Batman S:02 E:47

Episode Title: The Joker’s Last Laugh
Original Airdate: February 15, 1967

Sometimes I think the citizens of Gotham are pretty stupid. I mean, they do have a couple of masked heroes to save them from all the villains, but somehow the powers that be allow those villains to continue escaping after being caught for the umpteenth time. This time we see their stupidity even further when people all over the city fall for counterfeit money so poorly made that the Parker Brothers wouldn’t put it in a Monopoly set. It’s all another trick of the Joker’s in today’s episode, The Joker’s Last Laugh.

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As we begin, Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara are lamenting the rash of fake bills being passed by ordinary citizens. Then, Gordon’s office suddenly is filled with the sound of maniacal laughter. When Batman is called into action, he quickly finds that a small but sophisticated loudspeaker was planted on Gordon. Our heroes then decide to head for Gotham City National Bank, which is where the money seems to be coming from.

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As for the Joker, he has taken up residence in the headquarters of a publishing company. Actually it’s called Penthouse Publishing (keep in mind, Penthouse Magazine was not yet available in the US at this point). We then learn that Joker’s latest project has been building some incredibly lifelike robots. Back at the bank, Batman and Robin soon discover that a robot has taken the place of one of the tellers. They discover this when Batman tells the fake teller a joke and he doesn’t laugh. A tweak to the machine’s nose by Batman causes it’s head to pop open and bunch of wires and springs to jump out.

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There is, though, a tracking device in the robot. Joker, figuring Batman would discover the robot, plans on tracking the signal so he can find the location of the Batcave. Batman is on top of things, though, and uses a Bat Deflector to misdirect the cackling villain. Meanwhile, in the Batcave, our heroes analyze the robot. When Alfred notices some spots on the robot’s sleeve, they realize that it comes from ink used to print comic books. This leads them to Penthouse Publishers. But our heroes have no real evidence, so Batman decides to trap Joker in an elaborate plan. He goes to the publishers as Bruce Wayne. He claims to have gambled away money from the Wayne Foundation. He asks Joker to print up some fake money, in exchange Joker will be put on the board of the bank. As the printing begins, Robin busts in the window. A fight with Joker’s robots breaks out, most of which Bruce hides from (so not to reveal his identity). Our heroes end up overpowered, though. Now, Robin is tied to a conveyor belt, about to be pressed into a comic book…and Joker is going to make Bruce Wayne pull the lever. Cue the cliffhanger narration…

Cliffhanger Narration:
Indignity of indignities!
Robin printed into a comic book!
Bruce Wayne his old chum’s killer?
For the crushing finale tune in tomorrow!
Same Bat-time, same bat-channel!!!

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After a somewhat ho-hum story with a substitute Riddler, it’s nice to cleanse the palate with Cesar Romero’s mustachioed Joker. This episode actually gives us some interesting new elements to the character. Rather than having the traditional gang of henchmen, he has only one co-hort, the lovely Josie (Phyllis Douglas). The rest of his gang are lifelike robots, which the Joker informs us he learned how to make while in prison. If you haven’t questioned Warden Crichton’s rehabilitation programs yet, you might want to start now. The actors that play the robots definitely pull off being, well…robotic. One in particular is played to perfection by Lawrence Montaigne, who played a Vulcan on Star Trek this same year. Another Joker goodie in this episode is our first look at the Clown Prince of Crime’s “Joke Mobile.” This open-top buggy looks like what you might get if Liberace and Carrot Top were to design a car together. It even has a bust of the Joker on the front bumper!

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There are certainly things about the story that don’t really add up. I don’t get why Joker felt the need to plant the tiny speaker on Commissioner Gordon, other than to just torment him with his incessant laughing. It doesn’t really play into the main plot at all, and it’s pretty impractical considering that Joker has to sit in front of a microphone laughing rather than using…oh, I don’t know…a recording!?! Batman’s plan to nab Joker doesn’t really add up either. Why not just show up as Batman? I mean, surely you’ll find the evidence you need to lock the clown up!

What really makes this episode a joy, though, is Cesar Romero’s performance. He is in peak form as the Joker, once again proving that Romero’s version of the character is not just a giggling buffoon. He’s both silly and sinister…and it’s so much fun to behold. Speaking of silly, Robin is about to turned into a comic book…and at the hand of Bruce. To find out what happens, join us next time for The Joker’s Epitaph. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).

Bat Gadgets Uses:
Bat Detector
Bat Deflector
Integro-differential Robot Analyzer
Bat-spot Analyzer
Criminal Business Index

Holys:
Holy Funny Bone
Holy Chutzpah
Holy Precision
Holy Clockworks
Holy Honey Horn
Holy Dead End

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