The King Of Comedy Callbacks
It’s never been a secret that Joker is more influenced by Martin Scorsese movies than DC comics. After all, Scorsese was originally attached to produce before he became too busy with The Irishman. Well, sure enough, the callbacks to the director’s works are very obvious in the film.
The King of Comedy is probably the biggest influence on Joker. In the 1982 movie, Robert De Niro plays a mentally-disturbed failed comedian named Rupert Pupkin who idolizes Jerry Lewis’ successful TV host, Jerry Langford. In Joker, Joaquin Phoenix plays a mentally-disturbed failed comedian who idolizes TV host Murray Franklin – played by, guess who, Robert De Niro!
The similarities go further than just the premise, as well. Arthur Fleck’s habit of imagining himself on Franklin’s show and being adored by the crowd echo Pupkin’s own delusions of much the same nature. At some point early on, Fleck even dons a plaid blazer that recalls a similar item worn by Pupkin.
“You Talkin’ To Me?”
Another Scorsese influence on Joker is Taxi Driver, which again stars De Niro as an unhinged character. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’re no doubt familiar with the famous scene in which De Niro’s character Travis Bickle practices with a gun while standing topless in front of a mirror in his dingy apartment. This gave us the famous “You talkin’ to me?” line.
Joker features an homage to this scene, with Fleck doing much the same while topless in his own dingy living room. There’s no mirror involved, but like Bickle, Fleck is pretending to threaten someone and practicing appearing intimidating with the weapon.
The depiction of Gotham City, home to riots and rising crime rates, is also similar to the presentation of a burned-out, morally-decaying post-Vietnam New York in Taxi Driver. What’s more, Thomas Wayne reimagined as a mayoral candidate Fleck obsesses over recalls Harvey Keitel’s role in TD as a presidential candidate that Bickle plans to assassinate.