Aristocrats

Aristocrats

3.7 4
Director: Paul Provenza

Cast: Paul Provenza, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Billy Connolly

     
 

"A family walks into a talent agent's office..." So begins "The Aristocrats," a joke kept mostly secret by stand-up comedians for decades. An intentionally "bad" joke, the laughs in The Aristocrats aren't in the punch-line (one of the only elements that's the same every time), but in the set-up, made unique by each comedian who tells it in an attempt to fashion the… See more details below

Overview

"A family walks into a talent agent's office..." So begins "The Aristocrats," a joke kept mostly secret by stand-up comedians for decades. An intentionally "bad" joke, the laughs in The Aristocrats aren't in the punch-line (one of the only elements that's the same every time), but in the set-up, made unique by each comedian who tells it in an attempt to fashion the world's dirtiest joke. The cat was finally let out of the bag by Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza, the seasoned funnymen who gathered together a hundred people to tell a hundred different renditions of the bit. Among those presenting their personal take on The Aristocrats in this film of the same name are Jason Alexander, Robin Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Stewart, Emo Philips, and Chris Rock. The Aristocrats premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Donald Liebenson
A comedian and a magician walk into a film distributor's office. They say, "We've got a great documentary we want you to release." The distributor says, "We don't do documentaries. They're too boring." The comedian and magician say, "Please watch our documentary. You'll really like it." The distributor says, "What's it about?" The comedian and magician say, "It's about the most foul and disgusting joke ever told, and we got 100 comedians, comedy writers, journalists, and actors to talk about it or tell it, with each version more offensive than the last." "Wow," the distributor says, "so what do you call this documentary?" And the comedian and magician say, The Aristocrats! Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette's treatise on comic sense and sensibility takes as its starting point a joke that is legendary among comedians. "The Aristocrats" is the punch line, but getting there is all the twisted fun. The setup -- a family asks a talent agent to audition their act -- and the punch line are fixed, leaving the comedian to riff and improvise, jazz-style, on the nature of this family's absolutely horrific and unprintable act. As one observer notes, "I think you could put people to death for what goes on in some of the best versions of this joke." The most memorable renditions are those that go beyond the gross to put a subversive spin on the material. Sarah Silverman outs herself as a former Aristocrat and unearths some repressed memories of her audition for venerable New York showbiz talk show host Joe Franklin (her punch line ups the ante on what Whoopi Goldberg terms "shockability"). Eric Mead performs the joke as a profane card trick. Mario Cantone channels Liza Minnelli for his version. Wendy Liebman saves her obscenities for the punch line, while Martin Mull's hilarious version could almost be told in mixed company. Don't even ask about Billy the Mime. There is certain shock value in seeing the joke performed by Bob Saget, who forever sullies his family-friendly persona, but it is Gilbert Gottfried who boldly goes where few comics dare to go with his epic performance at a Hugh Hefner roast in the near-immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. He is even funnier offstage, parsing the joke and its awful components and implications. The sheer variety of the artists (among them George Carlin, Judy Gold, Paul Reiser, Steven Wright, and an animated South Park rendition) and their insights into the nature of comedy keep The Aristocrats from being a one-joke movie.
All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
The Aristocrats is an odd little documentary. The film has the ultimate one-joke premise, and the joke isn't even very funny (as many of the comics in the film note), but it offers an opportunity for several talented, inspired comics to riff on it and make it their own, while commenting on the nature of standup comedy and the intricacies of what makes something funny. The joke itself offers the basest, most falsely transgressive type of humor. While startling, the jokes about incest and spousal abuse don't seem very far-removed from the misogynistic nursery rhymes of Andrew Dice Clay. While it's certain to anger some of the right people, it's hardly a mighty salvo for freedom in the culture wars. Many of the comics seem content to merely shock. The ones who come off the best are those who break down the joke effectively (Jake Johannsen discussing the eponymous act's legal ramifications, and the illogic of the talent agent's interest in what they call themselves) or have a certain credibility derived from the genuinely transgressive nature of their previous work (Gilbert Gottfried, George Carlin). Billy the Mime works thanks to the incongruity of seeing a street performer in whiteface enact such atrocities. And the brilliant Sarah Silverman transcends the mean-spirited nature of the joke by improvising a personal history with the act, and caps it with a scandalous (and, okay, mean-spirited) revelation that is also the funniest movie line in recent memory. Director (and comic) Paul Provenza, who conceived the project with Penn Jillette and co-edited the film with Emery Emery, keeps things moving at a good clip, and structures the film in a slick, consistently engaging way. It offers a much richer, more enjoyable experience than listening to the same joke over and over for 90 minutes.
New York Times - A.O. Scott
It works on the mind as well as the funny bone and the gag reflex.
Washington Post - Michael O'Sullivan
Under normal circumstances, nothing kills a joke faster than trying to explain it. Yet here, such examination is the film's strong suit and provides much-needed respite, quite frankly, from the exhaustion of constant laughter.

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/24/2006
UPC:
0821575540759
Original Release:
2005
Rating:
NR
Source:
Velocity / Thinkfilm
Region Code:
1
Time:
2:10:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Filmmaker commentary featuring Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette; "Aristocrats do The Aristocrats" highlight reel; Behind the green room door: Comedians tell some of their other favorite jokes; "For Johnny Carson" clip; "Be an Aristocrat" contest winners; Never-before-seen extended version of the joke and additional footage of: Whoopi Goldbert, Jon Stewart, Jason Alexander, Bob Saget, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Lewis Black, Hank Azaria, Billy the Mime; And many more...

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robin Williams Actor
George Carlin Actor
Billy Connolly Actor
Don Rickles Actor
Gilbert Gottfried Actor
Teller Actor
Chris Albrecht Participant
Jason Alexander Participant
Hank Azaria Participant
Shelley Berman Participant
Billy the Mime Participant
Lewis Black Participant
David Brenner Participant
Mario Cantone Participant
Drew Carey Participant
Mark Cohen Participant
Carrot Top Participant
Tim Conway Participant
Pat Cooper Participant
Wayne Cotter Participant
Andy Dick Participant
Franco di Giacomo Participant
Phyllis Diller Participant
Susie Essman Participant
Carrie Fisher Participant
Joe Franklin Participant
Todd Glass Participant
Judy Gold Participant
Whoopi Goldberg Participant
Eddie Gorodetsky Participant
Dana Gould Participant
Allan Havey Participant
Eric Idle Participant
Dom Irrera Participant
Eddie Izzard Participant
Richard Jeni Participant
Jake Johannsen Participant
Amazing Jonathan Participant
Alan Kirschenbaum Participant
Jay Kogen Participant
Sue Kolinsky Participant
Paul Krassner Participant
Cathy Ladman Participant
Lisa Lampanelli Participant
Richard Lewis Participant
Wendy Leibman Participant
Bill Maher Participant
Howie Mandel Participant
Merrill Markoe Participant
Jay Marshall Participant
Jackie Martling Participant
Chuck McCann Participant
Michael McKean Participant
Eric Mead Participant
Larry Miller Participant
Martin Mull Participant
Kevin Nealon Participant
Taylor Negron Participant
Onion Editorial Staff Participant
Otto & George Participant
Rick Overton Participant
Gary Owens Participant
Passing Zone Participant
Penn Jillette Participant
Emo Philips Participant
Peter Pitofsky Participant
Kevin Pollak Participant
Paul Reiser Participant
Andy Richter Participant
Chris Rock Participant
Gregg Rogell Participant
Jeffrey Ross Participant
Jonathan Ross Participant
Rita Rudner Participant
Bob Saget Participant
T. Sean Shannon Participant
Harry Shearer Participant
Sarah Silverman Participant
Bobby Slayton Participant
Smothers Brothers Participant
Carrie Snow Participant
Doug Stanhope Participant
David Steinberg Participant
Jon Stewart Participant
Larry Storch Participant
Rip Taylor Participant
Dave Thomas Participant
Johnny Thompson Participant
Peter Tilden Participant
Bruce Vilanch Participant
Fred Willard Participant
Steven Wright Participant

Technical Credits
Paul Provenza Director,Cinematographer,Editor,Executive Producer
Glenn S. Alai Associate Producer
Dean Cameron Cinematographer
Corneleus Cinematographer
Emery Emery Cinematographer,Editor
Peter Adam Golden Producer
Michael Goudeau Cinematographer
Emily Zolten Jillette Cinematographer
Penn Jillette Cinematographer,Executive Producer,Sound/Sound Designer
Mike Jones Camera Operator
Ken Krasher Lewis Co-producer
Michael Lynn Cinematographer
Rich Nathanson Cinematographer
Tristan Prescott Cinematographer
Gary Stockdale Score Composer
Colin Summers Cinematographer
Erica Wilson Sound Editor
Ezekiel Zabrowski Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Aristocrats
1. Opening Sequence [4:56]
2. The Joke Sucks [5:00]
3. They All Slide [5:02]
4. Listing Offenses [5:04]
5. It's Just a Guy [5:54]
6. About the Signature [5:12]
7. My Generation [4:56]
8. Mr. Tambourine Man [3:53]
9. Own Words [4:58]
10. My Friend Paul [5:02]
11. Gets Caught [5:10]
12. Similar Take [5:07]
13. Not on Resumé [6:36]
14. A Family Act [6:59]
15. Something Was Happening [5:27]
16. End Credits [8:51]

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