Monday, September 05, 2005

The Aristocrats (2005)

This here is one funny motherfucking movie. I suppose an appreciation of this requires an ability to laugh at vulgarity just for vulgarity's sake, but then maybe not. By couching the vulgarity in the terms of this old vaudeville joke, with its anachronistic setup and its innocuous punchline and its blessed inventive freedom in the middle, the vulgarity goes beyond the literal meaning of the words and moves into the realm of the theoretical. By exploring the outer reaches of the comedic spectrum via a joke from the turn of the century, the film becomes a rumination on all humor and why certain things strike us as funny. This is bolstered by the wide variety of comics to get to tell bits of the joke, so we see what effect different deliveries can have on similar material and thus get at the heart of stand-up comedy as essentially an oratory act. Besides that, though, it still remains that this is simply one funny motherfucking movie. The best examples of the joke are mostly by comedians willing to have fun with and subvert the joke -- Sarah Silverman turns it into a true-life tale, Wendy Liebman inverts the middle and the punchline, Eddie Izzard deconstructs the joke while he's telling it, Steven Wright goes one step past the punchline, and there's also hilarious versions told in mime and as a card trick. The biggest laugh, though, comes right at the beginning, where George Carlin turns the joke into a disconcertingly detailed rumination on stool. Those without sick minds need not apply, but the sick-minded will laugh themselves sick.

Grade: A-


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