“What's your shtick?” asks the agent.
“We walk out on stage and shit all over everybody.”
“That's a hell of an act, what do you call yourselves?”
What you have just read is my extremely condensed version of "The Aristocrats" joke. Basically, it's not supposed to have a very funny punch line. It's everything in the middle that's supposed to deliver the kick (so replace the "shit" part with about five to ten minutes worth of much more obscene gross-out humor). As the saying goes, "It's all about the singer, not the song."
I first heard the joke "The Aristocrats" when Trey Parker put together the little South Park short for it. By the end of the clip, I was crying with laughter, simply due to how outrageous it was. So, it was with great pleasure that I received this documentary to review. Considering all the praise and hype, I expected nothing less than to at least laugh. Yet, about half an hour of the documentary had gone by and all I had done was write down a bunch of crud the picture was doing horribly wrong. The main issue of which was the editing, which is so incredibly choppy and unstructured that the audience never gets a single chance to actually study or appreciate the comedian's performance (which I thought was part of the whole point). In fact, there are probably only two or three comedians who we get to see tell the joke all the way through without getting interrupted by a barrage of other clips. Talk about frustrating.
Another thing I noticed was that, most of the time, the way the joke was being told by the comedians just wasn't all that funny. I thought for about five seconds and figured out why - saying the word "shit" and "f**k" endlessly can only be funny for so long. It's for this reason that the best versions of the jokes are the ones that had something specific about it that stuck out. To show you what I mean, check out some of my favorite acts:
- Trey Parker (as Cartman from South Park): As I stated earlier, this was the first version I saw of the joke, and after seeing it again on THE ARISTOCRATS, it's still my favorite. There's something about watching a foul-mouthed 4th grader tell the filthiest joke in the world that just brings a smile to your face.
- Bob Saget: Watching the guy from Full House tell his horrendously obscene version of the joke was just brilliant, especially since he would repeatedly break down into laughter at the indecencies he was saying.
- Billy the Mime: A silent version of the joke? No way! Oh, but it's true, and it's a riot. The people's reactions around him also really helped the gag.
- Gilbert Gottfried: Many people will likely consider this version their favorite, and while I did like it a lot, I wouldn't put it at the top of the list. The clip was taken from the roast of Hugh Hefner. Things that make it work well are the build up to it (people boo'ed him for making 9/11 jokes), the audience surrounding him, and of course, his over-the-top delivery of it.
- ...and the rest: Kevin Pollack did a great job telling the joke while impersonating Christopher Walken; The Onion Staff was a riot as they were listing various disgusting things to add on a whiteboard; Otto and George were also simply hilarious, because you really can't beat a guy with a puppet. I also send my love to Sarah Silverman (who told a different, but still very funny joke).
THE ARISTOCRATS may have a whole lot of excellent comedians involved, but most of them just aren’t funny in it, nor do we actually get to see that much of them. Personally, I think the documentary should've focused more on, say, between five to ten different comedians delivering stellar performances of the joke, along with insight as to what they do to make it funny. Because, while I do find the quick, uninvolved interview excerpts from comedians briefly amusing, it just doesn't justify taking up 90 minutes of my (or your) life.
Filmmaker Commentary (with Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette): This is a very fun and energetic commentary, which is to be expected considering how frantic the documentary's editing is. Proceeding the commentary is an audio introduction (where they comically comment on the quick-cut editing). I especially liked how the commentary sort of narrates the documentary, which really helps to deliver some much-needed structure.
More from the Comedians (1:30:12): Here's where the gold is at! We get to see full-on conversations and joke read-throughs with 21 different comedians (most of whom were seen briefly throughout the main feature). The editing is still choppy, but at least the focus stays on specific actors at a time. I especially liked how I was able to select the actors I wanted to see, which will be handy for if I want to show anybody a specific scene or joke (which is a lot harder to do with the limited amount of "scene selections" on the feature). This extra honestly made the DVD for me.
The Aristocrats Do the Aristocrats (5:19): This extra takes clips from the comedians and has them saying about a line each, which, in the end, tells the joke from start to finish. Mildly amusing, but unnecessary (the movie sort of did it already).
For Johnny Carson (2:06): THE ARISTOCRATS is dedicated to Johnny Carson, so here we see Dana Gould and Larry Miller briefly discuss his love of the joke.
Behind the Green Room Door: Comics Tell Us Some of their Other Favorite Jokes (16:09): A hilarious extra which allows us to see just a little bit more from the comedians as they (like the extra's title implies) tell their other favorite jokes.
"Be An Aristocrat" Winners (10:05): Here we see two different takes on the joke from normal folk like you and me. The first one is live action, with the guy dressed up in humorous attire as he tells the joke strangers. Funny stuff (I love seeing people's reactions). The second one is animated, with funny-looking still frames and great audio. Both of them are worth a watch.
There are also 2 Previews.
And with that, I'll end with a joke of my own:
Why was 6 afraid of 7?
(Highlight the answer below)
Because 7 raped 6's mom.
...oh, c'mon! That's comedic gold!