Now for the record, I’ve heard the joke told on this film months before its actual release, and I have my own version I tell that involves a baby, a small girl, and a lot of piss. But I digress. The thing you must know about this joke is that it’s not about the punch line, it’s the descriptions within the lead up to the punch line. It’s not that funny of a joke, you won’t even laugh, but the description is the genius. The set up: “A man walks in to a Vaudeville agents office and says: ‘Boy, do I have an act for you!'” and thus begins one of the most vile jokes ever told.
“The Aristocrats” is a documentary centering around a bunch of comedians whom love the joke, tell the joke, have their own disgusting versions of the joke, and tell the origins of the joke. If you watch this all the way until the end of the credits, you’ll have a surefire understanding of what the directors wanted to accomplish with this documentary. It’s not only the examination of oddly the most popular joke of all time, but also about comedians in general. What “The Aristocrats” does is bring together many of the funniest comedians that are around today from the almost unknowns, the famous, and the legends and have them tell their very own version of the joke and then spread some insight in to the jokes meanings and descriptions and what we really discover is that it’s, in the end, a study of how sick comedians and comedy can be, but it also shows how this joke has become an unofficial oath in the their secret club that bonds them together.
Michael McKeon describes how he and his friends created a game with it for parties trying to see who can tell it the longest, and we get to see the comedians tell their versions to each other, to the camera (it’s funnier hearing the cameraman laugh), and to people on the street. Gilbert Godfried, one of the funniest men alive, gives a hell of a version to an audience during the Hugh Hefner roast that he can barely get through, and in one hilarious sequence, the Smothers Brothers tell the joke to each other. But it’s just fun watching people like Larry Miller, Andy Richter, and the sexy Sarah Silverman give their own versions while also sneaking in a bit of their material. Out of the bunch, Carlin gives a very disgusting version that I could barely sit through, Pollack gives a great version in Christopher Walken’s voice that is so funny he doesn’t even finish it, and then there’s the mime version delivered by a street mime which ended up becoming surprisingly hilarious.
It’s the only time I’ve ever laughed with a mime, instead of at him. And there’s people like Bob Saget, Rip Taylor, Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg et al whom deliver their versions with great zeal. “The Aristocrats” serves as a true tribute to Johnny Carson who is legendary for telling the joke during a commercial break to his audience at a live taping of “The Tonight Show”. The joke went over so big, when the show came back audiences were still laughing much to the confoundedness of home audiences. Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette finally open the doors to the inside world of comedy. But like every comedians act, you have to know when to quit. If you go on too long, the audience gets tired, and the act gets stale and that’s what happens with “The Aristocrats” eventually.
It’s an exhausting movie to watch and repetitious watching the same joke told over and over and over and without the creative new ways its told, “Aristocrats” is weak on some occasions. “Aristocrats” wears thin after the first hour with the joke becoming less and less funny to listen to and then watching some of the presenters giving some incredibly weak versions, including one comedian who begins using props to help the joke but it doesn’t really become funnier. Want to know how to tell the joke? You’ll have to watch the documentary which not only tells it, but teaches you how to tell it. “The Aristocrats” is a very funny and entertaining simple documentary exploring not only the sickest joke ever created, but also exploring how comedy is a powerful universal concept, more so than religion.