‘The People’s Joker’ Trailer: Vera Drew Serves Up a Trans Superhero Origin Story as Joker the Harlequin

Liem Soeng

‘The People’s Joker’ Trailer: Vera Drew Serves Up a Trans Superhero Origin Story as Joker the Harlequin

Vera Drew is cementing her status as “The People’s Joker.”

The former “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” editor directed, co-wrote, edited, and stars in the superhero-parody film that made waves at TIFF 2022 (where IndieWire saw it) before being acquired by Los Angeles-based distributor Altered Innocence in December 2023. Now, thanks in part to social media hashtag-campaign #FreethePeoplesJoker, “The People’s Joker” is indeed free for a North-American theatrical release.

Drew portrays the title character in the queer coming-of-age origin story that reimagines “Batman” villain The Joker as a trans comedian. Joker the Harlequin (Drew) grapples with her gender identity while unsuccessfully attempting to join the ranks of Gotham City’s UCB (United Clown Bureau) Live, the one government-sanctioned late-night sketch show that is the only platform for rising comedians since Gotham City otherwise outlawed comedy. (Get it? UCB like Upright Citizens Brigade?)

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After being rejected from UCB Live, Joker the Harlequin forms an illegal anti-comedy troupe that puts her on a collision course with the devious caped crusader patrolling the city.

Tim Heidecker, Bob Odenkirk, Maria Bamford, and Scott Aukerman appear in the film, with Lynn Downey, Nathan Faustyn, and Kane Distler playing lead characters.

Not to be confused with “Joker 2,” the feature is not licensed by DC Studios or Warner Bros. Discovery.

“The People’s Joker” was filmed entirely on a green screen and features the work of over 200 independent, predominantly queer artists, musicians, and animators using 2D, 3D, stop-motion, and more forms of animation.

The film was produced by Joey Lyons and executive produced by Richie Doyle, Conor Hannon, and Riccardo Maddalosso. It was partly financed by crowdfunding.

As the IndieWire review teased: “The People’s Joker” opts to take “more shots at ‘Saturday Night Live’ and Lorne Michaels than it does at the Batverse. The film’s pointed jabs at commercial comedy as a propaganda machine for the billionaire class has far more bite, and any attempt by a corporate entity to silence that message only proves the point. Underneath the satirical madness lies a genuinely moving story of self-acceptance, self-love, and the inspiring act of an artist stepping into her power. All jokes aside, the people deserve to see it.”

“The People’s Joker” premieres April 5 in select theaters — including Alamo Drafthouse — from distributor Altered Innocence. Check out the trailer below and read our review here.


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