A Man Walks Into the Office of a Talent Agent…

by Alan Rapp on August 4, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Aristocrats
  • IMDB: link

One joke told over and over for ninety minutes.  It may be fair to say that The Aristocrats is the funniest documentary ever made; it is easily one of the most profane.  To be completely honest the film is a little uneven; there are more than a few slow points, but when the joke is given to the right comedian prepare to roll around the aisle in tears.  I laughed my ass off!

The documentary examines one aspect of comedians, a private joke told among themselves.  The joke it seems is as old as the comic profession.  The object of the joke is to make it as disgusting and vulgar and humorous as possible; anything is fair game.  The movie goes back and forth from analyzing the joke to actually having a host of comedians tell it.  Hold your hats folks, the folks they found can tell a joke.  Everybody’s here, it is a who’s who of comedians:  Billy Connolly, Eric Idle, Richard Lewis, Chris Rock, Lewis Black, Whoopi Goldberg, the South Park gang, Paul Reiser, Howie Mandel, the Smothers Brothers, Steven Wright, oh god I could go on and on.

This paragraph is my warning to those who are easily offended by risque humor.  This film contains remarks that would push all limits of what we laughingly refer to as common decency.  If you think South Park goes too far, you don’t know what too far is.  The film has actually been banned from several U.S. movie chains because of its gleeful use of profanity.  This isn’t the movie that movie you’d take grandma and the kids to go see.  If any of that gave you pause then stop reading; you’re not going to go see this anyway.  Go rent Herbie Goes Bananas, and let the rest of us enjoy this movie without your complaining.  Now back to the review…

I will refrain from telling you the joke.  First because I don’t think I could do it justice here, and second I don’t want to ruin a moment of this dirty little movie for you.  The joke starts with the same set up, but each comedian puts his or her own stamp on the joke, with some gust busting, eye watering, chest heaving, laugh out loud results.  My favorites in no particular order were George Carlin, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Godfrey, Drew Carey, Robin Williams, and Steven Banks as a mime who acts out his interpretation of the joke without any words.  I defy you not to laugh.

Sadly not all of the sequences are as funny as those; many of the jokes fall flat.  There are also a few head scratches as to who made the list for the movie and who didn’t.  While we get quite a great compilation of big stars and well known comedians there are a few notable absences.  No Jonathan Winters, Billy Crystal, John Cleese, Steve Matin, Chevy Chase, or Bob Newhart, but for some reason we get Carrie Fisher (yes I’m happy to see she’s working again, but…), Penn and Teller (yeah I know Penn produced the film, but even Lucas didn’t put himself in his own movies), and Carrot Top.

This film makes some of the most offensive humor ever uttered on film unbelievably funny.  That said for every great joke there are one or two good ones and more than a couple that fall flat.  That’s comedy folks, not all jokes work.  There are quite a few nice touches such as Drew Carey’s examination of the joke.  Personally, I like the editorial board of The Onion keeping a running tab and breaking down how to make the joke as offensive as possible.  I would have liked a little more on the explanation of where the joke comes from, where some of the comedians first heard the joke, how the joke has changed during the years.  That having been said, what we get is an entertaining, often funny, sometime hilarious, if a bit uneven film.  I would not recommend this to everyone, but at the same time I’ll be dragging friends to go back with me and enjoy this wonderful little dirty film.

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