Pathological Laughter and Crying: Why Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' couldn't control his laughter
Pathological Laughter and Crying: Why Joaquin Phoenix's 'Joker' couldn't control his laughter

As Joaquin Phoenix stars in the title role of "Joker", an explosive new film dedicated to the clown prince of crime, he joins ranks with several distinguished actors who have made a mark imparting their own style to the villainy of the character. However, a feature that distinguishes 2019's Arthur Fleck is the laughter in loop that is apparently a neurological condition.

This is not your ordinary laugh out loud moment in serious situations, ideally termed inappropriate. It may sound bizarre and incredibly out of consideration, but it is legitimate and has been termed as Pathological Laughter and Crying or PLC. According to reports, Phoenix in his interactions revealed how he studied real people with this condition in order to perfect his character onscreen.

What is Pathological Laughter and Crying?

Also known as pseudobulbar affect, PLC is a neurological condition defined by episodes of uncontrolled laughter or crying. Often, these are not triggered by any funny or upsetting stimulus. People with this condition laugh out loud or cry for no apparent reason.

Those suffering from PLC get the emotional attacks like a sudden and uncontrollable seizure. An episode of such sort can last a few seconds or several minutes, and can take place many times a day.

According to Brain, A Journal of Neurology, PLC is a disorder of emotional expression rather than a primary disturbance of feelings, and is thus distinct from mood disorders in which laughter and crying are associated with feelings of happiness or sadness.


Although thorough research on this subject has not been done, scientists believe that PBA may result from damage to the prefrontal cortex -- the area of the brain that helps control emotions. Changes in brain chemicals linked to depression and hyper moods (mania) could also play a role. An injury or disease that affects your brain can lead to pseudobulbar affect. About half the people who've had a stroke get it. Other brain conditions commonly linked to PBA include:


Multiple sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Parkinson's disease

Effect on day-to-day life and treatment

Laughter may be considered as the best medicine, but for those suffering from PCL it is nothing but a disorder that leads to a depressive state. A person with this condition refrains from being a part of the social convention as their sudden outburst can lead to embarrassment. This also means they are dependent on help from friends, family or caregivers as they age. Many are considered creepy and violent, which leads them to have difficulties to live a normal life. Although more research is required, as of now PCL can be treated with prescribed drugs that are used as antidepressants.

Smashing all ceilings 'Joker' star Joaquin Phoenix bagged the Oscar for best actor at the 92nd Academy Awards.

Phoenix is also the first one to win best actor for a comic book character, and second one as Joker after Heath Ledger, who won for best supporting actor in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2009).

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