"Make 'Em Laugh" is the seventh episode of the third season of Batman: The Animated Series. It originally aired on November 5, 1994. In this episode, three famous comedians are suddenly committing crazy crimes in Gotham. As Batman and Robin investigate the bizarre goings-on, they learn the Joker is behind the comedians' erratic actions and must stop him from ruining their reputations.
A man in a bizarre costume calling himself the "Condiment King" holds up an upscale restaurant. Though he is armed with nothing more than two hoses spraying ketchup and mustard, his manner is sufficiently bizarre and violent to persuade the patrons to hand over their money and valuables. Batman arrives, and easily subdues the man, who starts acting up and falls off the balcony onto the roof of an arriving police car. Renee Montoya removes the man's disguise and recognizes him as a famous TV comedian, Buddy Standler.
While Standler is still unconscious, his agent is interviewed on the TV news; he cannot explain Standler's actions, but reports that his comedy show has been cancelled and he is being sued by the restaurant's owners. Robin, a fan of Standler's, is equally baffled.
The next day, Alfred is shopping at Mayfield's department store, which is invaded by another bizarre robber, dressed in a mouse costume and calling himself "The Pack Rat". He disregards jewelry and cash and takes only worthless items, but is armed with a real functioning submachine gun. Alfred calls the Batcave.
Elsewhere, comedienne Lisa Lorraine is abducted from her apartment.
Batman and Robin arrive at Mayfield's department store and manage to subdue the Pack Rat. He swings a golf club at Batman that catches an electrical panel, shocking him unconscious. Robin takes off his costume and recognizes him as Harry Loomis, another famous TV comedian. Batman notices a microchip affixed to his neck, and realizes that he is under mind control.
The Dynamic Duo rushes to Arkham Asylum to see Jervis Tetch, but find that he has been affixed with one of his own chips, leaving him a staring vegetable. Obviously, someone has stolen the Mad Hatter's technology.
They return to the Batcave and Alfred gives them news of Lorraine's disappearance. They realize that the three comedians act as the judges at Gotham's annual "Laugh-Off" stand-up comedian competition. Robin taped last year's competition, and Alfred has cued the tape to something interesting:
After the last comedian had his turn on stage, and just before the judges announced their decision, a man calling himself "Smilin' Shecky Rimshot" forced his way on stage and began his routine. He was given the hook and dragged off the stage for not registering when it closed before the contest, although not before yelling in an all too familiar voice that he was the greatest comedian in Gotham and would get revenge on them all. The audience laughed, but Batman examines the man's face up close and realizes his true identity... the Joker.
That night, at the comedy competition, Joker takes control of the competition and announces himself the winner and performs again using his Smilin' Shecky Rimshot guise, before revealing himself to the audience, which don't laugh, but are horrified. As he prepares to toss grenades containing Joker gas into the crowd, Batman arrives and knocks the gas away, and they explode outside harmlessly. Joker introduces his latest "girl": Lorraine, acting under mind control and now calling herself "Mighty Mom". As the Joker escapes carrying the trophy, Batman pursues, while Robin subdues Mighty Mom.
On the roof, Batman berates the Joker for ruining three innocent lives all for a silly piece of gold painted tin; the Joker explains that he did not want the trophy, but the title: the funniest man in all of Gotham, and he had to eliminate the competition by any means necessary. Joker jumps onto a clown-shaped balloon, which takes off into the sky. Batman and Robin follow and in the fight, Joker accidentally stabs the balloon with a knife, causing it to descend. Joker ends up falling off the balloon with the trophy stuck onto his head. Batman saves him by firing his grapple gun, catching Joker by the seat of his pants. For once in his career, the Joker gets real laughs, but for something he would rather forget ever happened: dangling upside down from Batman's cable with his head stuck in the trophy and his pants around his ankles. As he is led to a police van, he tries to pull up his pants, but they fall down again and he trips, causing even more laughter. Humiliated, he hides his head in the trophy again as he is taken away.
- When Batman and Robin are watching the news report on the Condiment King, the headline of the newspaper Robin is holding reads "Rally To Be Held For Gordon". This newspaper headline was also used in, and refers to events of, the earlier episode "Shadow of the Bat".
- The Mad Hatter would later be blamed again for a crime that he didn't commit in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Knight Time".
Home video releases
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Joker's Return (VHS)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Three (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- When Lisa answers the door, a voice on the televisions says, "Greetings, riddletikes, It's time for riddle number 317537...". before being cut off. This is actually reused audio from "Riddler's Reform", where the Riddler used this riddle number, 31753701.
- Lisa Lorraine/Mighty Mom's character is credited as "Rolling Pin".
- Harry Loomis/Pack Rat is holding up Mayfield's department store with a submachine gun capable of automatic fire. Submachine guns fire pistol cartridges, however, the spent shell casings ejected look more like shotgun shells.
- Joker gives voice to the famous phrase, "Up, up, and away!" usually associated with Superman. This is the first time this phrase has appeared in the DCAU. The other is in Superman: The Animated Series, "New Kids in Town" (see list of classic Superman tributes).
- This episode may be a reference to Joker's origins as depicted in works like The Killing Joke, where before becoming The Joker, he was a failed comedian who was pushed into crime to support his family.
- The episode is thematically similar to Martin Scorsese's 1983 film The King of Comedy, in which an aspiring stand-up comic of mediocre talent (Robert De Niro) is driven to kidnap his idol (Jerry Lewis) and blackmails him into allowing the wannabe to headline his evening show. De Niro himself stars in the live-action film Joker, as a talk-show host who plays a role in the eponymous villain's descent into insanity and crime; De Niro said the role was a direct homage to his character in The King of Comedy.
- In the later movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry McGinnis taunts Joker about his lameness as a comedian, suggesting he should "make a face" or "drop his pants" for laughs. Joker actually does both in this episode, though the latter-most unintentionally. It does indeed get uproarious laughter, much to his chagrin.
- The title is a possible reference to the famous number from Singin' In The Rain, performed by Donald O'Connor.
- Buddy Standler, Harry Loomis, and Lisa Lorraine share similarities in name with comedians Buddy Hackett, Jerry Lewis, and Lisa Lampanelli respectively. The latter shares some physical and career-based traits with another comedian, Roseanne Barr.
- Joker's quote, "dying is easy, comedy is hard" is attributed to 19th-century English actor Edmund Kean.
Police Dispatcher: Disturbance reported at the top of the Crown Restaurant. Suspect is a male costumed extremist armed with what appears to be a... ketchup gun.
Condiment King: Ah, the big bad Bat-guy. I knew you'd "ketchup" to me sooner or later! How I've "relished" this meeting! You, the dynamic Dark Knight, versus me, the conceptual Condiment King! Come, Batman, let's see if you can cut the mustard...
Batman: Now listen, Mustard Man, or whatever you call yourself. You're obviously new at this. So I'm willing to go easy provided you give back the loot and never even think about doing this again. Deal?
Pack Rat: All right, everyone! Empty your pockets! Old gum wrappers, loose string, little balls of lint! And I'll have none of that "cash" rubbish!
Pack Rat: (To Alfred) Here's some advice, old man: never ever rat on a rat.
Pack Rat: Well, looks like it's the Rat versus the Bat and the Brat! Only one will survive: me!
Joker: (in disguise) Funny thing happened to me on the way to the theater last year. Seems three no talent hacks tried to stop me from winning. But guess what? (removes his disguise) I'm back!!
Batman: This is between you and us, Joker!
Joker: Hey, honey, why don't you show are friends how you clean house? In other words: mop'em up!
Batman: You've hit a new low, Joker. Only you would ruin three lives for a silly piece of tin.
Joker: Up, up, and away!
Joker: Aw, too bad, Bat-sap. But you should have remembered the old saying: "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."
Joker: Oh, I think I'm getting airsick.