Music

Let’s Remember The Deeply Cooked Tom Waits Interview That May Have Inspired Heath Ledger’s Joker

Is this the strangest artist interview ever aired?

Heath Ledger the Joker Tom Waits

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In 1979, Tom Waits sat down with Australian television host Don Lane and gave one of the strangest interviews of his career.

Of course, that’s a relative term. Every Tom Waits interview is a little strange — this is, after all, a man who dedicated a portion of a chat with a journalist to his love of George Miller’s Babe sequel. But the Lane conversation has gone down in infamy as one of the most amusingly hostile interactions between a major musician and a TV host ever broadcast.

For a start, Waits seems utterly uninterested in answering any of Lane’s questions, instead deciding to chain-smoke and lament about the absence of an ashtray. When he finally does get around to engaging with Lane on his level, his answers are surrealist tidbits and non-sequiturs. According to Waits, for instance, he recently married a “14-year-old Irish girl” who he saved “from an active volcano”, an answer that Lane responds to gallantly by smiling and nodding as though everything he’s hearing is astoundingly plausible.

But the strange answers are not the only reason the clip is famous, mind you. Ever since the release of The Dark Knight, rumours have swirled that Heath Ledger based the Joker’s voice on Waits’ gravelly, souped-up tones in the Lane chat. While it’s never actually been proven — back in 2018 the AV Club put on their best detective hats and tried to solve the mystery to no avail — there’s no denying quite how similar the two voices sound.

And anyway, even if Ledger never watched Waits vs. Lane it’s still fun to imagine that the arc of the universe bends to Tom Waits, and that we’ll always end up accidentally imitating the man one way or the other.

Watch the incredible interview in full right here: