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I have heard that in The DC comics, the Joker has an extremely high pain tolerance, and repeatedly laughs when he is seriously injured. Why does the Joker have such a high pain tolerance?

Edit: here is an example of this: (when the Joker is being beat up by Batman) he says, You have nothing! Nothing to threaten me with! Nothing to do with all your strength!"

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    Maybe he's missing a few nerves? Can still feel it but not as much? (Not to be taken seriously, even if he did fall into a vat of chemicals in some incarnation)
    – Clockwork
    Feb 13, 2023 at 6:08
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    I mean Joker is clearly messed up in the head so it could be his pain receptors just dont function the way they do in most people. Feb 13, 2023 at 13:05
  • It only hurts when he laughs. Feb 14, 2023 at 1:33

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I don't know of a canonical reason, but there are real physiological reasons that support the idea for the character

Several studies have found pain is as unique as the individual. An American Pain Society study discovered differences in patient biological, psychological and sociocultural factors can cause vast differences in post-operative pain. A New Zealand study found cultural differences influenced pain perception between study participants. Other studies reinforce findings that biological, psychological, and emotional factors can all impact how similar pain is perceived by different individuals.

...

Pain researchers believe regular exposure to painful stimuli can increase one’s pain tolerance. Some individuals learn to handle pain by becoming more conditioned to it. However, there is also evidence to support the theory that repeated exposure to pain can make a person respond more vigorously to minor pain in the future. (Source, emphasis mine)

While I'll certainly bow to a canonical reason, the Joker could (a) be born that way and (b) become desensitized through both emotional and physical exposure to pain. It helps that the character has been developed in a way that happens to be supported by these research findings.


Addendum: I'd like to point something out based on a comment from @CombatJacket. If we want to explain every one of the Joker's characteristics using Real Life knowledge, we could resort to Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis (CIPA) Syndrome. The problem with doing this is that said syndrome comes with consequences, because pain serves a purpose and without it all kinds of problems come to pass — like infections that can kill you.

We live in a funny world right now. There's this odd quest to explain every fictional character, superpower, attribute, etc. using Real Life science — as if authors from 50+ years ago had inside knowledge about science or that the science we know today is the end-all of knowledge. Fortunately, neither is true (could you imagine how boring it would be if there was nothing left to learn?).

I'm actually hoping someone can bring some story canon to light to explain the Joker's tolerance to pain. It's much more interesting to see how a good author rationalized an otherwise unusual (if not downright impossible) characteristic. Keep in mind that half the time the rationalization came second and much later in the story — if it exists at all.

I guess my points are:

  • Real Life explanations for fictional characteristics are often unsatisfactory because they come with consequences that are almost never reflected in fiction. They're fun to play with, but they're not good fiction.

  • Substituting Real Life for a good imagination literally takes all the fun out of fiction. When investigating what could explain something, please don't lose sight of why you found it worth your time to try and explain in the first place: it was uber-cool and pulled you into the character's world. That's good fiction.

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    It also depends on which version of the Joker. I've watched a version that got knocked out in 2 punches.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 13, 2023 at 9:35
  • Many versions of the Joker also allude to him enjoying the pain, either from sheer masochism or delight at tormenting others/driving them to extreme ends. As the cop from The Dark Knight says, "I know the difference between punks who need a lesson in manners... and the freaks like you, who would just enjoy it."
    – Aos Sidhe
    Feb 13, 2023 at 14:35
  • @AosSidhe It reminds me of Batman: Under The Red Hood in which he was purposely trying to push the heroes to break their own morals, even if it meant getting beaten up or dying.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 13, 2023 at 15:24
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    @CombatJacket :-) There comes a time when we need to stop trying to figure out how fictional characters can be explained by Real Life and simply enjoy the moment. But if we insist, there's always Congenital Insensitivity to Pain and Anhydrosis (CIPA) Syndrome. It was highlighted on an episode of House, and the teen girl actually laughed....
    – JBH
    Feb 13, 2023 at 17:46
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    @JBH: And the real-life horror stories about that... children will naturally bite and twist parts of themselves as babies, and generally stop due to pain (I'll leave aside that babies also do things that are painful entirely because of the endorphin rush), while babies and toddlers with CIPA will literally bite their fingers off, or twist off their toes while curiously exploring.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 13, 2023 at 18:05

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