On Air: The Joker

» Hear the 'Day to Day' story

Thursday at midnight, Heath Ledger will haunt thousands with his creepy portrayal of the Joker. The batty villain we all know was not always so menacing or significant, however. The creators of D.C. Comics killed him off after just two appearances in Batman #1. Later — partly due to a puritanical group called the Comics Code Authority — the Joker morphed into a silly alliteration-obsessed fellow on ABC's Batman TV show.

We want to know — who was the best Joker of them all?



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Jack Nicholson usually comes up on a list for Best Jokers right at the top, and rightfully so. He stole the show in 1989 from Michael Keaton's Batman, and helped reinvigorate the franchise. But for me, he falls in second behind the voice acting of Mark Hamill. Mr. Hamill brought to the character in Batman the Animated Series a mix of sincere humor and insanity that I had never seen before. His jokes were actually funny, at times meriting raucous laughter, only to be followed up by blowing up an orphanage (or something along those lines). The laugh that Hamill used for his Joker has become iconic in my mind with Batman and his nemesis.

Of course, all this might change come 7/18/08.

Sent by Tim Simmons | 3:05 PM | 7-16-2008

I have to agree with Tim. Mark Hamill's voice acting was brilliant and is definately my favorite. When I read a Batman comic I hear his voice in my mind for the Joker.

Sent by Jenniffer | 3:30 PM | 7-16-2008

I agree. Mark Hamill was briliant. We'll have to wait and see if Ledger can know him down.

Sent by Adam | 4:17 PM | 7-16-2008

I'm so glad I'm not the only one that feels that Mark Hamill was the best Joker. My husband and I were both blown away by his portrayal throughout the Animated series, and even through the more recent animated Batman Beyond movie, "Return of the Joker". There's just something about Hamill's portrayal; the Joker's genuine sadism, believable insanity, twisted logic, and undeniable cowardice all come through in his voice.

P.S. And if Mark Hamill is the definitive Joker, Kevin Conroy will always, always, ALWAYS be the Voice of Batman...at least in my mind.

Sent by Janice | 5:07 PM | 7-16-2008

Mark Hamill is definitely, voice-wise, the most effective Joker. He's hilarious and dark, all at the same time. I was almost hoping they would ask him to be the Joker in The Dark Knight, although now I see they probably made a better choice. Can't wait to see it.

Sent by Doodle | 9:44 AM | 7-17-2008

Wasn't it made clear back in January that Nicholson was talking about Ambien when he said "I warned him"?

Sent by Laura | 1:08 PM | 7-17-2008

yay! i didn't know there were so many other fans of mark hamill as the joker!

i don't how or why - but mark hamill caught that wonderful balance between sinister and silly.

Sent by OlderMusicGeek | 3:21 PM | 7-19-2008

Mark Hamill is a terrific Joker in the animated series, but this Joker that Nolan has crafted with the brilliance of Heath Ledger just cannot be topped, methinks. Pure genius and, as noted, very haunting.

Sent by Maria | 7:24 PM | 7-26-2008

Heath Ledger is the greatest Joker, in my opinion. I can't imagine how a person can act like that, i mean... I can't see Heath Ledger at all! I can only see a schizophrenic, unpredictable, zero empathy guy. A masterpiece i must say... Bless Him.

Sent by Mith | 2:20 PM | 8-5-2008

I agree with the above comment. Heath Ledger was definitely the best Joker. At least for live action. It's like he really became the Joker I can't see Ledger at all. He was so talented it's too bad he died so young. He was one of the only young actors in Hollywood today with any talent.
R.I.P Heath

Sent by Anita | 1:41 PM | 8-25-2008

I'm the Batman!!!

Sent by Batman | 4:55 PM | 9-2-2008


NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from