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The Aristocrats

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B
Video/Audio/Extras: B-/B-/A+

Directed by: Paul Provenza
Produced by: Peter Adam Golden
Starring: George Carlin, Drew Carey, Phyllis Diller, Sarah Silverman, Robin Williams, Billy Connolly, Trey Parker
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

There is a documentary for everything these days. There are documentaries about presidents, restaurants, spelling bees and celebrity dates. I'm still waiting for that documentary about ferris wheels (if there already is one, send me an e-mail). The magical team, Penn & Teller decided it would be fun to make a non-fiction film about the dirtiest joke in show business and bring in every possible comedian to tell their version of it. However, what happens if the joke isn't very funny and pretty much allows them to completely push the politically correct envelope. Despite that, what the audience is treated to is a somewhat entertaining documentary.

"The Aristocrats" is a joke that has been told among comedians of many generations and is said to be Johnny Carson's favourite joke. The beginning involves a family walking into a talent agent's office and saying that they have a great act that the agent has to see. The middle, which involves the telling of the act, can be whatever the joke teller wants. Most comedians put in references to animal sex, manure, sperm and other subject that make people squirm. Finally, the joke ends with the agent asking what the act is called, to which the family replies "The Aristocrats." It's not a very funny joke, though, and many comedians even say that they despise it. Many of the people in the documentary have different ways of telling the joke. Drew Carey ends it with a snap, Trey Parker tells it in animated form and Kevin Pollak does a Christopher Walken impression.

When one hears the premise of The Aristocrats, they will most likely think it will be boring to hear various comedians tell the same joke over and over again. However, more than that happens as the various people explain what to put in the joke, how to tell, the history of the joke and the most well-known people who love the "Aristocrats" joke. Some comedian's versions aren't very good, but there are highlights. Whoopi Goldberg's short version of the joke is brilliant, yet disgusting. The infamous Carl Gottlieb version told after September 11th is also great, especially Rob Schneider's reaction to it. My favourite, though, is without a doubt the one told by Eric Cartman (voiced by Trey Parker). It's not just his telling of the joke but the reaction from Kyle (voice of Matt Stone), Stan and Kenny. Like other indepedent documentaries, the video and audio aren't great (in fact, you can see the performer's microphones aren't in great positions), but it is clear in some scenes and get a "B-" grade each.

The cover announces very proudly that The Aristocrats is a Fully Loaded DVD. Unlike other DVD covers that tout the disc inside as a special super edition, it doesn't lie about that. The first extra is a very amusing audio commentary from director Paul Provenza and executive producer Penn Jillette. They provide an interesting chat and are a very funny duo. I hope to see more films from them in the future to hear another great documentary. The next extra actually feels like an entirely new film as it provides uncut material from the various comedians featured in the film as well as people who were cut out entirely, inclung former Python Terry Gilliam and porn star Ron Jeremy.

"The Aristocrats Do The Aristocrats" combines a line from each comedian's telling of the joke to create one long, super "Aristocrats" joke. It's very entertaining to watch. That is followed by a loving tribute to the great Johnny Carson. Next, the many comedians return for a fifteen minute extra in which they tell their own jokes not at all related to "The Aristocrats." These are some of the most talented comedians in show business and their jokes are great and I had a great laugh while watching them.

We are then shown two versions of the joke by amatuer comedians. One is told by a Mickey Mouse-type fellow and it is hysterical, although it might be because of his helium voice. The other is told in pictures and is very disturbing. It shows that the joke should be told live and without drawings. Finally, the disc caps off with trailers for When Stand Up Stood Out and The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The special features provide a wealth of great never before seen footage and get the very converted "A+" grade. The Aristocrats is an interesting documentary that I recommend fans of comedy to watch. However, those who have a weak stomach should rent it first.

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