Batman 2.17 – Hizzoner the Penguin

Man, was it ever a strange day in politics. California’s Kevin McCarthy was the frontrunner for the House speakership being vacated by Ohio’s John Boehner, but suddenly, ahead of a scandal hinted at by a prominent talk radio host that is said to involve a representative from North Carolina, he called a conference and quit, just like that. Amazing. Also, this evening, we watched Penguin begin his bid for mayor of Gotham City, because the voters of that great metropolis are morons.

“Hizzoner the Penguin” might not be the best episode of this series, but it’s probably the most genuinely hilarious. This one’s a pure comedy, and it works on every level. Batman, naively believing in the innate goodness of the people, hopelessly straight and earnest, gets talked into running against Penguin. Batman’s needed because, in a single day, Penguin’s foiling of a robbery has vaulted him from “not running for office at all” to 60% in the polls. The voters are morons with very short memories. The Penguin pulled this exact same stunt to get high society on his side back in his second story!

Marie pointed out how so very little has changed since this episode aired in November 1966, right in time for the midterm elections that saw, in the wake of the Vietnam War’s unpopularity, modest gains for the Republican Party in the US House and Senate, and, as predicted in season one, the landslide election of Ronald Reagan to the California governor’s mansion. 49 years later, issues are still boring the electorate, who want babies to be kissed. Batman declines to kiss any babies in this episode, as it is not hygienic, and is labeled a child-hater who thinks that kids are covered in germs.

In one of the funniest scenes in the series, Batman is somberly dictating to a crowd of about three people his point-by-point proposals about doing something boring. Even Chief O’Hara falls asleep. Cut to the party down the street. The Penguin’s rally features Paul Revere and the Raiders playing while a popular belly dancer of the day who went by the name “Little Egypt” does a show, and a huge crowd roars its approval. And why shouldn’t they? The Raiders had three different LPs in the top ten in 1966. The Penguin’s got this election sewn up.

So you’d think that Penguin could just leave well enough alone and win against this establishment stuffed shirt and cowl, but he has his goons in the GOON – that’s Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks to you – trap our heroes and leave them in a scale with melting ice blocks on one side lowering them into a vat of sulfuric acid! The brilliant thing, which really makes this a stupendously funny cliffhanger, is that the good citizen Penguin could certainly never be seen doing his rival in, so he’s not present for the trap. No, he shows up after our heroes are bound and helpless, tut-tuts and chastises these insidious goons, and tells Batman not to worry, he’ll phone the police. Unfortunately, GOON’s headquarters only has a pay phone and Penguin hasn’t a dime. So he’ll walk to police headquarters for help. Hold on, Batman, it should only take him three or four hours to get there!

The Penguin is such a fun villain. Nobody in politics today is as fun as him.

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