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The Aristocrats


No nudity. No violence. Unspeakable obscenity.

Filmed and created by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) and Paul Provenza, this movie is a documentary of the dirty "The Aristocrats" joke.

Interviewing about 100 comedians (including Gilbert Gottfried, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Saget, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rita Rudner, Drew Carey, and many others), you get a taste of comedy as an art form as they analyze and discuss this joke, which has been passed around comedians for decades.

It goes something like this:

A man walks into an agent's office and says "I have a great new act for you".

The agent says, "well, let's see it."

The man either describes or performs the act with his family (usually his wife, kids, sometimes pets and grandparents).

The agent says "wow, that was incredible, what do you call that act?"

The man says "The Aristocrats!"

That's pretty much the standard part. Each comedian is allowed to describe the act in any way they choose. The only rule: Make it as filthy, disgusting, horrible, etc as you can.

And filthy and disgusting is how many of these guest comedians do it. Particular kudos have to go to Bob Saget's version. Yes, Mr. Full House Funniest Home Videos.

What I Thought

Penn Jillette is proud to say that there is no sex, no violence, or gore in this movie, and that its NC-17 offensiveness is solely in the spoken word (that's right, this movie is considered one step below porn).

Anyway, you've been warned.

I suspect this movie will divide people into two camps: those who are totally offended by it, and those who laugh their pants off. The acts that are described are certifiably filthy and disturbing: bestiality, necrophilia, incest, scatology, race, murder, etc. You name it, they go there. It's disgusting. And filthy. And funny.

The "art" in this joke is in this filthy part. How low can you go (and they go REALLY low). Didja see the South Park movie? Caligula? Combine those two and it's still child's play compared to this.

Anyway, if you're not this type of person, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. There's nothing wrong in admitting it, as all other types this type of humor is a matter of taste (or lack of it). I would NEVER EVER (for example) take my mom or recommend to her to see this movie. My goodness. I would get in soooo much trouble.

The movie itself is pretty funny. You see how different people deliver their version of the joke, riffs, etc. It's quite fun to listen. I also like the discussion on joke delivery and theory of humor. George Carlin and others, for example, talk about whether you start with the poop jokes or the sex jokes when looking for the most offensive/shocking approach. Interesting philosophical stuff.

They also talk about how standards have changed and that the comedy envelope has been pushed very far. Maybe it's a tribute to the legacy of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, et. al. that we AREN'T as shocked as we would have been 30 years ago. After all, words only have the power that you give them and this movie is certainly a great discussion starter on free speech, offensive material and the like.

Ultimately and ironically, I find that at the end it feels as if they didn't go far enough. Sure I laughed, but I admit it, I didn't snort out any water. Even with the filthiness of this movie, there's an air of seriousness that detracts from this. The movie gets dirty, but it doesn't get dirrrrty. You know what I mean? Again I refer you to the South Park movie where they just pulled out all stops.

The DVD release is rumored to have extended editions of the comedians going at it as well. Can't wait. Yeah, I'm a sick sick man. Don't tell mom.


All photos and text copyright Ryszard Kilarski, unless otherwise noted. Clip art, drawings, paintings are either free domain or copyrighted by the artists.