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Screened at Sundance 2005, The Aristoracts tells the story of the
worlds funniest (and dirtiest) joke you've never heard before but will
The joke itself is structured to have the same beginning and the same punchline at the end. Yet each comedian that tells it has their own variation on the middle. And that's where the freedom (and generally the vulgarity) comes in.
My favorite renditions are by Kevin Pollak (doing a spot-on impression of Christopher Walken), Bob Saget, and Paul Reiser. Matt Stone and Trey Parker even animated a South Park version of the joke that had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.
Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette filmed the movie over a period of 4 years and between 80 to 100 hours of DV video tape.
The film has been picked up for distribution by ThinkFilm. But don't be surprised if the MPAA slaps a NC-17 on the film for the language. Save your surprise for the theater.
The Aristocrats uses a warhorse joke to give the audience a window into
humor, obscenity, and the American conscience. I am not aware of
another study capable of inducing such laughter. The premise is
devilishly simple and almost a modern version of comedia delarte. This
allows some of the best American comic minds to muse wildly about
humor. A great achievement of the movie is the raw footage of a who's
who of comedians. Comic greats such as George Carlin, Eric Idle, Whoopi
Goldberg, Gilbert Godfrey, Jason Alexander, Robin Williams, Phyllis
Diller, Drew Carey, Sarah Silverman, and many more weigh in on how
comedians put their signature on jokes.
The editing and pacing of the movie insure that the audience goes no longer than two minutes without a good laugh. There is no shortage of obscenity and lewdness in the film. The Aristocrats is not a family film. However, the film proves that there is much to be gained from wading into the lake of obscenity. Packed between laughs about bodily functions and social taboos, are searing insights about improvisation, character, show business, and things which most of us would not willingly put in our mouths. The movie hits on many different levels and stands as an insightful sociological achievement garbed in laughter.
One of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time. If you're not
familiar with the joke, that's fine. If you are, you'll probably enjoy
this movie on an entirely different level (which may or may not be
Whatever the case may be, be prepared to laugh to the point of crying and in some cases, sides aching.
Now, be forewarned... this movie is not rated, and is about the most disgusting joke ever told. If you're a prude, you'll probably walk out like the stuck up couple who left the theater about 10 minutes into the screening I was at tonight.
There are some howling moments, there are some painfully unfunny moments, but overall, I can't recall laughing this much in a theater since seeing There's Something About Mary.
This is an exercise in 1st Amendment rights (this movie would have been shut down in the days of Lenny Bruce).
If you think 97 minutes of various comedians doing their versions of the same joke won't work, you're in for a surprise. This movie has so much more than that... It shows a real affection for comedy and comic performers.
I have to see it again, there were so many jokes I missed, either because of other people laughing or because I was laughing to hard to hear.
If you love stand-up comedy (or just enjoy laughing) and aren't easily offended, you must see this movie. You'll laugh your ass off.
After seeing "The Aristocrats" I found myself wondering if I truly
enjoyed a film about the craziest joke in the world. The answer:
The film itself centers around a single premise: A joke with the punch line "The Aristocrats!" has existed for a long time, and many different comedians tell their versions and try to explain why the joke is funny, allowing reflection on what makes this particular joke so memorable and humorous.
Don't get me wrong. There are parts of this movie where I was having difficulty breathing due to the humor and the telling of "the joke." Some of the deliveries were flawless, executed with the aggressiveness and impartial judgment that have made some comedians famous.
But some comedians I didn't find funny. And their telling of "the joke" created another feeling inside me: How much longer is he going to try to make me laugh? And the problem here is that these parts of the movie are just very difficult to sit through. Using foul language and references to numerous taboos is one thing, but it hurts to listen to a comedian do it badly.
Ultimately, the comedians do a good job of explaining some of the finer nuances of "the joke", comedy in general, and its place in our lives. But the film spends more time on each comedians' angle with "the joke" than the development of why the joke is great. And I think the movie suffered from it. Listening to the philosophy of "the joke" was great; listening to bad comics preach the scripture was unbearable.
So the dilemma was created: I thought I enjoyed the film afterward, but I didn't know. After careful deliberation, I gave it a 7, losing 3 stars through the lack of developing more comedic philosophy and for the sometimes painfully unfunny moments a movie like this has in it.
For all its over-the-top vulgarity -- with large helpings of
pornography, scatology, and incest -- "The Aristocrats" is
fundamentally an intelligent and affectionate film. One gifted comedian
after another dives into the time-honored muck of this joke, keen on
retrieving the filthiest possible diamond from the sludge. The result
is some of the most hilarious film-making of recent years.
It's difficult to select just a few favorites from this assemblage. Bob Saget is surely the most startling (and one of the funniest). George Carlin offers both great humor and insight into joke telling. Sarah Silverman's deadpan first-person account is unforgettable, and Gilbert Gottfried's post-9/11 version is a jewel. Billy the Mime has riotous sexual encounters with various invisible family members. Only a few comedians misfire: perhaps most notably, a guy who tries to pull off a "clean" Jerry Lewis sort of physical comedy routine.
And this is the paradox of the both the joke and the movie: clean versions just don't work. The hilarity comes from the clash between the pornography and the punchline, the comedic brilliance and the carefully crafted vulgarities.
90 minutes on one joke may seem like overkill, but the film skillfully avoids monotony. The broader subject matter is the art of comedy: the comedians' insights are fascinating and their enthusiasm is endearing.
Two minor complaints. First, it would have been helpful to identify each comedian *during* the film, not just during the (excellent) closing credits. Second -- and more seriously -- some of the camera-work was intrusive and distracting, with rapid MTV cutting that flipped back and forth between full-face and profile shots. This got so bad at one point that I had to look away from the screen until the segment was over.
9/10. A masterpiece of filthy good cheer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The problem with this movie is that it ceases to be funny once the
premise is revealed. The joke gets really dirty---get it? Now listen
for another hour and a half as comedians say all of the dirty things
you already thought up when you reached your "obscenity maturity" at
around, oh, eighteen. Incest, various sexual positions, feces, etc.
Those things are funny when you aren't expecting them. For example, in the South Park movie, I remember actually being surprised at how many obscenities were invoked in the "Terrence and Phillip" movie-within-a-movie. It was a cinematic first for me, and I laughed.
But in this movie, once you have heard a fairly dirty version of this joke, you are expecting anything and everything. In fact, the only funny version of the joke (in my opinion) was told by the South Park characters in the second half of the movie. It was funny because it invoked something that was actually surprising--in other words, something that probably even offended some people who came to the movie knowing for the most part what it was about.
Other than that, the only interesting aspect of this movie was that it served as an unwitting empirical investigation into the self-indulgence and self-aggrandizement of the stand-up world.
Another user's comment reminded me of a thought I had during the movie--that this whole thing might be a hoax, a joke perpetrated on America to see how many people would laugh at something so clearly not funny. In fact, during the movie I kept wondering if we weren't going to all be told at the end, "Gotcha! Shhh...pass it on!" That would at least explain A.O. Scott's (NY Times) ridiculously positive review. Needless to say, we weren't.
But hoax or no hoax, since this is a review of the movie, I guess my comments stand--it was irritating.
Typically, I'm not one to encourage obscenity so I shunned the idea of the "Aristocrats" at first. However, I must applaud the "Aristocrats" and tell you that it was brilliantly presented and not at all about obscenity. It seemed to be more about being creatively obscene while keeping your audience horrified and simultaneously roaring with laughter. Many of the bits in the film will shock the prudish movie goer, but you'll also find that, like a fatal car crash in heavy traffic, you must keep listening and watching. Later you'll be embarrassed to admit that you laughed so hard, you're not sure if your lungs are still intact. Warning: skip the beverage during this film unless you enjoy nostril burn.
I don't know what movie RT Firefly saw... I saw this at the Deep Focus film Festival, and think it is one of the smartest and funniest movies I have ever seen. A bunch of friends and I are still talking about it. Every one of us found different things all through the whole movie. It's only repetitious if you are not watching for the nuances and subtle variations in each different version. Little things make a big difference every time someone else tells the joke. Some are funnier than others, but none of the people I saw it with agree on who - some love what others didn't and vice versa (except we all agree SarahSilverman, Taylor Negron, Bob Saget, Gilbert Godfrey and Billly the Mime are hilarious). Yeah, some of it is childish but that's part of the fun, and kinda the whole point of it. Let yourself go and see what happens. The creativity is amazing, no matter how filthy. But it's got so much to say about being free, and about the art and craft of comedy. when you see how many different ways this one joke can go, it is truly amazing. I thought it was just going to be a dirty joke, but it is also about crossing lines and where are those lines anyway? It's hilarious to see all these big stars just being silly and having a blast. It's like we're at their private party and they don't care what anyone thinks. We all LOVED this movie and can't wait to see it again because we missed so much from all the laughing throughout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I wasn't really sure what to expect heading into this movie. I'd heard
it was a bunch of comedians talking about a joke that was supposed to
be the most absurdly offensive and hilarious joke ever told. I'm not
sure if this will be considered a spoiler or not, as the entire premise
of the movie is revealed ten minutes in, and repeated for the next
Yes, it's about an absurd and offensive joke and its history and so on, but that's it. It's a ninety minute movie about variations on a single joke that, after about twenty minutes, you realize aren't so varied after all. All the comedians give their own takes on the joke (none of them are very funny in my opinion, except Kevin Pollack's impression of Christopher Walken) and they all involve the same thing. "Push the envelope," it screams. It seems this is the sole point of this film, and I can't remember the last time that was a good thing.
The comedians think it's hilarious and they love telling it, and that's fine, but who wants to hear the same dirty joke fifty times in a row? I must be a snob.
The Aristocrats is not a funny joke.
This is a fact admitted at several points through this film. And it's an important thing to bear in mind when considering the film, because the film is not the joke. The film is *about* the joke. It's a documentary. It deals with far more light-hearted matter than the average documentary, but it's a documentary nonetheless. Yes, the joke is told frequently and in various ways throughout the film. But in and of themselves, only about four incarnations of the joke are worthwhile. Billy The Mime's version is inspired, the guy who does it with playing cards is clever, Gilbert Gottfried's is a masterpiece of saying precisely the wrong thing at the right time, and Sarah Silverman's first-person rendition lies perfectly between deadpan hilarity and abject horror.
The value of the film lies in the story of the joke. And in this regard, it stands as one of the funniest films ever made. The joke isn't something to be told at the dinner table. It's a challenge, told by comedians to comedians. And this is where the hundred or so comedians in this film come in, to tell us their own stories and experiences about the inception and reception of it - and of course, to do this it becomes necessary for one or two of them to provide their own interpretations. And so it goes on.
As a comedy, it's not that funny; it is, in a very literal sense, a one-joke movie. As a documentary, it's genius.
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