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The Aristocrats (2005)

Comedy movie directed by Paul Provenza

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  • Jan 26, 2006
"The Aristocrats," is not a funny movie. Any laughter on my part was spurred by the laughter of the participants, like a cough prompted by someone else's cough, rather than by the content of the joke. My reaction was more like awe. I was absolutely astounded by the verbal riffs that were going down.

The premise of both movie and joke are simple. The movie: Tracks the on-going life of a particular and particularly dirty joke that is more often performed for other comedians than the public, and is an exercise in inventive one-upmanship. The movie uses an A, B, and C list of comedians to tell the joke. The joke: A manager for a "family act," meets with an agent to sell the act, explains what the act is, the agent asks the name of the act, and the name is the punch line.

What makes the joke is the explanation, which is open to the teller's stream-of-consciousness, and which includes any and every sexual taboo the teller can pull out of his or her personal universe.

The thrill of the movie is in watching the comedians create astounding, totally uncensored, somehow logical Rube Golberg constructs of verbal obscenity. It's like watching a leap into the subconscious, or the dredging of a cesspool in which all the bodies have been dumped.

This is a movie for comedians, poets, Shakespeare scholars, and anyone interested in jokes, story-telling, or verbal play. It is not for the feint, or easily offended.

My wife loved the idea, hated the movie.

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Richard Wells ()
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Community Organizer by profession, artist at heart. "I been all 'round this world..."
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Released without a rating and billed as "the most vile, disgusting, and vulgar" film of all time,The Aristocratsis also funny enough to qualify as a minor comedy classic. We say "minor" only because hearing the same foul joke told by 100 celebrated comedians is inevitably exhausting, even though the shaggy-dog gag (a vintage in-joke among comedians, allowing outrageously obscene improvisation, and always ending with the same titular punchline) is also a fascinating litmus test for each comedian's irreverent style. As codirectors and show-biz insiders, veteran comedians Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette (from the comedy duo Penn & Teller) corralled an unprecedented parade of stand-up celebrities (George Carlin, Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah Silverman, theSouth Parkkids and many, many more), each telling "the dirtiest joke of all time" in their own inimitable fashion. The sheer volume of vaudevillian vulgarity takes on a life of its own, more fascinating than funny, until Gilbert Gottfried (at a celebrity roast for Hugh Hefner, shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01) tells what is unanimously hailed as the definitive version of the joke. It's a matter of context, style, and bawdy bravado, and for better or worse,The Aristocratswill endure as a testament to a joke so bad--so uproariously bad--that no comedian worthy of the profession can resist the temptation to tell it.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Paul Provenza
DVD Release Date: January 24, 2006
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
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