The Aristocrats
A Film by Penn Jillette & Paul Provenza
Hank Azaria, Lewis Black, George Carlin
Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher
and some 80 more stand-up comics
ThinkFilms 2006
88 minutes
Extras: some 2 hours

The Aristocrats was the must see event at the 2005 Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival and, logically, the talk of the town. When a movie gets that much of a build up, chances are you will be disappointed. The comedy DVD version of The Aristocrats is an absolute must for any, even casual, fan of stand-up comedy.

The Aristocrats features a who’s who of stand up all delivering a very dirty joke based on a very simple premise, A father and his family walk into a talent agent?s office, and a very simple punch line. What happens between these two moments is absolutely filthy humour at its best.

Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza have put together the only comedy DVD ever about a single joke and, in many ways, the best DVD about stand-up comedy and the language of a joke you can get.

The construction of the joke The Aristocrats, the most front-loaded dirty joke in the business, depends very much on the stand-up comic telling it. It is a very personal yet universal (in the English language anyways) dirty joke that reveals as much about the listener as it does about the comic telling it.

The Aristocrats is a movie about a joke but it is also a study of humor and what works. It features a who’s who of those stand-up comics still alive when the movie was filmed including George Carlin, who pontificates on the topic, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Mull, Steven Wright, Doug Stanhope, Lisa Lampanelli, Bill Maher, Dana Gould, Judy Gold, and so on and so on.

There are many versions of The Aristocrats presented in the movie itself. The most stunning are performed by Eric Mead, who does a card trick version that will knock your socks off, and by Billy the Mime, yes, a bloody freaking mime, who actually proves that not all mimes should be shot on sight. The South Park version is definitely worth watching, David Brenner does the joke with a Declaration of Independence twist,

Dana Gould gives The Aristocrats a surreal Amish version as well as a version as it would have been performed by Johnny Carson. Other good versions include the Kevin Pollack doing Christopher Walken and Doug Stanhope and another stand-up comedian who tell this filthy joke to their baby sons. Some would argue Gilbert Gottfried now owns the joke since her performed it at the Friar?s Club soon after 9/11 but since that particular version is not fully available (Jillette says it is) on this comedy DVD, he gets beaten out by others (although his stand-up comedy CD proves he does own the joke). There is only one bad moment in this movie is when the ventriloquist (well, I guess he was a ventriloquist but his lips kept moving) does the joke with his dummy.

If there is one flaw to The Aristocrats is that the comics are not identified on screen. Even the most knowledgeable fan of stand-up comedy will fail to recognize some of the faces in the movie. This is somewhat made up for during the credits when you get the long version of The Aristocrats joke spliced together from takes by various stand-up comics but it is still a bit annoying not to immediately be able to tell who?s who.

When it comes to extra features, The Aristocrats is absolutely packed. Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza provide an intelligent and useful director?s commentary track (and how rare is that?). Other extras include More From The Comics where you get longer takes of some of the interviews in the movie, The Aristocrats do The Aristocrats (another spliced together telling of the joke), For Johnny Carson where Dana Gould does the Carson version and we are told Carson’s favorite joke, footage from the winners of Be An Aristocrat contest, and an interesting (again, a rarity) trailer.

The Aristocrats: Extras

Commentary by Penn Jillette & Paul Provenza

More From the Comedians:

Gilbert Gottfried
Bob Saget: I Have No Filter
Hank Azaria: The Ultimate Punch Line
Kevin Pollack: It’s A Possession
Sarah Silverman: People Think It’s A Weird Way To Grow Up
Lewis Black: That’s Really All I Have To Say
Taylor Negron: I Am An Aristocrat
Jason Alexander and Peter Tilden: Never Open With That
Jon Stewart: I’m Not Telling The Joke
Doug Stanhope: Remember When I Took You To Seaworld?
Whoopi Goldberg: I’m A Story Teller
Phyllis Diller: I’m A One Liner Queen
Richard Jeni: I Can Do This
Jake Johannsen: I’m Not Sure I’m The Right Guy To Tell It
Merril Markoe: I Went To Art School
Otto & George: The Teabags Are Resting Nicely On The Bench
Ron Jeremy: Twas On A Lovely Day In May
Billy The Mime: The Abortion
Terry Gilliam: We Talked About Film Making
The Royal Debonaires: Love Theme From The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats Do The Aristocrats
For Johnny Carson
Behind The Green Room Door: Comics tell us some of their other favorite jokes.
Be An Aristocrat Contest Winners: Live performance version and Animated version