Locals have spent the past few months dodging an endless parade of Instagram photographers and amateur Jokers.

By Jelisa Castrodale
January 10, 2020
picture alliance/Getty Images

Last spring, the first promotional images were released for Joker, the Todd Phillips-directed flick about the kind of clown you'd never hire for your kid's birthday party. In the photos, Joaquin Phoenix's title character appeared in a red suit, a yellow vest, and white greasepaint at the top of a steep flight of stairs.

That same staircase was featured in the trailer, and it was the setting for what has since become one of the flick's iconic scenes, as the Joker dances, hip thrusts, and high kicks his way down. Although the film was set in fictional Gotham City, the real-life staircase is in the Bronx, where locals have spent the past few months dodging a seemingly endless parade of Instagram photographers, amateur Jokers, and anyone else who's willing to use the #jokerstairs hashtag.

Burger King knows what a pain that must be, and it's now offering a free Whopper to anyone who lives in that particular borough. "Dear Bronx, We know clowns can be annoying," a caption on a brief ad for the promotion says, while the King himself dances down the stairs carrying a to-go bag. (And yeah, that's totally a dig at Ronald McDonald too.)

In order to collect a free Whopper, Bronx residents have to use the code 'JOKERSTAIRS' when they place a Burger King order on UberEats. That's it –– well, other than coming to the quiet realization that even a free burger isn't going to make the constantly dancing tourists any less terrible.

"We live in the neighborhood, it’s taking up all of our time, we’re all being inconvenienced,” Bronx resident Cathyrine Spencer told USA Today. “Every day when I come down the stairs, I have to go through a barrage of people." Others have been more direct in their criticism. "Please, if you’re reading this and you’re not from around here [...] PLEASE DO NOT COME HERE," another resident tweeted, while Gothamist reported that "NO JOKIN'" signs had been taped to the lamp posts that line the staircase.

Aaron Hurvitz, the location scout that helped director Phillips select the stairs, said that he was drawn to that particular staircase because they looked gritty, were appropriately steep, and matched the flick's early-1980s aesthetic. "I'd like to hope that the increase in foot traffic will bring in more business to the neighborhood deli at the top of the stairs. Or to the local restaurants around the bottom," he told Know Your Meme. "What I’m honestly surprised by is that I haven’t read about someone setting up a makeshift souvenir shop yet. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before someone starts selling Joker prints or clown masks there."

Or Burger King crowns. That would work too.

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