In Real Life
Heath Ledger set the bar high with his portrayal of Joker in The Dark Knight that every other actor considered for the role seemed to live in Ledger’s shadow. That is, until Joaquin Phoenix. With director Todd Phillips at the helm, Phoenix’s performance created enough buzz to make skeptics buy tickets and watch “Joker”. And let’s be real, no one left the cinema disappointed. It’s stunning and compelling.
One of the salient points in the movie was Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) laughing disorder. It also showed how this affected his life especially since he’s unable to control any of it. Is it all fiction? Apparently not.
Meet 47-year old Scott Lotan from Virginia Beach, USA. Suffering from multiple sclerosis, one of his symptoms include laughing episodes that could go for 10 minutes long. Also known as the “pseudobulbar affect”, it’s a nervous system condition characterized by uncontrollable crying or laughing.
Lotan told LADBible, “I have had issues with not being served at restaurants and been asked to leave because waitstaff was uncomfortable. Many times if I am out for a drink with friends, there is someone with low self-esteem that believes I am laughing at them and they will try and start a fight.”
At one point, he could’t stop laughing in the midst of a heartbreaking and life-changing tragedy. He said, “We were leaving my engagement party and were hit by a drunk driver. My fiancée died at the scene with my mother’s death three days later. I remember being at the scene laughing and being questioned by police. At the wakes for both my mother and my fiancée I would have to separate myself from everyone as I would burst into laughter at times.”
He continued, “I try to be fully aware of myself and I understand that it’s beyond my control, but knowing that others think you are a freak and always explaining to people I am not this emotionally void psychopath can be difficult.”
When asked about the recent Joker movie, he shared: “I think he did a great job of capturing the inability to stop laughing no matter what the circumstances are. I felt as if he experienced a deep sense of rejection in the bus scene, similar to how I felt during the days of my accident.
“It weighs heavy on the mind, people just look at you. You try and explain but they have preconceived notions that you are a drug addict or just a deranged lunatic. I think he captured the feeling of isolation and frustration with the lack of understanding from others. At times during the film, I felt as though I was looking at a reflection of myself.”
He further revealed, “The choking comes from trying to catch my breath, desperately needing to breathe. Also, spit builds up in your mouth and as you pull in a breath the spit goes down the wrong pipe. My neck gets really sore and I am moving my head to try to relieve strain and sometimes that cuts off air.”
But for Lotan, he’s always looking on the bright side. “There are a lot of comments of empathy, and although they are offering well wishes, they also seem to think I am living this horrible life filled with pain and suffering. Just like anyone else I have my ups and downs – sure, at times I laugh uncontrollably, but there could be much worse things to happen. For the most part, it turns into a humorous thing when interacting with my kids.”
Watch the interview below.