I have always admired stand-up comedians. They put their dignity on the line to stand on stage in a crowded room and deliver original jokes, all in an effort to make the audience laugh. When people don’t respond positively, they are stuck standing there like deer in the headlights, praying for something to put them out of their misery. Likewise, the audience can experience the same level of discomfort if the comedian is direly devoid of humor. Or in this case, 100 comedians.
The Aristocrats is a film by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette (half of the Penn & Teller comedy team). They came up with an idea to stick the funniest comedians working today in a movie, where they could each offer their own takes on an old joke called ‘The Aristocrats’. The joke centers around a person walking into a talent agency to pitch a new act they are showcasing. The goal is to improvise the most raunchy, perverse, and shocking act they can possibly come up with, each time trying to top their last offering. At the end of the joke, the talent agent says “That’s an interesting act—What do you call such a thing?” and the punch-line is (drumroll please), “The Aristocrats!”
Yeah, I don’t get it either. But that’s kind of the whole point. Essentially, the joke allows the sick minds of comedians to come up with entertaining ideas to stun and appall the audience. It’s not about the destination (since the joke is intentionally unfunny), but about the journey it takes to get there. George Carlin, who would probably kick your ass if you tried to offer him a senior citizen discount, launches the showcase by talking extensively about a guy shitting in a girl’s mouth. He is joined by other comedians who talk at length about sliding in shit, fucking their family pets, raping their daughters while their wife craps in a bucket, and licking their children’s asses while sliding on pee. There is no idea too vulgar, and no concept too crass.
While The Aristocrats has all the ingredients for a good comedy, it forgets one key element- the humor. Comedians ranging from Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Carey, and Gilbert Gottfried regurgitate different spins on the same joke, but all too quickly it becomes tiresome and familiar. There are only so many occasions I can hear about people screwing family members and defecating on floors before feeling I have flashed back in time to the elementary school playground. And as fun as that was, a second visit won’t be necessary. There are a few humorous segments, involving a South Park animation, filthy smiling mime, and card trickster. If only more comedians had pushed the envelope and avoided the easy route of straight-forward fart and cum jokes.
Comedy done right can be fantastic, but The Aristocrats overstays its welcome and does not have enough unique material to fill up a full-length movie. Many people will find the movie hilarious, but to me it was nothing more than watching narcissistic comedians stylistically masturbating. The only reason anyone knows the movie exists is because it’s generating buzz for being highly offensive. But the only thing I found offensive was that the world’s top comedians were incapable of making a movie about comedy funny. That’s no laughing matter.