Jun 18, 2006

Film Review: The Aristocrats

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89 minutes, not rated (NR) for its extremely obscene language

Yes, the film came out in 2005. So sue me - I rarely make it to the theater for first-run films anymore, and I am never in a hurry to see films when they arrive on DVD.

Comedy veterans and film creators Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza interviewed over 100 comedians about an old vaudville-era joke. Some of the comedians retell the joke, others dissect the joke, and a few are exposed to the joke for the first time.

The joke itself is designed to shock and disgust the audience, and viewers should be warned that the humor in the film is based upon some of the most vile acts of human degradation one could imagine, including incest, scatalogical humor, and bestiality.

Those whose sensibilities are easily offended should stay far, far away from this film. Don't say that you weren't warned.

The film's strengths are to be found in the analysis of the joke's origins, the examination of the comedic process, and in observing how a variety of comedians approach the joke.

One of the funniest scenes occurs when Billy the Mime tells the joke through pantomime. Gasping for air as I laughed, I had to replay it three times to catch the details I missed. Through the entire skit Billy keeps the same painted smile on his face, and the expressions of people passing by on the street are beyond description.

I also enjoyed Kevin Pollack impersonating Christopher Walken telling the joke and Gilbert Gottfried's infamous rendition of the joke at a celebrity roast for Hugh Hefner, shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The joke itself is vulgar, offensive, and not really that funny. The humor is to be found in how comedians try to out-shock each other, or how they turn the joke's format in unusual dirsctions.

1 comment:

Dariush said...

"The joke itself is vulgar, offensive, and not really that funny. The humor is to be found in how comedians try to out-shock each other, or how they turn the joke's format in unusual dirsctions."

Yeah, I pretty much agree. There may have been something "shocking" (and maybe even funny) about this gag 30 or 40 years ago, but in this day and age, it's just completely unfunny potty humor that any 4th grader probably outdoes in the gross department on any given day, at any given elementary school, at any given recess.

And I also agree that the best takes on this joke were the ones that completely reworked it into something different and unexpected -- the mime and Kevin Pollak top the list, but Martin Mull's rework also comes close. "Death it is... but first, the Aristocrats." Understated in style and tone, but still effective.