"Be A Clown" is the ninth episode of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on September 16, 1992.
Mayor Hill is giving a speech at a construction site, saying the new block of apartments being built will herald a new, safer Gotham City. The speech is rudely interrupted by a pair of criminals who crash their getaway car and then open fire on the police pursuing them. Batman appears and takes them down. Rising from the podium he ducked under, Hill resumes the thread of his speech, railing against men who act outside the law, including Batman, whom Hill compares him to other criminals like the Joker.
The Joker happens to be watching this in his hideout, and is outraged at the comparison. He gets an idea for revenge when Hill's next statement promises to make the city "as safe as [his] own mansion."
That weekend, the mansion is the site of a birthday party for the mayor's son, Jordan. The party is more a political media event than an actual celebration, and Jordan feels overlooked and unloved. Practicing magic tricks alone in his room, he is mad when his father barges in and demands that he come out and greet the blue bloods.
However, Jordan perks up when the party's entertainment arrives, magician and jokester "Jekko the Clown". Jordan is awed by Jekko's act, and asks how he can become a magician like him. Jekko laughs and says the first necessary step is to run away, find a great magician, and then steal his act. Jordan asks Jekko if he could show more magician tricks to him, to which Jekko agrees and begins to show him something special by telling him that he is saving the best for last. Then Mayor Hill insists that Jordan has to leave the clown and come back to greet the new arrivals, including Bruce Wayne. Fed up, Jordan accuses his dad for making him feel unloved and runs back inside.
For his parting gift, Jekko plants a large sparkler candle on top of the birthday cake (in reality, a large stick of dynamite). As he leaves the Mayor, he lets out one of his trademark laughs. Sensing something familiar, Bruce looks around and sees the candle, where he notices the Joker's face on it, realizing what is about to happen. Pushing his way through the crowd, he pretends to stumble with the large present he's carrying, knocking the cake into the pool, where the bomb detonates harmlessly underwater.
Hill calls the police, who have found a man claiming to be the real Jekko tied up down the road from the mansion. As Hill demands answers, Bruce realizes that Jordan is missing and then he asks Hill where Jordan is. It turns out he has run away by stowing himself away inside Jekko's van. Hill becomes saddened about Jordan's disappearance and expresses regret at not paying his son's happiness more attention. Reviewing a home video of the birthday party, Bruce notices "Jekko" mention the name of his mentor, the "Great Prosciutto", once a performer at the amusement park. This, combined with Jekko's laugh and the dynamite he left, confirms Bruce's suspicion that Jekko was the Joker in disguise, and now knows where to find Jordan.
The Joker returns to his hideout, an abandoned amusement park. He starts to remove his makeup, but Jordan appears, saying he has run away and followed "Jekko's" advice and wants to be a magician like him. The Joker is initially enraged at having his hideout invaded, but laughs it off and says he's been thinking about a protégé to which Jordan agrees with. As his first "lesson", Joker tries to teach Jordan to swallow a trick sword, giving him a demonstration, although it is apparent that the Joker hopes Jordan will cut himself fatally. The security alarm goes off and the Joker sees Batman entering the park on the surveillance system. He proposes that he and Jordan play a little joke on Batman, and Jordan, remembering his father's negative opinion on Batman and not wanting to disappoint his new mentor, agrees.
Jordan appears outside an empty theatre to lure Batman in, and runs inside when Batman chases after him. When he's inside, the Joker throws a whole deck of his razor-sharp playing cards at him and misses. Batman gives chase, but the Joker throws an exploding gas card that knocks Batman out. The Joker drops a quarter into a fortune-telling machine, which drops a card predicting Batman's fate. The Joker reads it and laughs.
When Batman awakens, he is upside down in a tank rapidly filling with water, bound by a straitjacket and shackles. Jordan is nervous, but the Joker tells him to watch the "show". Jordan applauds when Batman manages to get free of the straitjacket, but then realizes that Batman really is drowning. He grabs an axe and strikes the side of the tank, but the Joker plucks the axe away before he can strike again, and removes his Jekko mask to reveal who he is. Horrified, Jordan grabs a seltzer hose and sprays the Joker in the face, distracting him long enough to run out. As the Joker chases after him, Batman pushes with his legs on the crack Jordan made, and manages to shatter the tank. Recovering his breath, he grabs his utility belt and goes after the Joker.
As the Joker searches the amusement park for Jordan, Batman runs to the park's control room and throws the power switches, turning on the park's lights and attractions, to distract the Joker and illuminate the area.
The Joker catches up with Jordan, hiding on one of the roller coasters, just as Batman sees them. Joker starts one of the coasters and he and Jordan roll away on it. Batman jumps on the second as it starts, slightly behind the first.
As the cars speed around the track, the Joker throws Kewpie doll-shaped grenades at Batman's coaster. One of them lands right in the seat of the lead car, and the coaster derails in the explosion, causing a massive hole in the track. However, Batman has managed to jump onto the rear of Joker's coaster while the Joker lunges into the back. As they wrestle, Joker tries to squirt Batman with his boutonniere, but Batman ducks and kicks him off the coaster, although he lands safely in the water.
Looking ahead, he sees the coaster is heading for the break in the track caused by the explosion, while Jordan is still in the lead car. Batman yells for Jordan to take his hand. Jordan hesitates for a moment, then reaches, and Batman swings them both away just before the coaster goes off the rails and crashes. Batman takes Jordan back home.
At the mayoral mansion, Hill is sadly toying with his son's magic tricks, when Jordan appears and runs into his father's arms. Having learned a lesson about how truly important his son is than doing a political media event, Hill gives him "the best birthday hug" he's ever had. Over his father's shoulder, Jordan sees Batman smile and give him a thumbs-up to tell him he did the right thing. Jordan smiles back and returns it.
Home video releases
- Batman: Tales of the Dark Knight (VHS)
- Batman: Tales of the Dark Knight (DVD)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume One (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman and Friends (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- Bruce Timm claims that he had the idea for the episode when he had the image in his mind of Batman trying to save a child, but the child's too scared because of Batman's intimidating look. This would later be revisited in the Batman Beyond episode "Unmasked".
- Although "Jekko the Clown" mentions the name "Prosciutto", in the poster he holds the word was mispelled as "Proscuitto".
- Batman takes a deep breath to hold after the water has passed his nose and mouth.
- The title of the episode is taken from the song "Be A Clown" popularized in The Pirate.
- This episode marks the first time in the DCAU where Batman is knocked out and finds himself trapped when he awakens. A few other examples include "Joker's Wild", "Moon of the Wolf", "Read My Lips", "Trial", "Cult of the Cat", and "Mad Love". However, at no point do his captors take advantage of his unconscious state to remove his mask and find out his secret identity.
- Frank Paur, the director, was having difficulties with the storyboarding crew, and when a freelancer quit, Bruce Timm storyboarded the entire second act.
- The trap Joker attempts to kill Batman with is the famous water torture trap which Harry Houdini escaped out of in approximately two minutes.
- The roller coaster sequence was adapted into the third stage of the Joker level in the Super Nintendo game The Adventures of Batman & Robin.
- The chef from "Pretty Poison" and the fat woman from "The Underdwellers" can be seen in the crowd at the birthday party.
- Jekko's comment that the "Great Prosciutto" was a ham refers to the fact that Prosciutto is the actual Italian word for "ham".
- Tim Curry's uncredited cameo as the laughing Robot Clown is a reference to the laugh he would have used had he remained cast as the Joker. According to Paul Dini, Curry's Joker voice strained his throat and was too demanding on his vocal cords, leading to the decision to recast Mark Hamill as the Joker.
- Batman's line about how the Joker "always knew how to make an exit" would later be repeated by the Joker himself in "Joker's Wild" and then by Zatanna in an episode with the same name.
|Kevin Conroy||Bruce Wayne/Batman|
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Lloyd Bochner||Mayor Hill|
|Mark Hamill|| Joker|
|Jim Cummings||Jekko the Clown|
|Mari Devon||Summer Gleeson|
|Justin Shenkarow|| Jordan|
Timmy Frye (uncredited)
Joker: What? Compare me to Batman?! I've got more style, more brains, I'm certainly a better dresser!
Jordan: He did it! He got free!
Jordan: He can't get out! What's the trick?
Joker: Naughty, naughty. You're making me miss the show.
Batman: Alright, Joker, get ready for a little Bat-Magic!
Joker: That must have been his stop!
Batman: He always knew how to make an exit.