Sunday, October 3, 2010

Paul Provenza - The Aristocrats (2005)

This is a documentary about a joke. It is a joke only told by comedians to other comedians. The outline of the joke is a man goes into an agent's office and says he has a family act. He then either acts out or describes the most obscene acts possible. The stunned agent says, "And what do you call yourselves?" and the man answers, "The Aristocrats." Each comedian describes how he tells the story. Each is different, each tries to get an element of surprise out of their listeners, who are assumed to be other comedians. The joke is told in parts. It is told in reverse order, by men and by women. Each finds a way to make the joke their own. The genesis of the documentary was when Gilbert Gottfried performed at the Hugh Heffner roast three weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Everyone was almost afraid to laugh and Gottfried came on second after the first act had bombed. Gottfried told a highly obscene version of the joke that totally broke up the audience, changing the tone of the evening. It was never telecast, but changed the whole evening. Penn & Teller produced the movie as a documentary on the joke every comedian knows but never tells on stage.

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