The Joke

Dragon*Con is an amazing thing. It’s a convention of conventions that truly offers something for everyone with even a little bit of “geek” in them. There are sessions on comics, science fiction, podcasting, the paranormal, costume making, role playing games, and much much more.

I was asked to speak for the “science” track which became “SkepTrack” in the following years. I think I talked about cold reading and the standard “what is skepticism” thing, but in my free time, I’d wander around and look at the costumes.

And what costumes they are. Some of my favorites include a man dressed as a Nazgul from Lord of the Rings, (complete with winged mount), numerous dwarven creatures from World of Warcraft with question marks over their heads, and a woman in a nice business suit – covered with vicious birds and bloody holes.

The person I was with was dressed as a female Robin, and whenever we encountered someone from the same universe as Batman, we’d stop for a picture. In one photo spot, there were two Jokers, one in the Caesar Romero fashion, and another in the Jack Nicholson fashion.

I commented on how the Caesar Romero Joker was actually cheating as he was clean shaved. In the Batman TV series, Caesar Romero refused to shave his signature mustache so it was simply covered with lots of makeup.

But the Jack Nicholson Joker was amazing. He didn’t really look like Jack Nicholson, but the effort he put into it was clear. He had the right suit, and the right hat… and his coloring was perfect. But the most impressive thing was the shape of his face. In the story, the Joker suffers chemical burns leaving him pasty white and unable to form any expression other than a smile. And this Dragon*Con aficionado had very nearly approximated that look.

“Wow, that’s some amazing makeup.” I said to him, in admiration.

“Thanks, but it’s just the standard stuff.”

“Do you work in show business?”

“No, I just have a normal job.”

“How did you get your face like that? Is there something in your mouth to hold it in that position?”

And then he said something that forever changed me.

“No, actually… that’s how my face is. I was born this way.”

Silence fell. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was in no way sufficient to express I was feeling. I think I said something like “Well, it looks great!” which in retrospect is the same as saying “Your face looks like that of a crazed villain with acid burns.”

We parted company shortly thereafter, and from time to time I think of him, and realize that Dragon*Con (and possibly Halloween) is the only time he has people look at him with wonder, rather than pity.

Categories: Art, Skeptic, Travel

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