The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats is an hour and a half long documentary about a single, filthy joke, one you probably haven’t heard and is most commonly told between commedians and other comedic insiders. Throughout the course of the film over a hundred of Hollywood’s most famous comedians tell the joke and talk about the history of the joke, where they first heard it and who they first heard tell it.

The joke on which the film is based on isn’t really that funny, but of course that’s not really the point of the film as even the world’s funniest joke would get old after hearing it a hundred times in a row. The joke is somewhat unique in design in that it allows for the performer to put his or her own personal spin on the joke — it’s compared to a jazz riff within the film. The joke starts and ends the same way each time, but the middle portion is always unique, and that’s part of what makes the film fun to watch. You’ll see everyone from Drew Carey to Andy Dick, Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Martling, Howie Mandell and George Carlin and dozens more tell their versions of the joke.

More interesting than the joke itself is the way each performer crafts it into their own. The goal of the joke is to make the middle portion of it as vile and repulsive as possible — no bodily fluid or sexual act between family members (including the family pet) is off limit. Each time you think the joke cannot get any worse, it will, and those of you who only know Bob Saget from his work on America’s Funniest Home Videos and Full House will get a brief glimpse into his demented sense of humor.

The extras on The Aristocrats DVD are longer than the film itself, including even more footage of comics telling and retelling the joke, along with some of their other favorite jokes, cut footage, and more. Also included is a commentary track by directors Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller), which was quite informative and as rapid fire as the film itself. The commentary track justifies the appearance of each person in the film (some of which weren’t obvious to me) and clears up a a few parts that while maybe obvious to comedic insiders seemed a bit confusing to us movie-watching laymen.

Fans of comedy will enjoy this look into what makes commedians laugh. Definitely worth a watch for all fans of the art and craft of comedy. Those offended by descriptions of deviant sexual acts should steer far, far away.

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