In Joker, Joaquin Phoenix plays "Arthur Fleck," a.k.a. "The Joker," and dramatically shows how the famed Gotham City villain came to his life of crime. Part of what led "Arthur" to the dark side is the isolation he felt, which was in part brought on by a disorder he suffers from that causes him to have laughing episodes. Well that is actually a real condition called the pseudobulbar affect, or PBA, and LADBible caught up with one man who suffers from it.
His name is Scott Lotan and the Virginia Beach native's PBA is a symptom of his multiple sclerosis. Lotan's laughing fits can last up to 10 minutes and have led to some terrible situations for him. He's been asked to leave restaurants for making people uncomfortable, he's been approached by people ready to fight him when they thought he was laughing at them, and he was once a victim of a tragic car crash in 2003 that killed his fiancee and when police arrived on the scene they found him laughing. He also burst into laughter at her funeral as well. Scott stated, "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."
Much like Phoenix's "Arthur Fleck," Scott's laughing fits can wind up with him choking from being unable to breathe during them or having saliva go down the wrong pipe.
Warning: This video contains images that are disturbing/upsetting to some
As for what he thought of Joaquin's portrayal of the disorder, Scott was pretty blown away, saying:
"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."
While the film is definitely bringing awareness to his condition, there is also a documentary that Scott took part in to help people better understand PBA.
One thing Scott hopes people understand is that his life isn't terrible. He explained, "There are a lot of comments of empathy [online], 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."
Photo: Warner Bros, YouTube/PBAFilm