Hitting $737.5 million in box office receipts this past Sunday after just three weeks in theaters, Todd Phillips’ miserabilist comic book origin story Joker has left fans craving more visceral opportunities to experience its title character’s journey from poverty-stricken clown with serious mental health issues to criminal demagogue with “Why so serious?” mental health issues.
Pivotal to fully comprehending Arthur Fleck’s transformation into the clown prince of crime is, naturally, retracing his late-second-act descent dancing in full Joker regalia down a steep staircase in Gotham—stairs portrayed in the film by actual steps connecting Shakespeare and Anderson avenues in the Bronx.
Over the past few days, residents, local politicians, and news programs have been recording a major uptick in visitors seeking out the stairway in the borough’s Highbridge neighborhood northwest of Yankee Stadium. Cosplayers, tourists, aspiring antiheroes and supervillains, and their temporarily embarrassed loved ones have all been crowding the pedestrian thoroughfare for photo ops (#jokerstairs on Instagram) and generally annoying Bronx natives who actually need to use those steps for their daily commute.
Flyers discouraging photography and describing the whole craze as “disrespectful” have been appearing near the stairs, despite parallel hopes from community leaders and small-business owners that these Joker tourists might stimulate the local economy. Nevertheless, people can’t help themselves.
Speaking to Gothamist, a 28-year-old student who has grown up in the apartment next to the stairs expressed total bafflement with their newfound popularity. “I don’t see what the hype is about,” he said. “You wanna come all the way from downtown to take pictures of some stairs?”
Or as Desus & Mero co-host (and Human Dr. Bronner’s Label) Desus Nice put it on Sunday night on Showtime, “There is a new tourist attraction in the Bronx—and it sucks!”
“Who here is from the Bronx?” Desus asked, while canvassing the show’s audience. “Who here hates these steps? Who here has almost died going down these steps in the winter, when they don’t shovel them?”
In pretty much every detail, this story is the Platonic ideal of grist for a Bodega Boys riff, preordained gold from the moment Desus took to Twitter last week to suggest that Joker steps tourists should have to pay a toll.
So if you’re planning to make your own pilgrimage to the Joker stairs, follow Mero’s advice and bring your best digital equipment for documenting the journey.