Every Batman fan has their favorite screen interpretation of The Joker. Some are Jack Nicholson partisans, while others are Heath Ledger stans. There are old-school fans who miss Cesar Romero and whippersnappers who will still defend that "damaged" tattoo on Jared Leto. Animation and video game aficionados tend to praise Mark Hamill's Clown Prince of Crime above all, while Zack Galifianakis' satirical take on the character also earned some love. Joaquin Phoenix is the next big name star set to play The Joker in the much-hyped Joker movie set for release on October 4, 2019. That might seem like a pretty comprehensive list of Joker actors to most people... but most people would be wrong!
This list will be examining 15 portrayals of The Dark Knight's greatest adversary that rarely if ever come up in the nerd debates about the best Joker performance. This isn't because these portrayals are necessarily worse than the popular ones (for the most part), but because they're so obscure that they're not even known by even many hardcore fans. Sometimes this is because of the nature of the production, something where viewers rarely pay much serious attention to the actors (in older Saturday morning cartoons or TV commercials, for instance), or because the production itself is barely seen either due to failure or the nature of the release. In a few cases on this list, the performances aren't even officially approved of by DC Comics! The Jokers on this list might not replace Nicholson/Ledger/Hamill in your hearts, but the curious fan should be aware of them.
15 MARK FROST (BATMAN LIVE)
Yes, there was actually a Batman Live stage show. This wasn't some failed musical epic like the infamous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (though Jim Steinman almost did a Batman Broadway musical in the '90s; here's the proposed Joker song!). Instead, it was a stunt showcase from the producers of the Walking With Dinosaurs live show.
Batman Live premiered in London in 2011 before touring throughout the United States the following year. Mark Frost, the production's Joker, was well prepared for the demanding part, having plenty of experience playing villains in such TV shows as The Bill and Hope Springs.
14 LARRY STORCH (FILMATION BATMAN)
The first animated appearance of The Joker (and the Batman characters in general) was in the 1968 Filmation series The Adventures of Batman. The cartoons in this series, made in six-and-a-half minute segments, aired as part of The Batman/Superman Hour on CBS. The Joker was voiced by Larry Storch.
Larry Storch was a successful stand-up comedian, making guest appearances on many TV shows in the '60s. His wide range of vocal impersonations got him lots of work in voice acting. He'd reprise his role as The Joker in the two New Scooby-Doo Movies crossovers between the Scooby Doo and Batman casts.
13 FRANK WELKER (THE SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS)
Frank Welker might be best known for doing practically every cartoon animal noise for the past 50 years. His most notable human character is Fred, who he's voiced since Scooby-Doo began in 1969 (naturally, he also voices Scooby). He also voiced The Joker in the episode "The Wild Cards" from 1985's The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.
The Super Powers Team was the last of Hanna-Barbera's Super Friends cartoons. "The Wild Cards" was the only time The Joker ever appeared in a Super Friends cartoon because Filmation already had a claim on the character as part of The New Adventures of Batman in the '70s.
12 GREY DELISLE-GRIFFIN (THE FLASHPOINT PARADOX)
This piece of casting might escape the knowledge of even those fans who sat through the full credits on the animated movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Many of the voice actors in the movie play multiple characters, but only receive one credit. Grey Delisle-Griffin is credited for playing Nora Allen. She's uncredited for playing the younger version of Barry Allen and, most relevant to this list, the alternate universe version of Martha Wayne.
In this twisted alternate timeline, Bruce Wayne is gunned down by Joe Chill and his parents are left surviving. Thomas Wayne is motivated to become Batman. Martha, meanwhile, loses her mind and becomes this universe's version of The Joker.
11 WATARU TAKAGI (BATMAN NINJA)
The anime feature Batman Ninja was released earlier this year with both English and Japanese audio tracks available. The English voice actor for The Joker, Tony Hale, is recognizable to fans of Arrested Development and Veep. The Joker's Japanese voice, Wataru Takagi, is nowhere near as famous stateside, at least in most circles.
Anime fans might recognize Takagi's voice from Detective Conan (where he plays two characters, Genta Kojima and Detective Takagi), Naruto (as Obita Uchiha) and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (as Okuyasu Nijimura). In Japan, however, he might be most recognizable as the go-to dub voice-over for many of Jack Black's movie characters.
10 JEFF BERGMAN (RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS)
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was hyped as a reunion for the surviving Adam West Batman cast. West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar were able to reprise their classic roles in animation, but other parts required recasting. Cesar Romero passed away in 1994, and so a new Joker was needed for the movie.
Jeff Bergman filled the part. Bergman's career has been based heavily on filling the shoes of legends. He was the first voice actor to take over the role of Bugs Bunny from Mel Blanc, and now voices a wide range of classic Warner Bros., MGM, and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.
9 STEVE BLUM (LEGO BATMAN: THE VIDEO GAME)
Steve Blum has one of the most recognizable voices in animation. He's not one of those actors with the widest range, but his voice is so cool and distinctive you don't mind if most of his characters sound similar. He's played Wolverine, Spike Spiegel, Amon, TOM from Toonami and many others. But did you know he also played The Joker?
It would be easy to miss, given that he never actually has any spoken dialogue in 2008's Lego Batman: The Video Game. Blum did, however, do the sounds for not only Joker, but also Batman, Killer Moth, Killer Croc, and Two-Face. Christopher Corey Smith took over playing Joker in Lego Batman 2, the first LEGO game with dialogue.
8 CURTIS ARMSTRONG (ONSTAR COMMERCIAL)
The Batman-themed commercials for the OnStar navigation service aired on TV between 2000 and 2002. Coming from the fallow period between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins, they're a bizarre melange of Bat-imagery. They use the same Batmobile as the Burton films, but are closer in style to the Schumacher ones (the same effects house as Batman and Robin worked on the commercials).
If you want a glimpse at what a more Schumacher-esque Joker could have been like, the second commercial in the series features Curtis Armstrong playing The Joker. Yes, the same Curtis Armstrong who played Booger in Revenge of the Nerds.
7 ROGER STONEBURNER (BIRDS OF PREY)
Barring the possibility of a full-on live action Dark Knight Returns adaptation, it seems that the aging Mark Hamill will likely never play The Joker in live action. He came awfully close in the short-lived 2002 Birds of Prey TV series, where his voice dubbed over The Joker in a flashback to the night he shot Barbara Gordon.
The actor actually filling the physical on-screen role was Roger Stoneburner, who's usually a stunt performer. That they went through the trouble of dubbing in Hamill's voice rather than just having the physical performer speak the brief lines is a testament to how iconic Hamill's Joker performance is.
6 JOHN KASSIR (THE JOKER'S PLAYHOUSE)
DC Comics geeks might know all about Warner Bros. Animation's all-ages TV shows and older-skewing direct-to-video features, but the short film The Joker's Playhouse is one WBA DC production few will have heard of. Those who have were mostly the parents of kids playing with Imaginext toys around 2012.
This short film was made to tie into Imaginext's "DC Super Friends" toyline (no direct connection to the '70s Superfriends cartoons). The voice actor for The Joker in this short is John Kassir. Kassir's voice is probably most recognizable as that of another cackling comic book character, The Crypt Keeper from HBO's Tales of the Crypt.
5 ALLEN ENLOW (BATMAN: DARK TOMORROW)
Before the Arkham Asylum series, the reputation of Batman video games was not the greatest. Batman: Dark Tomorrow for the GameCube and XBox wanted to do what the Arkham games would later succeed at, building an open world-based narrative faithful to the darker Batman comics. Over the course of development, however, the game was scaled back significantly.
The game was a critical failure, with an average Metacritic score of 27 between the two platforms of its release. Allen Enlow, the actor who voiced The Joker, is one of the lesser known actors to take on the part. You might have seen him, however, in select episodes of The Sopranos and Happy!
4 KEN YASUDA (DC SUPER HEROES VS. EAGLE TALON)
In 2017, Japan got two Justice League movies in theaters! There was the Snyder/Whedon film the rest of the world saw, and then there was DC Super Heroes vs. Eagle Talon. "What's an Eagle Talon," you ask? It's a Flash animated comedy anime series about a group of bumbling super-villains fighting an annoying hero.
Somehow DC Comics licensed out its characters for a crazy spoof crossover movie. There's been zero news of a Stateside release, likely due to nobody here knowing what Eagle Talon is. The Joker in this movie is played by Ken Yasuda, a bodybuilding star known as "Japan's Arnold Schwartzenneger" (so why didn't he play Mr. Freeze?).
3 TARAN KILLAM (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE)
The lifecycle of a Saturday Night Live skit is typically brief, much discussed for about a week and typically forgotten years later (with a few legendary exceptions). Therefore, it's understandable that people might have forgotten about Taran Killam's Joker (and Bobby Moynihan's Penguin) four years later. Still, the internet lasts, and it's clear the internet loved the cosplay bit at the time.
Michael Keaton was hosting on April 4, 2015, fresh off the Academy Award success of Birdman. It was his first time hosting since 1992, when he was promoting Batman Returns. Killam and Moynihan took the opportunity to beg Keaton to reprise his iconic Batman performance, while getting in character themselves as the villains.
2 RENE REQUIESTAS (ALYAS BATMAN EN ROBIN)
Technically Rene Requiestas was playing a regular guy playing The Joker in Alyas Batman en Robin, the 1991 Filipino Batman homage of dubious legality. We're still counting it as the "regular guys" in this movie pretty much just become Batman characters.
Even if this was meant as a parody, the extent the movie sold itself on the Batman connection arguably went beyond fair use into flat-out rip-off territory. Unfunny when it tries to be, yet unintentionally hilarious when it's not trying, only the bravest of trash cinema aficionados are advised to try watching the full thing (though everyone should watch the bonkers concluding musical number).
1 TOMMY WISEAU (AUDITION VIDEOS)
Tommy Wiseau could be an amazing actor...if asked to just play disturbing evil. The Room was so bizarre because he was simply so ill-fit to play a romantic hero, but what if he played a villain, someone monstrous, someone....like The Joker?
He's certainly gunning for it. For Nerdist, he's made not one, but two audition videos of him impersonating The Joker from The Dark Knight. As Heath Ledger impressions go, they're as laughably awful as you'd expect. As just general scary villain performances, on the other hand, they're something. He's definitely got something. Someone give Wiseau's number to David Lynch and let the magic happen.