vulture investigates

How Similar Is Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker to Steve Miller’s ‘Joker’?

Two Jokers (2019) | dir. James Gray. Photo: Getty Images and Warner Bros,

Film buffs could be forgiven for thinking the new Joker movie looks a tad bit familiar: Though director Todd Phillips swears the film is a standalone project, Joker turns out to borrow many key creative elements from an iconic piece of ’70s pop culture. I’m talking, of course, about the Steve Miller Band’s seminal 1973 single, “The Joker,” with which the film shares an almost identical title. Official word is that this is just a coincidence, and that unlike the Robby Benson vehicle Ode to Billy Joe, Joker the movie is not a direct screen adaptation of “Joker” the song. However, this hasn’t stopped some eagle-eyed fans from speculating that the two projects may be secretly connected.

Does this fan theory check out? We’ve done an obsessive frame-by-frame investigation of both Jokers — here are all the similarities we found.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Some people call him the space cowboy.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Nobody calls him a space cowboy, but people do call him “a freak.” Half credit.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Some call him the gangster of love.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: He is commonly known as “the clown prince of crime,” so: similar. Half credit.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Some people call him Maurice.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: He is mostly called “Arthur,” which is his name, but his mother calls him by the affectionate nickname “Happy.”

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Speaks of the pompatus of love.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Never once utters the word “pompatus.”

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: People talk about him, baby.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: People talk about him a lot, too. He’s the protagonist of the movie!

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: They say he’s doing you wrong, doing you wrong.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: If “you” refers to three specific residents of Gotham City, same.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Don’t you worry, baby, don’t you worry, ’cause he’s right here, right here, right here at home.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Also seems to spend many hours at home.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a picker.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Is not a picker.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a grinner.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Sometimes he makes himself grin so hard that he causes himself physical pain!

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a lover.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Whatever else you can say about him, he definitely loves his mother.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a sinner.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Is definitely guilty of wrath, lust, and envy, at the very least.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Plays his music in the sun.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Does not play music, but absolutely loves to dance, in the sun and in other places. Half credit.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a joker.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Is dubbed a “joker” by famed talk-show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), and adopts it as his nom de guerre.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a smoker.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Loves to smoke almost as much as he loves to dance. His fingernails are filthy!

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Is a midnight toker.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Refrains from marijuana at all hours of the day.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Sure don’t want to hurt no one.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Directly hurts a number of people.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Gets his loving on the run.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: [Redacted 3,000-word essay on whether or not the Joker is an incel.]

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: [Slide-guitar solo]
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Does not play a slide-guitar solo.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: You’re the cutest thing he ever did see.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Is not really one for compliments, but clearly finds Zazie Beetz’s character cute. Half credit.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Really loves your peaches, wants to shake your tree.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Has no use for fresh fruit or trees, metaphorically or otherwise.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey all the time.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: Is lovey dovey, lovey dovey, lovey dovey precisely zero percent of the time.

Steve Miller’s “Joker”: Baby, sure shows you a good time.
Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: With the brief exception of a roomful of child cancer patients, does not show anyone a good time in the entire movie.

VERDICT: Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker turns out to share many initial similarities with Steve Miller’s “Joker,” though as is typical with adaptations, their endings seem to be completely different. Also, if you were curious, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker never flies like an eagle; takes the money and runs; keeps rockin’ me, baby; or gets carried too far away on a big ole’ jet airliner — a real missed opportunity if you ask me.

How Similar Is Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker to Steve Miller’s?