The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats

***1/2

Reviewed by: David Stanners

Never before has the term "aristocrats" shouldered such black irony. A far-flung cry from afternoon tea in a stately home, The Aristocrats is an extremely crude, long-standing joke, told and improvised upon by US circuit comedians.

All that has to be remembered is the start and the punchline (nothing to write home about). The middle is ultimately the climax, where the comedian comes into his own, letting imagination run riot in the filthiest, most entertaining way possible. No holds are barred when it comes to the big taboos, involving sex, bestiality, paedophilia, excrement, or any bodily fluid you care to mention. And that's just the entree.

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Featuring a spate of veteran comedians, including Billy Connolly, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, generally agreeing that the joke is made durable due to its personalisation, with each comic stamping their own signature on it, keeping it fresh and full of character. The obvious underlying premise is to push the boundaries as far as they can go. The fact that it is strictly spoken as an in-joke and not performed live makes it possible to go even further into the murky world of the unthinkable.

"Incest? Been there, done that. Coprophilia? Check."

There's some truly unprecedented, gut-wrenching stuff churned out and never could the warning, "Stay away if you're easily offended," be more appropriate. In the end, it's the old contradictory chestnut of being both repulsed and attracted simultaneously that keeps you hooked.

The Aristocrats does seem to be strictly American and some of the British comedians - especially Eddie Izzard - are left asking what all the fuss is about. Fair point. But there are some gems, including a rendition of the joke mimed by a silent clown, and an even better one told through card tricks.

If you think you've heard a dirty joke, then you had better see this.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2005
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Documentary about a filthy joke, told by a succession of professional comedians.
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