Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Aristocrats

I saw The Aristocrats this afternoon and it was funny but definitely more hype than substance. The Aristocrats is a movie about the type of jokes, actually one joke in particular, that comedians tell each other. This is not a joke that you would hear from a comedian in a night club. No, this is something that they share with each other as a way to see who can top everyone else.

The idea is that it is all about the joke teller. There are only two parts of the joke that are the same every time it is told: the short setup and the punchline. But everything in between those two short phrases is different depending on who's telling the joke and just how graphic and perverse they are trying to be.

The setup is simple: A man walks into a talent agent's office and says, "I have a family act you have to see. It stars me, my wife, my son and my daughter."

That's it! From there the comedian will launch into vile and unspeakable acts involving all sorts of disgusting and sometimes illegal activities. This ad-libbed section changes from person to person but it is always riddled with foul language.

Finally, the joke returns to the closing and punch lines. The agent asks, "What do you call this act?" The man says with a flourish, "The Aristocrats."

What's funny about this movie is that it is simply comedians discussing how they first found out about the joke and their versions of it. They are very diverse in the level of perversity but it is really mostly about shock value. You won't believe some of the things that you hear Bob Saget of "Full House" fame say.

But when you boil it down, it's really just about the shock factor. It's funny because it's basically a pissing contest between comedians to see who can be the one to cross way beyond the line of good taste. It is offensive but only if you let it be. It is gross but only if you take it seriously. This is probably why the MPAA refused to rate it. They took it too seriously but it's just a bunch of bad words. I thought I had heard it all in the third season finale of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," these comedians can be really nasty when they want to be.

But there's no substance to this documentary after you take away the comedians working "blue." It's funny but not really worth seeing in a theater other than to enjoy the reactions of the audience. It's pretty funny to hear a theater full of people laughing at things that would normally embarrass the hell of out of them in public.

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