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The Aristocrats Keeps Getting Raves!

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By Michael Calleri
ALTPRESS.com Movie Editor

The Aristocrats is a documentary feature in which nearly 100 comics tell or discuss the same joke. It’s a classic joke, rarely heard except within the world of comedy clubs and backstage get-togethers. The gag is much like a secret handshake in a private club. The joke goes back to vaudeville days and, who knows, perhaps court jesters were telling it to noble kings, or buffoons were letting it roll for Roman emperors.

The joke goes something like this: a family walks into a talent agent’s office and the father tells the agent he has a great act. The agent says show me. The family – it can include dad, mom, little kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, pets (depends on who’s telling the joke) then shows the agent the routine. It’s the filthiest routine ever imagined. Vulgar, lewd, rude, crude, dirty, disgusting, etc. When they are done, the agent says “great, but what do you call it?” With a Ta-Da flourish, the father says: “we call it The Aristocrats.”

Not funny, you say? Trust me, it’s utterly hilarious because every comic who tells the gag in the movie puts his or her own spin on the joke and that spin can take you to Pluto and beyond and then back again. You’ve never heard anything like “the aristocrats” joke told in all its belly-busting glory. And hearing the same joke told and re-told is not tiresome because everyone tells it differently. What you discover as you watch The Aristocrats is that you’re sitting in on a comic education. The movie touches on the history of the gag. It reveals how to properly tell a joke. It delivers insights on style and timing. Ultimately, the movie’s not just about telling a joke, it’s about the nature of humor and why we laugh.

The film is directed by comic Paul Provenza and features such comic superstars (some are performers, some are writers) as George Carlin, Robin Williams, Gilbert Gottfried, Eddie Izzard, Carrot Top, Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Chris Rock, Tim Conway, Pat Cooper, Whoopi Goldberg, Mario Cantone, Michael McKean, Emo Philips, Martin Mull, Don Rickles, Rita Rudner, Penn Jillette, Teller, Bruce Vilanch, Fred Willard, Steven Wright, Chuck McCann, Merrill Markoe, Jon Stewart, The Smothers Brothers, Carrie Fisher, Rip Taylor, Paul Krassner, Richard Lewis, Eric Idle, Joe Franklin, Bill Maher, David Brenner, Billy Connolly, and many others.