So there’s this family of gymnasts…never mind. The ARISTOCRATS is about as simple of a film as you can have. Basically, director Paul Provenza set up interviews with various comedians and asked them to tell the “aristocrat” joke and then give their thoughts on the joke itself. As most comedians will freely admit, the joke itself is not funny. But the humor comes in how the comedian tells the joke and how far they’re willing to take it. Every comedian tells it differently and each of them has their own, sick twist on the classic joke.
The first question you probably have is; what’s the joke? Basically, the joke is this; a family of gymnasts walks into an audition. The person conducting the audition asks “what can you do”…(insert raunchy details here)…then the family says “we call ourselves the aristocrats”. I remember the previews trying to hide what the actual joke was, and the logic of that is questionable since we hear the entire joke about 50 times through the duration of the film. It doesn’t take long to tire of the joke, but it is interesting to hear the various comedians tell the joke and give it their own spin.
Most notably, Bob Saget (yes, from ‘Full House’) and Sarah Silverman give the best versions of the joke. Saget’s is funny because, well, he’s Bob Saget. Watching him tell a dirty joke is funny given how most of America knows him as the popular, single father of three. Silverman’s is funny because she just tells the joke well. If you’ve seen her standup, it should come as no surprise that she can pull off a raunchy joke. The rest of the comedians give pedestrian deliveries of the joke and I got the feeling that some of them weren’t prepared to give the joke. But then again, that’s kind of the fun of the joke in that every comedian has to come up with something on the spot.
The documentary isn’t so much about getting comedians to tell a joke to make you laugh, it’s really more about the legend of the joke and its impact on the comedians working today. Everyone has their opinion on it, but from what I can gather, it’s kind of a competition amongst the comedians as to who can outdo who when it comes to raunchiness and inappropriateness. If you laugh, it’s just a bonus. And no, the joke really doesn’t make sense apart from its obvious political commentary. Again, that’s kind of the point; it’s an excuse for normally tame comedians to let loose amongst their peers and tell a dirty joke without public backlash.
As far as the movie goes, the novelty wears off pretty fast. We understand the point of the film pretty quickly and the remainder of the time, we have to listen to comedians say the same thing about the joke and then tell the same joke several times. Since the joke isn’t funny to begin with, the movie is a little dry. There are some interesting moments (Gilbert Gottfried’s roast joke), but overall the film feels longer than the 80 minute runtime.