Film: The Aristocrats
In 2005, Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza made The Aristocrats, a documentary featuring about a hundred comedians telling their own version of the joke and their own stories about the history of the joke. While the joke isn't funny (which they note during the film), the comedians talking about the joke are frequently hilarious.Nobody should confuse this film with The Aristocats. Several comedians in the documentary note the hazard of accidentally saying "The Aristocats" instead of the actual punchline.
This documentary includes examples of:
- The Aristocrats: The Movie
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the version Gilbert Gottfried tells, he frequently recaps all the bodily fluids the family is covered in — including blood, urine, and feces — and only makes a big deal out of the sweat.
- Beware the Nice Ones: How many discovered that Bob Saget ain't exactly a family friendly comedian despite his work on Full House and Americas Funniest Home Videos.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Sarah Silverman's version, which places herself in the position of having been an Aristocrat, and eventually concluding that Joe Franklin raped her.
- Corpsing: Bob Saget spends half his time laughing at himself. This is in comparison to other comedians, such as George Carlin, who tell the joke ruthlessly deadpan.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: The punch line to Martin Mull's version of the joke. Three religious missionaries run afoul of an aboriginal tribe and are given a choice of "Death" or "The Aristocrats". The first two choose The Aristocrats, which consists of the men of the tribe brutally violating them in every sexual way imaginable. The third guy, having witnessed the utter horror of The Aristocrats twice now opts for death. The chief says "very well, you shall be put to death... But first, The Aristocrats!"
- Deconstructed Trope: Sarah Silverman's version is a deconstruction of the joke itself, which normally goes out of its way to never really humanize the characters. (The characters are almost never named, being 'The Father', 'The Daughter' and 'The Agent', etc.) This insulates the audience a little to the shock by abstracting it. Silverman, of course, immediately cast herself as one of the Aristocrats, not just giving you a name, but a face to all the horrible suffering she then describes. The end result is a "joke" that is incredibly uncomfortable.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Completely inverted. The whole purpose of the movie is to explain it. Due to the simple foundation of the joke and the tremendous amount of adlibbing and embellishing involved making each telling different, the joke is not killed in the explanation. Gilbert Gottfried breaks the joke down a bit to examine why it's funny:And then the talent agent says, "That's awful. What do you call the act?" Like he wants to know, like the name's the important thing! I don't understand why he would say that. It doesn't matter what it's called! Because no one is gonna book this show! Where did these people find employment?! How did they develop this act?! What made them think this was entertaining?! I mean it's surprising they haven't... that they're not all in jail! I mean... and waiting... waiting for the death penalty! You can put people to death for what goes on in the best versions of this joke! Because you're probably saying, if you have any sense of human decency, "Well, why didn't he stop them the minute he saw the father unzipping his pants?!" And saying, "This is totally wrong! Call the cops! Something horrible's happening! This is a family who are raping their own children, and performing bestiality! Why, oh, why, is he allowing this to happen!" But that's a whole other story. But, anyway, he says, "What is it called?" because in a joke that's what happens. There's no legal system at all in play in a joke.
- Inversion: The inverted version of the joke is an inversion; the act is sedate, the title is profane.
- Precision F-Strike: Wendy Liebman's version inverts the joke: describing an extremely bland, sedate act... and then the interviewer asks "What do you call that act?" "The Cocksucking Motherfuckers."
- Self-Deprecation: Carrot Top — "It's not a fucking prop act, is it?"
- Spiritual Successor: Misery Loves Comedy, which follows the same format but instead discusses the nature of pain and melancholy behind comedy.
- Orphaned Punchline meets Memetic Mutation: Since the movie took it from an In-Joke among comedians to something better known, "...the Aristocrats!" has gained status similar to "that's what she said" in some circles.
- The Voiceless: One version is told by Steven Banks as a mime... in pantomime. The best part is he does it in public while wearing a lapel microphone.
- What Could Have Been: Rodney Dangerfield and Buddy Hackett were both originally going to have scenes, but had to opt out due to health issues. Both of them passed away before the film's release.
- Wild Mass Guessing: Billy Connolly muses that the guy explaining the act in the joke will go back to his family and only then explain what they have to do.