You may have heard the premise already. There is an infamous joke known by all comedians, but rarely told outside their elite circle. It’s known as the Aristocrats, and it’s the perfect joke teller’s joke. In this doco we get to see dozens of comedians not only retell the gag, but talk about their own personal experiences of performing it, philosophise on its attraction, and in some cases respond to it.
And you know what? It works. I really found it hard to imagine that such an idea could sustain an 89 minute doco, but for the most part, it does. And it is, in fact, one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
With so many comedians, it’s no wonder that The Aristocrats would be entertaining. There are big names here – Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Jason Alexander, Billy Connolly, Whoopie Goldberg, Chris Rock and Robin Williams (who looks like he’s been accosted whilst jogging on the beach), but these are just a fraction of the talent that is interviewed. There are many more lesser-knowns (and veterans) who impart their knowledge and understanding of a joke that has the potential to be the most disgusting any audience has ever heard.
In what is an incredible piece of editing, The Aristocrats is 89 minutes of uninterrupted talking. No reverse shots of interviewers, no voice overs, no chapter titles. From start to finish, they’re all talking about the same thing.
The most amusing part of being in a full cinema viewing The Aristocrats (and I’m sure that’s the only way to see it) is that the first time the joke was told, NO ONE laughed. There was an uneasy silence, as if everyone was thinking ‘holy crap, we have over an hour of retellings to go?’ But this is simply to detail the concept behind the joke. After that there was a lot of giggles, chuckles and guffaws.
The film probably was about 10 minutes too long, but just when you think it’s nearing its use-by date, they pop in another version of the joke, and it has you in stitches. It’s hard to rate this film accurately, and by traditional standards it probably fails. A succession of badly lit, poorly filmed face to camera shots, that look like they were edited on a home computer. It’s also rather uneven, some segments producing no laughs whatsoever.
The Aristocrats is not for those easily offended. This is quite possibly the filthiest thing you will hear on our screens for a long time. But it is interminably hilarious.Rating: