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Movie Review: 'The People's Joker' Starring and Created by Vera Drew

The People's Joker is among the best of 2024.

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 4 min read

The People's Joker (2024)

Directed by Vera Drew

Written by Vera Drew, Bri LaRose

Starring Vera Drew, Lynn Downey, Christian Calloway, Scott Aukerman, Bob Odenkirk, Tim Heidecker

Release Date April 19th, 2024

Published April 17th, 2024

The People's Joker is pure punk rock anarchy filtered through the lens of an auteur unlike any we have seen before. Vera Drew is the visionary behind this almost indescribable takedown of the Batman/Joker legend and lore. Entirely outside of the purview of permission, Drew and their collaborators took the well known characters of the D.C Universe and turned them on their heads in the most unique and unpredictable fashion. Not one minute of The People's Joker is predictable, it's a train running down the tracks with Drew at the helm and the whole thing in flames with no slowing down. I loved every minute of it.

Trying to describe the plot of The People's Joker is a rather futile effort, not that the movie is plotless, it's just deciding where to start that's the problem. In this dystopian future, Vera (Vera Drew) is from Smallville but dreams of going to Gotham City where a show called UCB Live is the biggest show in the world and Lorne Michaels rules comedy with an iron fist. It's also where a retired Batman still dominates the headlines despite no longer being the caped crusader. On UCB Live, Vera is assigned the identity of a Male Joker. In the harsh world of UCB Live, you are either a Male Joker with a distinct identity and able to perform on the show or a female Harlequin and designated as only a background dancer.

Hating the rigid rules of their once favorite comedy show, Vera joins forces with Oswald Cobbblepot (Nathan Fausdyn) and the two start their own comedy club inside a former carnival. Due to the strict laws regarding comedy they label their new venture Anti-Comedy. As their style catches on they are joined by an array of Batman villains eager to perform anti-comedy on this new stage. Among the performers is Jason 'Mr. J. Todd (Kane Distler) a trans man who happens to be Batman's ex. Mr. J and Vera begin a tentative romance that leads Vera to finally declare that she is a trans woman. The two plot to make the transition official by having Vera dive into a vat of chemicals.

It works and Vera starts to come into her own, declaring themselves as Joker the Harlequin. Their act begins to evolve into an angry screed mocking traditional comedy and consists of laughing at the traumatic backstories of strangers and fellow comics alike. The success of Joker the Harlequin brings them to the attention of UCB and Lorne Michaels but will Joker the Harlequin sell out to the strict comic standards of Lorne Michaels or blaze their own trail. Bubbling underneath is a reckoning between Joker the Harlequin and their mother played by Lynn Downing.

I have given the movie a sense of shape in that description but, truly, The People's Joker is a movie you must see for yourself. This is an ingeniously insane movie. In a year where the furry comedy Hundreds of Beavers exists, I didn't think I would see a movie that was more DIY or completely insane. Then, along came The People's Joker and the level of Do-It-Yourself low budget insanity was ratcheted up even higher with the same effect of creating a brilliant, wildly original comic vision. If the future of comedy is cardboard sets, Dollar store costumes, and unending innovation on a shoe-string budget, the future looks very bright.

Vera Drew is a blazing star. Drew bursts onto the screen as a filmmaker of limitless energy and invention. I called it punk rock and that is no joke. The spirit of The People's Joker is thumb in the eye defiance of convention and if that's not a punk rock aethetic, I don't know what is. The People's Joker is what would happen if John Waters somehow took over the D.C Universe. Vera Drew takes the world of comedy and superhero mythology and sets it on fire, chaotically capturing the aftermath in the midst of telling a genuine coming out story with a real heart buried deep beneath the snarky anarchy.

I love this movie.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and more than 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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