not rated. 86 mins ThinkFilm
A guy walks into a Talent Agent's office and says "I've got a great act!". The Talent Agent says, "Okay what do you do?" The man then says, "Well it starts off when... (Insert a description of an act)." "What do you call your act?" The Agent asks. The man replies, "The Aristocrats!" Hence the framework of a joke is laid in which the comedians, featured in the new documentary The Aristocrats, can insert their most outlandish comedic stylings in an attempt to outdo one another in a version of the same joke.
The Aristocrats, playing in limited release throughout SoCAL, is a documentary in which the best of the best comedians including Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, Shelley Berman, Lewis Black, David Brenner, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Billy Connolly, Tim Conway, Pat Cooper, Wayne Cotter, Andy Dick, Phyllis Diller, Susie Essman, Carrie Fisher, Steven Wright, Joe Franklin, Judy Gold, Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, Dana Gould, Eric Idle, Eddie Izzard, Emo Philips, Fred Willard, Paul Reiser, David Steinberg, Jon Stewart, Dave Thomas, Bob Saget, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Robin Williams, Rita Rudner, Don Rickles, Martin Mull, Howie Mandel tell their renditions of the same joke in an attempt to top eachother. Shot digitally, and in more of a home movie fashion,the film is a candid exploration of humor and the art of telling a joke.
Why make a film about comedians telling the same joke over and over and over and over? What could be so funny about a joke that ends with the obscure punch-line "The Aristocrats?" I will tell you. The setup and the punch-line are rarely funny. The journey, however, is what makes or breaks the joke.
The documentary is also an examination of what it is that shocks us, what surprises us, and what ultimately makes us laugh. The film is an exploration of the origins of this joke which, among comedians, is one of the oldest jokes around and a sort of verbal jungle gym on which all comedians have climbed. The challenge that each comedian faces is that they must try to tell a better, more outlandish and ultimately better joke.
The Aristocrats illustrates that what is "funny" has changed over the years. In the days of vaudeville, from which the joke originates, the joke was accompanied by jokes about farting and absurd violnce. The versions of the joke told by modern comedians makes use of incest, scatological ingestion, depraved sex acts, extreme vulgarity and more to push the envelope. Why tell a joke that pushes the boundaries to truly tasteless degrees? Surprise.
The film illustrates to us that humor and it's boundaries have evolved over the ages. What hasn't changed is what makes a joke a funny, the titular pushing of boundaries which scares us, shocks us, and allows us a cathartic laugh. What hasn't changed over time is the need to laugh. As long as there is an audience that needs a laugh there will be a comedian to tell a joke.
Do I recommend this film to everyone? HARDLY! This film is probably the most vulgar film I have seen outside of a porn film or Pink Flamingoes. But I do recommend it to those who have a steel constitution and those who like a good dirty joke. I recommend this film to anyone who is not only fascinated by the history of comedy but by the history of humor as well. It is a brilliant, no holds barred, exploration of the anatomy of a joke and what makes it funny.