The Aristocrats


I haven’t seen ‘The Aristocrats’. It looks like a drag. I have reviewed it however. Observe:

Take a pot pourri of references to taboo sexual practices, a professional entertainer and a punchline that name-checks a stratum of society commonly found in countries with an honours system, and you got yourself a joke. Add a few more professional entertainers and you got yourself a something you can almost pass off as a film.

Stand-up comedy is a closed world, much like a monastery or an Austrian family. The merry and jocular individuals who labour in the vineyards of laughter are aware of this and employ a number of shibboleths to root out the outsiders from the insiders. Have you ever played the ‘straight man’? Did you ‘corpse’ during your ‘set’? If these questions leave you scratching and trumping with moist confusion, then you have never been initiated into the dark mysteries of stand-up comedy. You are an outsider, and, as such would have never heard of ‘the Aristocrats’ joke were it not for this limp tendril of a reel of celluloid.

Stand-up comedians save all of their best jokes for each other. This is why everyone is clamouring to penetrate the membranous film of exclusivity that surrounds this closed world. Every once in a while, however, they afford lowly punters such as you and me a glimpse into the ‘classic material’ and ‘killer gags’ that they ordinarily share amongst themselves. One such ‘hot jaffa’, or ‘crunchy Caliph’, as they are known in the comedy universe,is ‘the Aristocrats’ joke,  which, as noted above, has been stretched out like a stringy concertina into a two hour film. Rather than attempt to summarise the essence of this ‘greasy bagpipe’, I have transcribed a number of the different versions of the joke that are offered by the various ‘saggy hacks’ who ‘spin their guff’ throughout the film:

Sarah Silverman: ‘A man goes into a circus agent’s office. He points at a picture of a womb and identifies himself as a gentile on the asperger’s spectrum. The agent says ‘great act, what do you call it?’ The man replies ‘The Aristocrats’.

Jerry Sadowicz: ‘A man goes into a circus agent’s office. He points at a picture of a gentile and identifies himself as someone on the asperger’s spectrum. Also he has a womb. The agent says ‘great act, what do you call it?’ The man replies ‘The Aristocrats’.

Terry Wogan: ‘I first heard this joke when Frank Sinatra and I were locked in a closet during WWIII. Frank had got radiation poisoning pretty bad. Now it’s well known that Frank never swore even when he was shouting at people or hanging out with his Mafia friends. But as he was so close to death and his teeth and hair were falling out (his blue eyes shining nevertheless like the empyreal towers of Jove throughout the madness of that time), he decided to cut loose on this one occasion and tell me about this blue joke called the ‘Aristocrats’. I can’t tell you what he said but it did involve the holocaust and Oedipus. The thing about it was it made you think as well as laugh. We had a good hoot, even though we knew the fallout was turning our innards and brains into poisonous shanks of deathmeat. Poor old Frank. Vegas hasn’t been the same since he died. I couldn’t possibly repeat the joke but I can tell you it was 100-carat comedy gold.’

A point frequently reiterated throughout this film is that the basic concept of the joke is so flexible that there are hypothetically an infinite number of ways in which it might be told. Thus far no-one has managed to imbue the joke with any humour as such, but comedians are a hard-working bunch, and we can rest assured that one day they will find a way to make the Aristocrats joke funny. They’ll keep fighting. And they’ll win! (to paraphrase Father of the Bride 2).


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4 Responses to “The Aristocrats”

  1. oldrope Says:

    Ouch for sentence number seven. If you count “Observe:” as a sentence. And frankly, I rather think I do.

  2. oldrope Says:

    And by “ouch” I mean, “I laughed like a rancorous pimp”

  3. oldrope Says:

    The thing is, there aren´t really hypothetically an infinite number of ways in which the joke can be told, since it´s central premise is to describe something repulsive or repugnant…. So…..

    So if one were to tell the joke in a way that neglected to do this, say for example the man in the circus agent´s office travails down a coal mine, or some such, then then (regardless of the fact that the joke has never been funny) it wouldn´t really ´work´, you couldn´t tell the joke like this. Therefore there would be ONE LESS WAY THAN INFINITY TO TELL THIS JOKE.

    Although I reckon you could count this as telling the joke ´Badly´, which I suppose is in its turn, a ´way´. Rats. Confounded once again by my own lack of reason, tied up in my confused logic. I´m like some form of physically and mentally handicapped person trying to perform a perfunctory bodily act or base sexual act.

    What do I call this confused state of being? Why, The Comedians, of course…..

  4. johnlebaptiste Says:

    The ‘set-up’ was getting a bit thin there towards the end, but then you swung in with a well-executed ‘pay-off’.

    Look at me Ma, I’m all meta-comedic and shit.

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