Joker, the gritty stand-alone Batman spin-off due in theaters Friday, has earned acclaim — including the top award at a prestigious film festival — as well as condemnation, with some, including the families of Aurora massacre victims, fearing its depiction of an unhinged, Travis Bickle-esque loner may lead to violence. And through it all, its director, Todd Phillips, has not kept silent. He’s fought back, blaming the “far left” for the “outrage” and wondering out loud why John Wick movies, basically non-realistic live-action cartoons, didn’t encourage similar ire.
Now he’s taking his gripes next level. In a new Vanity Fair profile (in a bit highlighted by The Playlist), Phillips says the dark and unpleasant Joker marks a new direction for him, away from the comedies with which he made his name, including the Hangover trilogy, Road Trip, Old School, and Due Date. But it’s not like wants to be done with the genre; in his mind, the kids drove him to Scorsese knock-offs in comic book movie clothes.
“Go try to be funny nowadays with this woke culture,” Phillips told VF. “There were articles written about why comedies don’t work anymore — I’ll tell you why, because all the f*cking funny guys are like, ‘F*ck this shit, because I don’t want to offend you.’”
Phillips — who prior to Joker, Phillips made War Dogs, a black comedy with satirical airs.
— wasn’t done:
“It’s hard to argue with 30 million people on Twitter. You just can’t do it, right? So you just go, ‘I’m out.’ I’m out, and you know what? With all my comedies — I think that what comedies, in general, all have in common — is they’re irreverent. So I go, ‘How do I do something irreverent, but f*ck comedy? Oh I know, let’s take the comic book movie universe and turn it on its head with this.’ And so that’s really where that came from.”
Phillips is far from the only person who’s worked in the comedic wing of the entertainment business to complain about our more sensitive era. Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr have spent chunks of recent specials complaining about their jokes being called out or condemned. (Burr, at least, quickly moved on to actual jokes.)
Some, including colleagues, have criticized those complaints, wondering why comics don’t do their job and find what makes people laugh in 2019. (Besides, they can always go the Dennis Miller route, playing pretty much exclusively to rightwing crowds.) And while he received support from some people — including former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, so good job there — those who haven’t been sympathetic to Chappelle weren’t exactly sympathetic to the director of the Starsky & Hutch movie.
Dear Todd Phillips,
You were lazy. Comedy kept moving, because comedy always keeps moving. You couldn't keep up, on account of how you are a lazy fuck. @OhNoSheTwitnt hits harder than one of your movies every goddamn day and she's doing this in her spare time at work. https://t.co/IyJObTcZpY
— Quinn Cummings (@quinncy) October 1, 2019
Sad to learn that Todd Phillips is a jackass who thinks SJWs are trying to ruin comedy. Also note use of the word “guys.” pic.twitter.com/yM11wnoNqm
— Rob Tannenbaum (@tannenbaumr) October 1, 2019
Most complaints about "woke/cancel culture" boil down to this:
Before social media, communities without a platform typically were left out of the conversation. They didn't think you were funny then, either. You just never had to hear their reactions before, and you haaaaaate it.
— BooMcScreamy (@DrewMcWeeny) October 1, 2019
The whole Todd Phillips/‘woke culture’ thing just reminds me once again that some people are alarmingly unable to separate vulgarity from bigotry
— Jason Todd Phillips (@uzionmain) October 1, 2019
i disagree with Todd Phillips that comedy is broken because of SJWs. comedy is broken because theres like 4 people who make studio comedies and there hasnt been a good one in maybe a decade (because the people who make them are cynical and dont think highly of their audience)
— jack allison (@jackallisonLOL) October 1, 2019
Todd Phillips pouring gasoline on any goodwill for his movie is a wild choice.
— BenDavid Grabinski (@bdgrabinski) October 1, 2019
Every time Todd Phillips speaks I think about Karyn Kusama, Debra Granik, Lisa Cholodenko, Dee Rees, Anna Biller, and basically every female director who didn't make School for Scoundrels and get handed a prestige-ass DC character BUT WHATEVER.
— Courtney Enlow ➡️ NYCC (@courtenlow) October 1, 2019
Some pointed to a recently exhumed interview with George Carlin — a man “anti-PC” comics gleefully hold up as an icon — in which he called out Andrew Dice Clay for “punching down” with cracks at minorities.
Definitely not retweeting this today because of Todd Phillips. https://t.co/0OYdRpZCkq
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) October 1, 2019
And some are just a little tired of Phillips, who has never been this loud before.
Doesn’t Todd Phillips have a PR agent who can tell him to shut up?
— Lexi Alexander (@Lexialex) October 1, 2019
As someone who liked #Joker, I really wish Todd Phillips would stop talking and just let Joaquin Phoenix speak for the film.
— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) October 1, 2019
warner bros should probably pay for todd phillips to leave right this minute on a nice vacation to some remote island with no cell or internet service
— your pal andy (@andylevy) October 1, 2019
Anyway, this is a shame. But at least we can expect more War Dogs.