Review by Michael Jacobson
Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria, Lewis Black, Drew Carey, George Carlin,
Billy Connolly, Andy Dick, Phyllis Diller, Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried,
Eric Idle, Bill Maher, Howie Mandel, Penn & Teller, Paul Reiser, Bob Saget,
Sarah Silverman, Smothers Brothers, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams
Director: Paul Provenza
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: January 26, 2006
act...what do you call it?"
all heard of a one-joke premise, and The Aristocrats is that premise
personified. It's a 90 minute
documentary about the so-called dirtiest joke ever told.
those who may not know the joke, here's the basic version:
a guy walks into a talent agent's office and says he has a great act.
He and his family come out on stage, drop their pants, and defecate on
the floor. What is the name of the
act, the agent queries? "The
top comedians, and there certainly are a slew of them in this film, the joke
isn't so much about the punchline as in the telling. It's like a modal jazz composition to them...the middle is
wide open for them to bring whatever they want to the table.
The longer and more disgusting they can make the joke, the better.
They even speak of legendary sessions where one comic would milk the joke
for an hour or better.
an interesting concept for a documentary, but one that probably looked better on
paper than on film. You can only
hear the same joke so many times in the course of an hour and a half, no matter
how well it gets embellished, without wanting to scream "uncle".
I was amused for about the first 30 minutes.
The rest of the way I was checking my clock to see when I could finally
stop the disc and start the review.
suppose there are highlights, but it all runs together so much that it's hard to
pick them out. To hear the comics
tell it, Gilbert Gottfried told the all-time best version of the joke at a roast
for Hugh Hefner. And his version is
pretty good. I thought the best one
came from my favorite comedienne Wendy Liebman, who offered a most unexpected
twist. Another fellow whom I didn't
recognize told the joke while spinning card tricks to great effect.
used to wonder why anyone ever thought Bob Saget was funny, but I have to
confess: after hearing his version
of "The Aristocrats"...I'm still wondering. His is easily the most painful moment to endure in the film.
cast of comics is certainly first rate...certainly a who's-who of the funniest
men and women working today. But I
guess it didn't occur to anyone to ask the most basic question:
is hearing the same joke over and over again worthwhile entertainment?
The best relief was when Robin Williams and Drew Carey told a completely
different entertainment industry joke. But
they could have recited the Gettysburg Address and it would have been just as
welcome a relief.
are laughs, but not enough to sustain the running time.
If you've ever wanted to punch a co-worker because he couldn't stop
repeating the same joke, this isn't the movie for you.
But it might just be the one for him.
film was shot on video, and as such, shows some of the normal limitations of the
medium. It looks perfectly fine
given what the material is about...no real complaints, but nothing to inspire.
audio was a nice touch, though a curious one.
You couldn't find a film that required digital surround less than this
one. But the dialogue is all clean
and clear, even when the words are dirty...par for the course.
ThinkFilm disc really excels in the extras department...many of them are more
entertaining than the picture itself. For
starters, there's an enjoyable commentary from director Paul Provenza and Penn
Jillette that's an entertaining listen.
is a highlight reel of the comics telling the joke, and extended versions of
some of the ones in the movie, in case you didn't get enough of that.
Much better is a "Behind the Green Door" segment in which the
comics get to tell their OTHER favorite jokes...some priceless ones can be found
there. There is a tribute to Johnny Carson (to whom the film is
dedicated), and a look at amateur tellers of "The Aristocrats" who
were contest winners.