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View Full Version : "The Aristocrats": what's the joke?


Otto
07-17-2005, 11:07 AM
This documentary The Aristocrats that I hear tell of. As I understand it, it consists pretty much solely of several dozen comedians each telling "the dirtiest joke in the world"? AMC's not going to allow it in its theatres and it may be that other theatre chains will follow suit, meaning that those of us outside the major metropolitan areas might not get to see the film.

So what's the joke?

ultrafilter
07-17-2005, 11:11 AM
If you Google on "south park aristocrats joke", you can find a video of Cartman telling the joke.

Mr. Blue Sky
07-17-2005, 11:13 AM
Here (http://waxy.org/random/video/southpark_aristocrats.wmv)

The idea of the movie is that several comedians tell the joke with the same punchline, but make up the middle parts.

Mr. Blue Sky
07-17-2005, 11:16 AM
Suffice to say, it is NOT safe for work.

Revtim
07-17-2005, 11:26 AM
Not safe for a lot of homes, too.

AHunter3
07-17-2005, 12:18 PM
Is there anything funny in it for someone who doesn't find "dirty words" or sexual activities deliberately described in filthy tones intrinsically amusing?

I remember 2nd grade, and how some of the boys would tell "dirty jokes" which consisted not of punch lines or setups but just an excuse to tell long bawdy sex-and-toilet shaggy dog stories. Is this like that?

Or is it second-hand funny like laughing at the victim-audience of a shaggy-dog story being told because they're expecting it to be funny and instead the storyteller is making them listen to this interminably bad tale that has no point or punchline?

ultrafilter
07-17-2005, 12:27 PM
In the South Park version, a large part of the comedy is watching the other kids react to Cartman's telling of the joke. But other than that, yeah, it's pretty much just one obscene act after another.

toadspittle
07-17-2005, 01:02 PM
So what's the joke?

As the South Park link demonstrates, the joke is basically this:

Family goes into a talent agent's office. Say, "we have a great act."

Talent agent says, "I'm not interested in family acts."

Family pleads to be allowed to demonstrate their act. Agent relents.

The "act" is one vile, disgusting, tasteless thing after another. At the end, the agent says, "wow, that's some act--what do you call yourselves?"

The family replies, "The Aristocrats!"


So the joke is that they do all this classless stuff and call themselves by a classy name. But the humor, as in most cases, is in the delivery (namely, what vile stuff the comedian thinks to put into the "act").

Cat Fight
07-17-2005, 02:30 PM
I love bawdy humour and most of the comedians involved (especially Saget), but I just don't think the joke is funny. In the least. Any time I've read or heard it. Will I still lke the movie?

nivlac
07-17-2005, 03:17 PM
Nope, not funny to me. All during the vulgar descriptions, I was expecting a spectacular punchline as the payoff. What a disappointment.

Revtim
07-17-2005, 03:42 PM
In the South Park version, a large part of the comedy is watching the other kids react to Cartman's telling of the joke. But other than that, yeah, it's pretty much just one obscene act after another.The funniest part of that IMO is the end where one of the boys says "I don't get it" and Cartman says "Neither do I...".

HelloKitty
07-19-2005, 06:20 PM
Thanks for the explanation. I really was expecting the joke to at least make sense...

ultrafilter
07-19-2005, 06:23 PM
Thanks for the explanation. I really was expecting the joke to at least make sense...

If you view it as the storyteller playing a joke on the audience, it does (and it's pretty good, IMO).

Telemark
07-19-2005, 06:26 PM
It's a very dirty varient of a Shaggy Dog story. It all depends on the storyteller, since it's not about the joke.

MovieMogul
07-19-2005, 06:43 PM
Thanks for the explanation. I really was expecting the joke to at least make sense...Well, the joke does make sense, though the punchline is satiric--here you have a family so desperate to get into show business that they're willing to debase themselves in the most vile and sordid matter possible. However, they're equally desperate to hold onto whatever tiny shred of dignity they still might have by trying to present themselves (in a completely delusional matter) as a "class act". And what could be more classy than calling yourself "The Aristocrats"?

It's the very last thing you would expect such an act to call itself, which is why it's funny (just like the last thing you'd expect a sensitive and refined piano solo to be called is "Lick My Love Pump"--also funny).

Diogenes the Cynic
07-19-2005, 07:05 PM
From what I read about this, the joke was originally used by veteran comics as a way to mess with the heads of novices before they went on stage. The humor is not the joke itself so much as it is in the attempt to shock the person that the joke is being told to as well (as in the case of the movie) for comics to try to one up each other on the obscenity and depravity of the details.

saoirse
07-19-2005, 08:18 PM
That's how I heard it: the joke is an old comedy tradition that goes back to turn-of-the-century vaudeville, and probably further. Apparently every comedian in America is familiar with this joke, and it's been a sort of inside tradition for years.

Cervaise
07-19-2005, 08:25 PM
I love bawdy humour and most of the comedians involved (especially Saget), but I just don't think the joke is funny. In the least. Any time I've read or heard it. Will I still lke the movie?I saw the movie a couple of months ago at a film festival. I don't think the joke is particularly funny (it's more abstractly amusing, in that nodding-at-absurdity way), but the movie is fucking piss-your-pants and shit-in-your-popcorn funny.

fubbleskag
07-19-2005, 09:42 PM
piss-your-pants and shit-in-your-popcorn funny aptly put

Enright3
07-19-2005, 09:43 PM
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_aristocrats) has this to say.

Zebra
07-19-2005, 10:27 PM
AMC theatres has decided to not show this movie in any of their theatres.


So, if they are the only game in your town, you probably will have to wait.

Good Egg
07-19-2005, 11:15 PM
I just read an article in Rolling Stone on this today. It was mostly about Gilbert Gottfried, who is also in it. I think it can be funny the way certain ones tell it. I have no doubt Carlin could make it or any joke funny simply with his delivery.

Misnomer
07-19-2005, 11:27 PM
I think it's a given that the joke itself is kind of lame; what's (supposedly) funny is the spin that each comedian puts on the telling.

I just read an article in Rolling Stone on this today.Me, too! I added it to my Netflix queue afterwards. :)

Good Egg
07-19-2005, 11:54 PM
I doubt Cosby will be in it then?

mobo85
07-20-2005, 12:42 PM
I doubt Cosby will be in it then?

Yuh see, there's this family, right, and they all go into the talent office, and they've got themselves these Jell-O puddin' pops, and they say to the agent, "Hey hey hey! Have we got an act for you today!"...

I got nothin'.

Telemark
07-20-2005, 12:57 PM
Yuh see, there's this family, right, and they all go into the talent office, and they've got themselves these Jell-O puddin' pops, and they say to the agent, "Hey hey hey! Have we got an act for you today!"...

God: Noah. This is God. Call your act "The Aristocrats".
Noah: Riiiiiight.

NDP
07-20-2005, 01:42 PM
Yuh see, there's this family, right, and they all go into the talent office, and they've got themselves these Jell-O puddin' pops, and they say to the agent, "Hey hey hey! Have we got an act for you today!"...
God: Noah. This is God. Call your act "The Aristocrats".
Noah: Riiiiiight.
Considering what the act conisists of, I think it would be more fitting to have Lot and his daughters do it.

Johnny Angel
07-20-2005, 01:56 PM
I read an article about this, I think a couple of months ago, and my understanding was that being funny was not the point. The point was to mess with a newbie's head. These old comedians would tell the joke, and all the old heads would start laughing hillariously. Then either the victim stares dumbly, which becomes the joke, or is caught up in the infectiousness of laughter, in which case the old timers stop laughing and say, "Why did you laugh? There was no joke there."

Jurph
07-20-2005, 02:21 PM
Considering what the act conisists of, I think it would be more fitting to have Lot and his daughters do it.


And then, he whittles the pillar of salt into a giant CHECK PLEASE.

Eve
07-20-2005, 02:32 PM
That's how I heard it: the joke is an old comedy tradition that goes back to turn-of-the-century vaudeville, and probably further. Apparently every comedian in America is familiar with this joke, and it's been a sort of inside tradition for years.

I'd love to have heard Eddie Cantor, Fannie Brice and Burns & Allen tell it.

George: "So, Gracie, you and your brother walked into an agent's office?"

WordMan
07-20-2005, 02:40 PM
I'd love to have heard Eddie Cantor, Fannie Brice and Burns & Allen tell it.

George: "So, Gracie, you and your brother walked into an agent's office?"


I bet Gracie could swear like a longshoreman.

I would've loved to hear W.C. Fields tell it...

MovieMogul
07-20-2005, 03:04 PM
...or the Marx Brothers.

Diogenes the Cynic
07-20-2005, 03:20 PM
A lot of those people probably did tell the joke. The Marx Brothers came right out of Vaudville. I'd love to hear Groucho telling the joke. I'd bet he was both filthy and hilarious.

MovieMogul
07-20-2005, 03:22 PM
A lot of those people probably did tell the joke. The Marx Brothers came right out of Vaudville. I'd love to hear Groucho telling the joke. I'd bet he was both filthy and hilarious."...and two hard boiled eggs."

Cervaise
07-20-2005, 05:31 PM
I have no doubt Carlin could make it or any joke funny simply with his delivery.Carlin is in the Aristocrats movie, but mostly for philosophy and history. This being a largely improvisational joke, it doesn't really fit in his style, which (IIRC) he himself admits. For his act, he works out every word, pause, and tonal shift beforehand, while this joke, in contrast, works best (insofar as it "works" at all) when it's totally off the cuff, as it's designed to show the comic riffing in the humor equivalent of jazz. As an example, I don't find Robin Williams particularly funny, but his take on the joke in the movie is pretty amusing.

pravnik
07-20-2005, 06:22 PM
Bob Saget's take on it:
The purpose of the joke, what I thought was funny about it, is that people will do anything to make it in show business,” Mr. Saget said. “Because everybody wants to be famous. Not everybody—smart people don’t. And this is how low someone will go to be famous. They will have sex with their own family. What I find funny about it is the desperation.So it's funny (or unfunny) on many levels.

Interview (http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:46je8XW7cJAJ:angrynakedpat.com/wwwboard/messages65/956.htm+%22go+home+to+Los+Angeles+for+one+night+before+the+run+ends%22&hl=en&lr=&strip=1)

DMark
07-20-2005, 06:24 PM
The joke sounds a lot like the script for an A&E Biography of Paris Hilton.

RickJay
07-20-2005, 07:03 PM
Having read a few versions of the joke, it really can be funny, if it's told correctly.

It's not just being super dirty. It has to be amazingly filthy, but clever flithy, not just going nuts. For instance, some versions have the family actually killing each other - but that takes away from the funny, because you need to imagine all of them, at the end of the act, grinning at the talent agent, having performed their vile act and knowing that they practiced it beforehand. As Bob Saget points out, the family's desperation is an important part of making the joke really work well.

I can see a talented comedian really killing with this joke. I can tell a pretty good joke and if I think about it, my best deliveries had people laughing harder before the punch line than after. Jokes are about timing and punchline but also about delivery. (The joke about the French Foreign Legion lieutenant who doesn't understand how to use the camel is always good in this regard.)

In the hands of a true master - Groucho, say, or Richard Pryor - they could make you laugh your ass off with "The Aristocrats." It works on so many levels; it's a joke about people getting into showbiz, it's a simple joke on the word "Aristocrats," it's a way for a true master comedian to display his skill, it's a joke on the audience, it's a way to tittilate the audience with hilarious and digusting sex descriptions.

Revtim
07-20-2005, 07:18 PM
It's not just being super dirty. It has to be amazingly filthy, but clever flithy, not just going nuts. For instance, some versions have the family actually killing each other - but that takes away from the funny, because you need to imagine all of them, at the end of the act, grinning at the talent agent, having performed their vile act and knowing that they practiced it beforehand.Yes, I agree. I read one version where the daughter is killed and they roast and eat her.

Stuff like that isn't funny, and not just because it's too sick. Primarily, IMHO, it's not funny because it's not the "opposite" of being aristocratic. That's the key to the joke.

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