Innovation is Jillette


[The Aristocrats] emerged out of a series of late-night discussions between Jillette and Provenza, in which the pair would sit in restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip, gulping decaffeinated coffee and discussing (to borrow Jillette's phrase) "the most pretentious shit possible." For example? "We talk an awful lot about whether you have to stop at libertarianism or go onto to anarchocapitalism," Jillette said the other day. Luckily, Jillette and Provenza steered themselves away from anarchocapitalism (Death to Aristocrats?) and toward the science of dirty jokes. Out popped The Aristocrats, which had a small theatrical release but ignited a cultural interest in filth. (The new DVD hovers near the top of the sales charts.) If The Aristocrats was a celebration of bawdy free expression and the vanishing art of joke-telling, it was also a celebration of Penn Jillette's peculiar worldview—something like the academic art known as radical deconstruction.

Bryan "Middlebrow" Curtis profiles the louder half of Penn & Teller.

NEXT: Fire in Beirut

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  1. I’ve always said I’ll worry about whether minarchism or anarcho-capitalism is better once we pare the government down to a minarchist level.

  2. I saw Penn and Teller live when I was younger. After the show, they were in the lobby talking to people and signing autographs (how good is that?), and someone asked Teller why he never spoke. He replied, “It’s my show. I can do whatever the fuck I want to.”

  3. Anarchocapitalism is for fags. Bullshit is usually a good watch, although if you only have money for either HBO or Showtime, definitely go with HBO.

  4. Luckily, Jillette and Provenza steered themselves away from anarchocapitalism

    I dunno, Tim. Sounds like a fun discusion to me.

    Anarchocapitalism is for fags.

    Then you’re gonna have to count me as a counterfactual, Herrick. I’m attracted to both, girls and anaechocapitalism. Also, I wish the anarchocapitalists luck cuz we certainly need to move in that direction

  5. It would have been nice if some of that had made it into the movie. Despite Jillette’s asides in the film about the cultural meaning of the joke (the jazz analogy and all that), the film never really addresses those issues in a meaningful way — besides maybe the throwaway lines by Chris Rock, Lisa Lampanelli’s comments, and maybe Silverman’s bit. It certainly doesn’t explain why the crew cracks up over Saget’s rendition. Overall, an ounce of pretension might have helped.


  6. Talk about innovative, check out Penn’s patent for a hot tub to get women off.

  7. It would have been nice if some of that had made it into the movie.

    It certainly would have been more entertaining than whatever the hell it was Sarah Silverman was trying to say…

  8. Anarchocapitalism is for fags.

    Since, by prior announcements, Herrick and his balls are loud and proud and gay and here to stay, I am taking this as an ironically subversive, in-your-face proclamation of his support for an-capism.

  9. “It certainly would have been more entertaining than whatever the hell it was Sarah Silverman was trying to say…”

    um, that was the best part of the movie. if you’re into brilliance, that is.

  10. For a second I thought this thread was about the razor with 5 blades on one side and one on the other.

  11. “that was the best part of the movie.”

    Yeah, I thought that part was pretty damn funny too. I hadn’t really seen much by her I liked, but now I’m inclined to check out Jesus Is Magic (I think that’s the right name…).

    Also on that movie – way too much George Carlin (who for my money hasn’t been funny since the mid 80s, with the exception of Bill and Ted), and not enough Robin Williams, Chris Rock, and Penn himself, among others. I still thought it was overall a really funny movie though.

  12. Mo,

    Yeah, I remember the commercials when two blade shavers first came out. They explained the function of both blades-“The first blade pulls the whisker out further and then the second one whacks it off.” I wanna hear em explain the function of the third, forth, and fifth blades.

  13. Rick Barton,

    The third and fourth blades hold the recalcitrant hair down, while the fifth blade gives it a stern lecture about not growing in this neighborhood again.

  14. Sarah Silverman rocks! and I remember a spot on the old, much-missed era of Saturday Night Live, with a razor commercial with multiple blades–when Mach 3 came out, I wondered……

  15. Incidentally, let me take this moment to once again endorse Penn & Teller for president and vice president respectively in 2008. Or maybe Teller should be president. Hmmm. In any case, they should run and make a movie out of their campaign.

    Fast forward to 2010. Days after President Jillete does a card trick for all of the leaders of the Middle East, they submit totally to U.S. domination when they see their card (the 3 of clubs) emblazoned on the face of the Moon.

  16. ironically i just rented the aristorats over the weekend. worst movie i have ever seen. a bunch of comics talking about feces for an hour and a half??? not even a chuckle anywhere in it. yet we’re told endlessly what an important and daring movie it is.

    we could have a totally free society for the first time in history, and if this is the kind of crap it comes up with, it still wouldn’t be worth living in. sorry to get all “ayn rand” and shit, but come on.

  17. Fuck everything, We’re doing 5 blades

    At this rate, The Onion has a better record for predicting the future than Miss Cleo and Sylvia Brown combined.

  18. I’m a big fan of Penn & Teller, but The Aristocrats is a long stretch to see a 2 or 3 genuinely funny bits.

    “100 Comedians Telling 1 Joke!” Unfortunately all but a few of them tell it pretty much the same way.

    Sure it’s dirty. Now can someone please just make it funny.

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