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The Aristocrats

Starring just about every living stand-up comedian
Screenplay by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette
Directed by Paul Provenza

IN SHORT: As low as you can go and very funny. Until it's not. [Not Rated. 89 minutes]

The joke dates back to the days of Vaudeville, either allegedly really happening at least one, but more than likely told in closed session by one comedian to another. Down the years it has evolved, perhaps devolved, always behind the locked doors of the after hours comedian's stomping grounds. It begins, in one form or another, like this:

"A man, his wife and two children, and their dog step into the office of a talent booking agent. The man tells the agent, "Have we got an act for you..." When the agent asks them to demonstrate, the group performs just about every sexual perversion imaginable. In the telling, the more vile, degrading, disgusting, reprehensible the act, the better. The punch line to the bit goes something along the lines of . . . "We can do this because we're (The) Aristocrats!"

It's funnier than what it looks like in black and white. That being said, be warned that the four letter words fly fast and furious. If you've never hung out in a comedy club at two or three in the ayem, after watching The Aristocrats you'll have an idea of what goes on when the moral blinkers come off.

But we'll let Penn Jillette put it as plainly as possible: "Our flick ain't for everyone. Our movie uses that four letter word that begins with C. Our movie uses that word a lot. A way lot. You know the word; It's the word you say and everyone is automatically sexually harassed. A hostile work environment in one word. It's the word that adults call "The C word" in front of other adults. Adults who say every other dirty word as every part of speech won't say that C word. When The Aristocrats say the C word in the movie, it's worse than just using the C word. We don't use it in anger or as a mere ejaculation. We don't even use it as synecdoche. The Aristocrats mean it as the real thing. We're not just using dirty words; we're using dirty images, and dirty ideas. And even worse, we're doing it just for fun. Just for a laugh. The movie's not for everyone."

Those who participate are truly A-list, including Jason Alexander, Lewis Black, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Billy Connolly, Phyllis Diller, Carrie Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Emo Philips, Paul Reiser, Don Rickles, Chris Rock, Bob Saget -- oh Beware what Bob Saget lets loose with! Beware! Beware! -- Sarah Silverman, the Smothers Brothers, David Steinberg, Carrot Top, Bruce Vilanch, Fred Willard, Robin Williams, Steven Wright and a couple of dozen more. For reasons best understood by those who once burned the midnight oil, New York television legend Joe Franklin is part of this thing, too.

Even for those who have the stomach for it -- a New York born and bred Cranky for instance -- overkill is overkill. Either the rest of the material is funny or it isn't. Featuring just about every living comedian who sprung from the world of standup, The Aristocrats is potty mouth humor at its very finest. It remains crisp and funny for as long as you can take getting pummeled by the language. In our case, that was almost to the end of the film and Gilbert Gottfried's spew of the tale at a roast for Hugh Hefner. In general, once you get past the South Park crew pouring it out of their animated mouths, done is done.

RECOMMENDED, with warnings

We're not going to put the usual dollar rating on The Aristocrats -- what the title means is part and parcel of the joke, btw -- but we will repeat our self: If you have no stomach for crude language and four letter words of any kind stay home. Those who choose to see the film, see it in a crowd of the like minded. We can't see the film being as funny as a solo rental, but we could be wrong. Of course, we have a life . . .

That diss rendered, see it with a group. Once is probably enough, unless you go back blotto. With perspective granted by almost two decades of sobriety, we did find our self wondering if we'd totally lose it if we were to watch The Aristocrats stoned to the gills. The answer is: if we hadn't been bored to sleep by the time of the South Park 'toon, those kidlets were funny enough to make things very messy, indeed.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.