The Aristocrats

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You hear the one about the family who goes into a talent agents office?  The talent agent says, “Sorry, folks, but I don’t book family acts.”  The father says, “But wait we’ve got a great act!  All we need is two minutes to show you!” The agent says, “Fine, you’ve got two minutes.  What’s your act?”

0And thus begins the joke known as The Aristocrats and if you don’t know it, I won’t ruin it for you even though I think that this joke is incapable of being ruined.  Let’s just say that it’s best if you see the joke performed by a live person.

I’ve done theater since I was twelve and I’ve dabbled in stand up from time to time and I remember vividly when I first heard The Aristocrats.  I swear, the fellow who told me – at the time a virginal-minded sixteen year old – gave me the dry heaves when he launched into a, I kid you not, thirty minute telling of this joke that involved everything offensive… fecal matter, urine,  ejaculation, bestiality, pedophilia, blasphemy, sacrificing babies, eating kittens, and having sex with bullet holes.  I didn’t really get the joke back then, but it’s stuck with me and, over the years as I heard The Aristocrats over and over again with all kinds of variations getting more and more horrific every time I hear it, I finally started to understand where the humor came from.

As a matter of fact, my knowledge of this joke was only shared with my fellow performers backstage during shows.  One night I told a version of it that involved having anal sex with an 90 year-old dead grandmother and horrified a new generation of performers.  The Aristocrats made me feel like I was part of a secret society that no one knew about.  It made me feel special as if belonged to a thing that was bigger than I knew.

And now, this movie has to come along and blow the big secret of the entertainment industry’s raunchiest joke out of the water as over a hundred comedians come together to tell the same joke.  However, it’s not the joke that is funny… it’s how you tell it and everyone tells it differently.

The Aristocrats is an obscene abomination, yet it is a hypnotic obscene abomination that will capture you and make you keep watching the vulgarity.

Comedians – at least the good ones – are much more intelligent than people give them credit for and, in The Aristocrats, they actually take turns musing about what makes jokes funny and how comedy can bring you together.

Granted, I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if it hadn’t been so attention deficit in its editing, but the movie is funny, it’s a great documentary, and it’s a vile celebration of comedy and the miracle that is free speech.

Plus, many of the renditions of the joke are outstanding.  One is done by a mime who doesn’t say a word, one is done by a magician who does it in the form of a card trick, and one is done by the animated kids of South Park.

The Aristocrats is the ultimate example of how the destination isn’t the most important thing… it’s the journey that makes life interesting.

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About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.