The Aristocrats (2005)
Starring: 100 different comedians, writers, journalists, and a mime
Directed by: Paul Provenza
This should be a short review. Well, a short review for me at least. Because there isn’t much to say about this movie. Either you find it funny, or you don’t. It can go either way, and if you fall into one camp, you really can’t understand the people who fall into the other.
For those that don’t know, The Aristocrats is a documentary brought to you by director Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) about an old joke told amongst comedians as a form of a secret handshake. The joke begins roughly the same way, a guy walks into a talent agent’s office and tells him that he has a great family act for him, and the punchline is always the same: agent: what is the act called?, man: The Aristocrats! In between, each teller of the joke puts his own spin on the nastiest, filthiest, most obscene collection of scatological, incest-filled humour he or she can think of. The film features 100 different comedians, writers, and journalists ruminating on the nature of the joke, and sharing their own versions of it.
The problem is, I just didn’t find it funny. Not in a pearl-clutching, offends-my-delicate-sensibilities kind of way. In a boring way. The biggest problem is that the whole enterprise is as monotonous as you would imagine 92 minutes of different people telling the same joke would be. Another big problem is that the first 20 minutes of the film is spent explaining the joke, before anyone tells it. So, a joke whose power is in its ability to shock people isn’t all that shocking once it gets to the telling of it. But I think the biggest problem for me is that I didn’t find it offensive, which is why I didn’t find it funny. I think for the joke to work, it has to push your boundaries, make you a little uncomfortable, until you start to squirm and laugh. But, for the most part, all the talk of piss and shit and vomit and sex and incest didn’t push my buttons, I just found it dull and uncreative. The times I did laugh are when the joke went much further in pushing the limits of good taste, like when they mentioned the kids were retarded, or the South Park bit.
Of course, I think the joke would work better if I was hearing it live, either in a one on one, or in a group of people where you feel uncomfortable amongst them and you’re response is to laugh to make yourself feel better. I heard Kevin Smith go off on his anal fissure for about an hour live, and that made me laugh. But, ultimately, I just plain didn’t find this movie funny or entertaining, and was surprised that a collection of 100 of the funniest people in show business could be so dull.
I can’t really suggest to people to see it or not to see it, because it all depends on what you find funny. All I can say is if you’re on the fence about it, but feel like you should see it because everyone keeps telling you how great it is, know that there are also people out there that thought the opposite, then make your decision.
Chris Rock: Never Scared (2004)