2005-09-09 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

What could be the most frightening film or this or any other year surprisingly features performances by close to 100 comedians. It’s “The Aristocrats,” two words which serve as the punch-line to what’s touted as the “Dirtiest Joke of All Time.”

The film highlights a multitude of comics discussing or actually telling the joke, each in their own unique way. While the gag is not, in itself, very funny, the setup is everything, allowing the teller to include the most vile images imaginable.

The basic idea of the joke is that a comedy team enters a talent agent’s office. The agent asks what they do. Here, the joke-teller is free to invent the most disgusting, disturbing act, with nothing off limits. When the agent asks for the name of the group, he is told, “The Aristocrats.” (One comedian changes it to “The Sophisticates,” which, I believe, is better.)

The joke, we are told, is ancient, dating back to vaudevillian times, but rarely presented to the public. It’s an inside gag, amongst professional comics.

The problem is that the only time the joke works in the film is before an audience. At Hugh Hefner’s 2001 Friar’s Club Roast, Gilbert Gottfried jumped on it in desperation after he almost self-destructed with a “too soon” 9/11 bit. With the World Trade Center tragedy fresh on everyone’s minds, extreme vulgarity was, in fact, appropriate. It blew away the dense depression, which had settled over the audience like a mental mushroom cloud.

However, much of the 86-minute movie shows solo shots of comedians telling the joke to the camera. What happens is far from funny and often quite disturbing. In their efforts to out gross-out each other, their sick descriptions of bestiality, incest, necrophilia, vomiting and defecation grow darker and darker until the comedians transform into BTK killers offering sick confessions. The most horrific of all comes from none other than Bob Saget, once the perfect parent on TV’s “Full House,” but now the new Norman Bates.

As I entered the Malverne Cinema 4 on Sunday night, I was stuck by an assortment of disclaimers warning of extreme vulgarity in “The Aristocrats” and cautioning that any disgusted patrons would not receive their money back.

In other words, enter at your own risk.

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