The Aristocrats: or How To Get An R Rating Without Sex Or Violence

The set-up: a documentary about one dirty joke told by comedians to one another, "as a sort of secret handshake" as Ken Tucker puts it.
The middle section: incest, homicide, coprophagia, necrophilia, felching, bestiality, rape, and...what do you call humping an eye socket?
The payoff: comics tell the joke, talk comedy, and reveal their skill and failings in a dizzying eighty minutes of head-to-head one-upmanship.

The Aristocrats is first a documentary. I was asked by a friend afterward whether I "enjoyed" the movie. I guess so. I laughed often, but certainly not at everyone. I didn't "enjoy" The Corporation but thought it was an excellent documentary. Jillette and Provenza do a great job intercutting short segments from the hours of film they shot. Impossibly, after 81 minutes, the joke didn't get old.

As an expose of the craft and crass of comedy, I think The Aristocrats is a must see. There will be audience members who walk out. And it's best they do it early if the film's opening gambit, George Carlin's ode to gargling chunky diarrhea flowing out a geezer's polyped anus, gets them worked up. There's much worse to come.

I have a renewed respect for Drew Carey, Taylor Negron, and Gilbert Gottfried. And that ventriloquist, what's-his name. When he bailed on the joke and tried his "hand" at Seinfeldian observational humor, that was even funnier. And Cartman's version was so coo':

——===] LANGUAGE WARNING [===——
I mean it!
[watch Cartman's version here]

Though Penn Jillette's telling of the joke didn't impress in this company, I admire and envy him for making this film. In an interview reported by my brother-in-law in See Magazine, Jillette riffs on the parallels between comedy and jazz:

"The rhythms of the movie are jazz, the feelings are jazz: the subject is comedy.
"What I love is that the movie goes directly to playing bebop, y’know? In the early evening, everybody is playing big band jazz for suits but after hours, when there’s only three or four guys sitting around, they would play this kind of jazz that you had to know a little bit more about melody and harmonics and chord structures to really understand.
"In comedy, we sit backstage, and everybody knows that everyone else can structure a joke, and we know what we do, but now we do this other thing for one another."

Nice to be invited into the green room.

Not for everyone, but works for me.
7 of 10

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