.
    – Michael
    Feb 23, 2020 at 1:32
  • 3
    The no actual funny statements thing is important, and the movie that this is inspired by (The King of Comedy) does the same thing. The only time someone laughs at the protagonist is when the protagonist is unknowingly being made fun of by a guy behind him. Feb 23, 2020 at 2:56
  • "To my recollection, he doesn't make one 'actually funny' statement in the entire movie." Purely by script, the "I wanted to be a comedian. They laughed. Well, they're not laughing now" joke is a decent (if cliché and not original) joke that is actually funny. However, Arthur very much botched the delivery, rendering it unfunny.
    – Flater
    Jul 4, 2021 at 18:59
  • "He's seen to be laughing in all the wrong places." To be fair, it's not so much his laughing, since that's a neural disorder of his; it's more the lack of laughing at the actual punchline that suggests he is much too clinical about the workings of stand-up comedy.
    – Flater
    Jul 4, 2021 at 19:00

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