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The Aristocrats - Review

The Aristocrats

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

HAVE you heard the joke about the man who walks into a talent agent’s office with his family and says, ‘have I got an act for you!’?

If not, then you’re in for a really rude surprise. If you have, then you’re still in for a rude surprise.

The Aristocrats is the name of the joke and the documentary that examines the telling of it, as well as its place in the comedy hall of fame.

It’s a one-joke movie stretched to absolute breaking point that features interviews with some of the leading comedians in the industry.

And it’s 89 minutes of pure, unadulterated filth that will either have audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter, or clutching their heads in despair.

The crux of the joke doesn’t lie in the punchline, but rather the delivery, providing comedians with a blank canvas on which to explore some truly depraved ideas.

The documentary allows them to do so in typically disgusting fashion, while also extolling its virtues and talking about its origins and how it became such an infamous classic.

The biggest joke is that it’s not actually that funny – and can be an utter disaster depending on what sort of spin gets put on it.

But it almost always has the teller in stitches, while provoking much back-slapping from fellow comedians.

The documentary allows viewers to sit back and watch the likes of Robin Williams, Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard, Paul Reiser, Whoopi Goldberg and a certain Carrie Fisher having fun with it and playing around with the format.

Indeed, the roll call of comedians who participated in Paul Provenza and Penn Jilette’s documentary is immense, meaning that the camera seldom dwells with one person for more than a couple of minutes.

At 89 minutes, however, the joke does start to wear thin and the film could do with some judicious pruning.

But there’s still plenty to enjoy for those who aren’t easily offended – especially since the joke is never told in the same way twice.

Highlights include Kevin Pollack performing it in the style of Christopher Walken and Eric Mead using playing cards and magic to get the message across.

Billy The Mime provides a fascinating silent version, while Whoopi Goldberg and Bob Saget put their own particularly disgusting spin on it.

Whether you view it as a work of genius that effectively explores the workings of the unrestricted comic mind, or as a self-important and self-congratulatory piece of comic masturbation depends entirely on whether the idea of such a joke seems worth it.

What’s for certain, however, is that you shouldn’t enter the cinema if you are easily offended.

This open-minded critic laughed a lot, yawned a little but won’t be re-telling it at dinner parties.

Certificate: 18