The Aristocrats

 
Directed by: Paul Provenza
Released: January 26, 2006
Grade: B-

A family walks into a talent agency and says “we have an act which we think you might be interested in”.  Thus begins what is said to be one of the most famous jokes amongst comedians.  The task is then coming up with the most horrifying, sick, grotesque act imaginable.  Nothing is sacred.  The act often involves incest, bestiality, rape, defecation and other unspeakable sexual acts.  The joke finishes when the talent agent asks the name of the act and the family responds with “the Aristocrats!”

Don’t worry if you don’t think this is at all funny.  You wouldn’t be alone.  It’s one of those jokes where the punch line isn’t important.  It’s all in the delivery.  The joke is the perfect guise for comedians to push every boundary.  They strive to outdo each other and come up with an even longer, sicker act than the person who last told it.

Believe it or not, a 90-minute documentary has been made on this famous joke and you are now reading a review of it.  Over 100 comedians have contributed with many telling their own version it.  They include (in alphabetical order) Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Billy Connolly, Andy Dick, Phyllis Diller, Carrie Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Idle, Richard Lewis, Bill Maher, Larry Miller, Trey Parker, Kevin Pollak, Paul Reiser, Andy Richter, Don Rickles, Chris Rock, Bob Saget, Harry Shearer, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Fred Willard, Robin Williams and Steven Wright.  Need more?

What is funny is the fact that I hardly laughed in this film.  Correct me if I’m wrong but I think our society has become desensitised to such offensive language.  Crude jokes, no matter how crude, have reached a peak, a saturation point.  There’s very little you can say that someone hasn’t already said before.  The line has been pushed to its very limit.

The documentary is interesting from a commentary point of view.  Some of the comedians talk about the different styles of comedy and what goes on behind the scenes in the comedic world.  On the other hand, listening to pretty much the same joke over and over again wore me out.  A chuckled a few times but not nearly as much as I expected.  To really enjoy comedy, you have to be in the mood for it and perhaps I wasn’t on this occasion.

As blasé as I sound about the subject material, I am certain that some viewers will be offended.  As a guide, if you’re disturbed by some of the shows on the Comedy Channel (ala South Park) then save your money.  You’ll only be walking out after 15 minutes.