Bootleg Clowns, Or “But Doctor I AM Pagliacci”


I had played around with the idea of doing a post on nothing but Mexican bootleg action figures of the Joaquin Phoenix Joker, but I realized that “toy posts” may be the actual dividing line from which a number of my readers would depart from this blog. That said, I do plan a few posts on the idea of “bootlegs”—specifically, toys—as it relates to deeper philosophical issues, a “copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.” So be warned.


Pop-culture has traditionally been a seemingly humble and guileless entertainment-provider for the masses devoid of deeper philosophical issues. But I have found that even the most banal, colorless and boring movie or book or toy or what-have-you will have multiple “rabbit-holes” nesting within it, if you only research deep enough. Everything can be “interesting”—even the history behind the making of a door-stop—if you wish to “go there.”

But sometimes, you don’t wish to “go there.” Sometimes, you just want to enjoy your scowling Mexican bootleg Joaquin Phoenix action figure “as-is”—sans Irony. I get that.

Somebody on Twitter recently remarked that bootleg toys clearly wear their “shame” over their dubious provenance on their poorly-painted faces. This is true.


One example of finding a rabbit hole in the midst of the banal is my recent review of the 1959 public domain “horror” staple The Bat, in which the backstory of the original author is probably more fascinating than the entire movie. Another would be when I innocently looked up an old Laurel and Hardy comic, wondering why it was officially titled Larry Harmon’s Laurel and Hardy.

Who was this “Larry Harmon?,” I wondered. And what did he have to do with the venerable comedy duo of Laurel and Hardy?

Does this mean Laurel and Hardy are a part of the **DC Universe**??? I guess so!

Well, apparently even the most rudimentary of Google searches turned up a tremendous amount of Sturm und Drang, as the late Harmon was accused on message boards and blogs of “stealing” Bozo the Clown as well as hogging the rights for Laurel and Hardy. Old-time comedy fans hash out the entire saga in a relatively ancient (15 years ago) Google Groups thread, in which his work is labeled “crap” and anecdotes are passed around as to how much he is hated.

My point here is not about whether Harmon (who was still alive at the time of that thread & apparently was also stripped of his title from The Clown Hall Of Fame) did in fact misrepresent himself as the owner of both properties (that is a rabbit hole for another day, thank you very much!), but just about how ANGRY people get over this stuff. The schadenfreude (if I may name-drop another $10 German term) can be enormous, for pretty much anything, including Laurel and Hardy and Bozo the Clown. (And…I would hazard to guess…Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker.)


I used to think this schadenfreude was just a feature of the comic book industry/community I used to inhabit; but it’s everywhere (though I still think a topic like comic books—possibly linked to deep childhood bugaboos—tends to bring it more out in people).

Or maybe it’s everywhere, but mostly on the Internet. Maybe the Internet tends to bring this out in people (wow, what a genius I am, I must be the first person to EVER make that connection! I’m a regular Marshall McLuhan).


Before I leave this topic and this post I must all-too-briefly bring up the 1999 movie co-directed by Harmon, The All New Adventures of Laurel & Hardy in For Love or Mummy, with Bronson Pinchot (Bronson Pinchot!) as Stan Laurel. The movie was also directed by John R. Cherry III, the creator of the Ernest P. Worrell character.

This was a movie…that apparently…existed.

Have an excellent day.