This was going to be one of those introductions that begins with some vague reference to something that sounds familiar and obvious, then, all of a sudden, blammo, you’re blindsided by something the author thinks you weren’t expecting, but you totally were. (You know, kind of how people on Twitter will show a picture of Trump and standing next to a child and the caption will be something like, “Oh, look, it’s a child … and a kid who just entered third grade.”) Only, in reality, you’re sitting there thinking, “Um, I read the title of this, I already know you’re going to compare Joker to Seinfeld.” So, yes, I spared us all that here. You’re welcome.
But, yes, it was this past Sunday night and, here in New York City, like most places, Seinfeld airs in syndication. I wanted to watch something that would bring my adrenaline levels down so I could at least attempt sleep after the Kansas City Chiefs (I went to high school in Kansas City and it’s been two days and I still can’t believe they won) made their first Super Bowl in my lifetime. Anyway, I started to watch Seinfeld and unfortunately, other than the much-maligned final episode, my least favorite storyline was airing: Crazy Joe Davola.
It’s so weird. Here’s a show that’s whole existence was predicated on being about nothing, and a multi-episode run is about how there’s a mentally disturbed and violent man stalking Jerry, Elaine and Kramer. So there I was on Sunday, watching one of the few Seinfeld episodes I dislike, just stewing to myself about how I hate this whole Crazy Joe Davola arc. (Larry David reportedly based Davola on eventual Smallville producer Joe Davola. Yes, very subtle,) And then it hit me, oh, yes, I dislike this arc because it’s the same plot as Todd Phillips’s Joker.
It really is kind of uncanny:
— When we first meet Crazy Joe Davola, he’s a failed comedy writer who blames Jerry for his lack of success. Arthur Fleck is a failed comedian who eventually blames Robert De Niro’s Murray Franklin for his failures.
— Crazy Joe Davola then grows obsessed with a woman he’ll never be with, going as far to drape her photos across his apartment — eventually leading to a disturbing scene where Crazy Joe Davola corners Elaine in his apartment. Arthur Fleck grows obsessed with his neighbor, which eventually leads to a confrontation in her apartment.
— Crazy Joe Davola’s doctor openly worries that Joe has stopped taking his medication, which will make him more violent. Arthur Fleck stops taking his medication, which makes him more violent.
— Crazy Joe Davola literally dresses up like a clown one night and is confronted by three men in Central Park. Crazy Joe Davola fights them all and wins. Arthur Fleck is dressed up as a clown and is confronted by three men on the subway. Arthur Fleck winds up shooting and killing all three of them.
(– At one point Jerry preforms and dances to the “This Is It” Looney Tunes theme. This has nothing to do with Joker, but I’m going to sub this in for Joker’s dance down the stairs.)
— And then the weirdest thing (okay, maybe tied with the fact Crazy Joe Davola dresses like a clown): At the end of Joker, Arthur finally confronts Murray face to face during a taping of his show, Live With Murray Franklin. Arthur eventually attacks and kills Murray. Crazy Joe Davola confronts Jerry Seinfeld at a taping of Jerry’s television pilot, Jerry. Crazy Joe Davola jumps out of the stands to attack Jerry while yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis!” Jerry Seinfeld survives this encounter. But both Murray and Jerry are attacked while filming a television show.
Look, everyone says Joker might owe a credit or two to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. But I’m starting to think Joker might also owe a credit to Larry David.
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