Aristocratic Humor


Today's Wash Post has a story about the hottest film at the Sundance Film Festival: a documentary called The Aristocrats.

For the uninitiated, "The Aristocrats" is a legendary comic routine that is given a personal twist by each performer. Its legend stems from the fact that it is a relentlessly filthy shtick:

This is the joke: A performer walks into a talent agent's office and says, wow, does he have an act, a family act. This is the setup. It is always the same. But then the joke teller proceeds to improvise, describing—sometimes for many, many minutes—the father, mother, kids, pets, grandparents, and their despicable, degrading, horrible acts of interfamilial, mmm, inappropriateness.

It is like the Kama Sutra penned by the Horned One. A cruise to the Ninth Circle of Hell.

At the end of the joke—and this part is always the same, too—the talent agent asks: "So what do you call this act?" And the punch line is: "The Aristocrats."

Whole story here. The back story that's interesting: Though the documentary is packed with comics such as Drew Carey (read his filthy and very funny Reason interview here), Robin Williams, Phyllis Diller, and Don Rickles, it may not get a distributor because the language is so bad.

One of the main people behind the film is Friend of Reason Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller and no stranger to issues of free expression (read his recent Reason interview here).

The best part of the film (which I haven't seen) is rumored to be Gilbert Gottfried's post-9/11 version, delivered at a Friar Club's roast just weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks–and right after Gottfried bombed with this gag:

"I have a flight to California. I can't get a direct flight," Mr. Gottfried said. "They said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first."

The NY Observer glossed Gottfried's version of The Aristocrats here.