Reviewing the Best and Worst of The Aristocrats


I won't deny it. I have very mixed feelings about Provenza/Gillette’s The Aristocrats. A busy life kept me from remembering to rent the DVD for some time, but this week my husband brought it home and we finally watched it. Here's my breakdown:


The importance of taking advantage of First Amendment Right to Free Speech in the making of this film—especially the shots of the father’s telling the foulest parts of their versions of the jokes to their infant sons—that was just so “wrong” and its “wrongness” was what was most “right” about this film.

My favorites: The mime version of the joke. Judy Gold's pregnant version.


The analysis of why this joke is a comedian insider joke. The joke’s not particularly funny except among comedians. The genuine laughter at moments was wonderful.

Chris Rock’s analysis of why Black comedians don’t tend to tell the joke: we expect Black comedians to tell dirty jokes, and this one just isn’t that shocking, except, arguably, to middle-class white people. I’d put this aspect in the Great column, except that (1) being white and middle class, I really wanted to hear Rock’s version and (2) Whoopi Goldberg was the only other Black comedian in the entire video and, though her version was absolutely hysterical (foreskins pulled up over heads as they sang!!), she did not adequately fill my desire to see a more diverse cast of comedians presented.


As I just noted, how about some Variety?! Dump the horrid ventriloquist guy and trim a few others and you’d have time for more women, comedians of color, and other kinds of difference. Amazing cast of Jewish comics, but it gives the illusion that that’s all that’s going on in stand-up, and it ain’t. Provenza and Gillette could have dug a lot deeper and presented more new, non-whiteboy comics, surely.


Filming. Horrid camerawork throughout, annoyingly amateur in a number of scenes.

Several poor, pointless versions of the joke. Steven Wright’s version of the joke was high on my list of bad versions. Where is the creativity in some of these takes? How many times can we hear about sodomizing young children, dog sex, and scat without just getting bored?

Moments of forced/fake laughter. Come on, y'all, we're not that stupid.

Cutting out Ron Jeremy’s poem/rap version of the joke (see DVD extras). Why??


Too bizarre for words was the mime act of an abortion (on the DVD extras). Troubling politically, psychologically disturbing (that this mime thought through his presentation so meticulously was very creepy). And why is a male mime doing an abortion? Just shock value? I doubt you'll think that if you see it. I hated it but couldn’t look away.


After listening to all the repetitive boring versions, I’d definitely go more for either the meta-joke (the joke that is a critique/twist of the joke, like Sarah Silverman’s “Joe Franklin raped me” version, the “we already have an act like that” take, or the one where a polite and elegant act is called “The Cum-sucking Twats”) or add some new kinky flavors to it. How about the boy being hoisted on meat hooks above the floor so when he shits it splashes the first three rows of the audience? or the family painting themselves ritually with their daughter's first menstrual blood then doing the hora around a goat fucking a chicken? maybe a bit too Jewish...

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