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On The Aristocrats

June 1, 2006

What can be said about The Aristocrats that hasn’t been said? It’s a filthy joke, told by some of the best–as well as some of the stalest–comedians alive. Each does their twist on a simple premise: a man walks into a talent agent’s office, tells him he’s got a family act the agent will love, describes the act in repulsive detail and the agent, weary, asks, what’s the act called? The man responds, “The aristocrats!” That’s it. The punchline is weaker than my wiffleball swing, but the glory is in the description, which at minimum typically includes incest, buckets of shit, anal sex and bestiality.

The documentary has its hysterical moments and its tiresome stretches, and it’s all absurdly repetitive. It’s actually more impressive for its insights than its laughs. By demonstrating how the same joke can be taken in so many different directions, the audience begins to see how stand-up comedy resembles musical improvisation–the style is far more important than the content. The joke becomes like an old song, so that even when a comedian doesn’t deliver the punchline, we’ve heard the joke enough that we fill in the punchline in our heads and laugh anyway.

Many of the comedians point out how hard it is to shock people into laughter these days, and they’re right: the funniest versions of the joke all raise the bar on offensiveness. Without further ado, here’s my list of favorites:

  • Cartman, as drawn and voiced by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. You had me at “9/11 victims.”
  • Sarah Silverman, who uses her mock-sweet delivery to riff on kids with Down’s syndrome and rape.
  • Taylor Negron (You don’t know his name, but look him up. I guarantee you’ve seen this guy somewhere.), who says the joke has become such an important source of catharsis since that date. You know the one. January 3, when Taylor lost his credit card at the Four Seasons. It was a nightmare.
  • Kevin Pollak, who digs up his spot-on impersonation of Christopher Walken. I sometimes wonder how Pollak hasn’t become a stand-up superstar; he’s probably one of the funniest people alive.
  • Billy the Mime, who soundlessly recreates a man fucking his wife, his child and his dog up the ass.

And now for a list of comedians I wish Paul Provenza, the director, and Penn and Teller were able to get:

  • Adam Carolla. He’s phenomenally quick-witted and has a filthy, cynical mind. He’s perfect for the joke.
  • Jay Leno. He used to be a coke-sniffing dirtball. But like Bob Saget, he cleaned up his act to make network dollars. I’d be interested in seeing if the old edginess is still in there.
  • Larry David. Think of the possibilities.
  • Dennis Leary. He used to be the most un-P.C. comic in the business. Now he’s a dramatic actor who only does comedy at his fundraisers for firefighters. I’d be interested to see what he has left in the tank.

And one more thing. Some suggested topics to cover in the ultimate Aristocrats joke:

  • The Holocaust. Especially the ovens.
  • The victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  • The genocide in Darfur.
  • American soldiers who’ve died in Iraq. And their mourning families.
  • Mohammed, and Muslims in general.
  • People with bone marrow cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or other so-called “terminal” diseases.
  • Most importantly, Johnny Carson.

That’s all folks. Have a good night.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Billy Musto permalink
    July 17, 2006 3:25 pm

    I just saw the Arostocrats last night and hated it. Given that I love filthy, non-PC jokes, I think this says a lot for how bad the DVD was.

    It was amazing that a show about filthy humor and involving some of the best comedians could be so boring, flat, and tiresome. After 25 minutes into it I was getting so bothered and annoyed that I pressed fast-foward a few times until I realized that it would never get any better.

    I understand and like the idea of exploring the life of a comedian, the art of improv, and shock value in an era where people are very desensitized to getting shocked. I haven’t decided if the Aristocrats was just bad or if it would be much better if it was limited to a 25 minute piece.

    Also, many of those comics are damn annoying when they are not actually doing a routine. Too much coke and too much insecurity I suppose (Robin Williams).

  2. July 17, 2006 3:37 pm

    I don’t think I hated it as much as you, but there are long stretches of painful “humor.” It would have made a great half-hour to 45-minute special, but at 90 minutes, there’s just too much fat (and too many terrible Borscht Belt-style comics).

    Perhaps a better approach would have been to tape comedians after/before shows, when they tell their worst jokes to each other.

  3. H.I. McDunnough permalink
    July 18, 2006 3:04 am

    Can we take this opportunity to bash Drew Carey? The guy is a no talent ass clown. I have refused to see this movie simply because I saw his fat face in the previews.

    Drew Carrey makes Roseanne look like Steve Martin. His “everyman” comedy bits are without wit or insight… they are purely derivative.

    He was carried by his co-stars on his show, as well as the “contestants” on the manufactured American version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (By the way, did you ever see him participate in any of the bits on that show? His “improving” usually took the form of schoolgirl giggling with the occassional “I’m fat and bald” joke.)

    It is a travesty that Drew Carey is a multi-millionaire, while more deserving comedians continue to pound the pavement searching for a break.

    I knew the Aristocrats would suck. My Own Worst Critic, when are you going to start watching some good movies. Let’s get some reviews of the new releases, etc. Forget all this artsie “art of comedy” b.s. I think the last four entries in your blog have involved transexuals. Enough already! How about a review of Nacho Libre so that I can bash Jack Black? I know you like him, but come on… Nacho Libre couldn’t have been worth the movie ticket. Doesn’t a movie like that just insult you as a writer?

    Come on!

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