The Aristocraps

Steve Schirra & Andrew Hampp

Gottfried, Reiser bring down grotesque one-joke movie

Credit: Ben Breier

Credit: Ben Breier

Credit: Ben Breier


The Aristocrats

Documentary featuring Gilbert Gottfried, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Penn Jillette, Phyllis Diller, Eric Idle, Chris Rock and 90 more

Directed by Paul Provenza

Distributed by ThinkFilm

Not rated but featuring extreme vulgarities guaranteed to make you want to wash your brain out with soap

Stater rating (out of four): * 1/2



So, two guys come back from seeing a movie. And they try to tell their friends about it.

“You’ve got to hear about this movie,” they say.

“Nah,” the friends say. “We don’t really care about movies.”

“But wait,” the guys say. “This movie’s a documentary about the so-called ‘funniest joke of all time,’ you have to hear about it.”

“So what’s it about?” the friends ask.

“Well,” they start, “There’s this joke that comedians have been performing secretly for the past 30-something years. People thought it was hilarious, but too vulgar to perform in public.

“So, there’re all these comedians, and they come out and they tell this joke, right? Not like 10 of them, more like 100. And they all talk about the origins of the joke. And it kind of drags on at the beginning, and you’re waiting to be entertained.

“Then, all the jokes start to sound identical. Comedians droning lamely along about the same perverted acts that family members perform on each other – sometimes with dogs – and almost always with bodily functions.

“So, Gilbert Gottfried apparently used it to hilarious effect three weeks after 9/11 at a friars’ roast for Hugh Hefner, but people probably thought it was so funny because they needed a good laugh after such a huge tragedy. His version is really not that funny.

“Nor is Paul Reiser’s take, but what do you expect from someone who was on ‘Mad About You’?’

“Actually, the majority of the comedians’ riffs on the less-than-hilarious original joke often end up being derivations of the same grotesquely, unfunny thing. It’s the more creative improvisations that elicit the biggest laughs.

“Take Wendy Liebman, who completely reverses the joke with a sweet-but-ultimately-sour punchline, sending waves of laughter through the audience.

“Or a magician who performs hilarious card tricks illustrating the otherwise mundane obscenities described in his joke. Hokey fun!

“And even when the jokes flounder, the filmmakers – director Paul Provenza and comedian Paul Jillette of Penn and Teller – always think they’re hilarious, even when the audience is hearing crickets.

“And then you’re thinking, there’s a point to this movie, right? Just then, Bob Saget, of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ fame comes in and begins putting his own pornographic take on the joke; closing by saying, ‘Send a copy of this to the kids on ‘Full House.’

“And then, you’re wondering, why does everyone keep saying the same things over and over? We know it’s a controversial joke. We know people can put their own take on it.

“And then it’s over.”

“Wow,” the friends say. “That sounds kind of lame. What do they call this movie?”

The Aristocrats.”

Contact Features Editor Andrew Hampp at [email protected] and Forum Editor Steve Schirra at [email protected].

How it all began …

The origin of the “Aristocrats” story is unknown, though comedians have been telling it for decades. Basically, the point of the joke is to offend as many people as possible, with no payoff. Comedians have tried to put their own spin on the popular joke. A sample joke is as follows:

A family walks into a talent agency and the father says, “Boy, have I got an act for you!”

“Not interested,” the agent says. “Family acts aren’t selling well.”

“But wait until you see what we do!” he yells.

The family breaks into action. The man rips the clothes off of his wife and begins making sweet love to her in the middle of the office.

The children stand around them, shouting obscenities, ripping Bibles and doing the Macarena on top of their mother.

Then, their trained dog pushes “play” on a portable DVD player and they all sit and watch pornography while pouring essential oils on each other.

The dog then licks the oils off the family members, who are huddled in a greasy, loving heap.

“Ta da!” they yell, posing.

“That was amazing!” he says. “What do you call it?”

The man takes a single step forward and looks the agent in the eye.

“The Aristocrats.”

-Steve Schirra