The Joker of SLO County

Aaron Ochs
5 min readOct 14, 2019

Aaron Ochs is the author of “Defamers: How Fake News Terrorized a Community & Those Who Dared to Fight It,” a nonfiction uncovering the defamatory, deceptive and criminal practices of online tabloid CalCoastNews.

Source: Warner Bros.

WARNING: “Joker” spoilers ahead

“Joker” is about a deranged man named Arthur Fleck, a clown performer and aspiring stand-up comedian who slowly descends into pure madness. The descent is accelerated by the grimness of early 1980s Gotham City society. Fleck’s growing psychosis externally manifests itself into his violent, psychopathic alter-ego: The Joker. Joaquin Phoenix is brilliantly haunting in his performance as he portrays a man who’s constantly at the end of his rope, laughing uncontrollably at inappropriate times as he surrenders himself to a world of negative thoughts and stillborn ambition.

“Joker” wasn’t exactly the movie I thought it would be. The hype and anticipation wasn’t up to par with the script, which forced “Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix through an escalating series of bad situations with no pause for reflection or humanity. Nonetheless, Phoenix’s performance was riveting.

It made me think of someone I know.

Fleck had a mental tic of laughing during inappropriate times. When he was placed in an awkward or fight-or-flight situation, he would laugh. The idea behind this story-telling device was to heighten the contrast between tragedy and comedy. Until the movie’s climax, “Joker” throttles between the two. Once Fleck muses about how he thought his life was a tragedy but realized it’s a comedy, the transformation into Joker truly begins.

Karen Velie testifying in CalCoastNews’ defamation trial in 2017 (SOURCE: David Middlecamp, Tribune)

I will never forget the day I heard Karen Velie laugh, then cry and scream over the phone to my former boss in 2014 — all in a matter of seconds. This is something I recalled in my book in detail. What struck me as bizarre — and quite frankly, disturbing — was how she communicated a possible threat to my boss in this sing-song, seemingly cheerful tone. I could hear her laughing after she said, “Are you going to take care of my problem or should I?” I was her problem.

Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.