The surprising Harlem location where 'Joker' was filmed

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Fans of the new "Joker" movie starring Joaquin Phoenix have been busy hunting down all of the New York locations that appear in the blockbuster.

They've even turned a set of stairs in the Highbridge section of the Bronx–now known as the Joker Stairs–into a bona fide tourist attraction.

Few, though, know about a pair of old buildings in an industrial corner of Harlem with a surprising role in the movie.

​Located on 12th Avenue between 133rd and 134th Streets, the two buildings were used as locations for Ha-Ha's Talent Booking, the clown agency where Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) works in the beginning of "Joker," and its surroundings.

A building that houses Cleantex, a rug cleaning business, was used for the actual clown agency. The movie's production designer, Mark Friedberg, called it his "favorite set piece."

To show that Ha-Ha's is located close to an amusement park, the exterior wall of the building next door was painted with colorful-but-faded murals reading "Amusement Mile: Only 3 Blocks Away!" and "Ride the Mad Hatter."

Unfortunately, the murals were painted over once the crew left, which is why today so few fans know about the setting. (The Curious Uptowner snapped them before they were gone.)

For more on the location, here's Friedberg account in MovieMaker magazine: "Ha-Ha’s Talent Booking...was originally on the boardwalk at Coney Island. In one comic book version of Joker, he buys Amusement Mile Park and holes up there, planning his ill deeds. We were not that interested in the Joker of the comics, but we did want to acknowledge the existing culture of Joker, so we tried as much as we could to link our version of Gotham to the comics version. We ended up setting Ha-Ha’s under the elevated West Side Highway on 136th Street and painting giant Amusement Mile murals on the sides of the buildings there."

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