"A man walks into a talent agency..."
Comedians don't tell jokes. A proper joke seldom fits the format and atmosphere of stand-up comedy, and jokes end as soon as the audience knows the punchline.
One joke prevails over all others, however: The Aristocrats
, a joke comedians keep back to tell each other (or themselves, as a warm-up act). The details of the joke change with every telling (and who tells it), but the basic structure remains the same no matter what:
1) A family act goes in to see a talent agent. While the agent doesn't want to hear them out (because he considers family acts too cute), the father finally convinces him to give them a chance.
2) The comedian telling the joke describes the family's act in as much detail as they prefer. Sometimes, the father tells the agent a blow-by-blow description of the act, while other times, the family performs it live for the agent. The act always
involves the family performing shocking, heinous, risque, and possibly even illegal acts.
3) At the completion of the description, the shocked agent can only ask what the family calls their act. The father proudly replies, "The Aristocrats!"
In the past, the joke served as a form of satire about the upper class, but that take doesn't really apply these days
; in modern times, it's not particularly funny as a joke anymore (since it's essentially a Shaggy Dog Story
with a weak bit of irony as the punchline). The real point of the joke these days involves the description of the act itself: anyone who tells the joke must cross the line as many times
and in as many directions as humanly possible. Most comedians traditionally invent the act on the spot as they tell the joke, which turns it into an improv comedy exercise. Standard ingredients for the description of the act include incest, paedophilia, rape, death, coprophilia and urophilia note
, bodily fluids, bestiality, and pretty much every vile sex act and fetish one can think of — and every horrific act of violence, depravity, and otherwise immoral human behavior that nobody wants
to think of.
A variation upon the joke leaves the act completely tame, but gives it a shockingly disgusting name.
There is also a documentary for the jokes released in 2005.
Do not confuse with The Aristocats
We call it: The Tropes!
Different variations of this joke:
- The ones in the movie.
- That Guy with the Glasses did a nifty version, you can check it out.
- Natalie Portman made an intentionally lame attempt at this joke on Saturday Night Live. Considering this is the same episode as her infamous rap video, one can't help but wonder what it would be like if she really gave it a go.
- In "Beach Games," The Office's penultimate third season episode, Dwight attempts to tell this joke in what is more or less a Funny Background Event - since the audience's focus is on Pam doing the coal walk - in order to win Michael's job. He also completely misses the point of what makes the joke funny. (Which is why it's so hilarious to the viewer.)
And the talent agent says, "Describe your act." And the man says something really, really raunchy. And the town representative says, "What do you call yourselves?" And the man says, "The Aristocrats." (awkward silence) ...I mean truly repulsive acts.
- Brian Berris subverts this trope. In his version, the act is incredibly tame and standard and the punch line is altered.
- Hellsing Ultimate Abridged: When Abraham Van Hellsing confronts Alucard about his many, many atrocities, Alucard responds with this.
Sir Hellsing: Vampire King... You lay upon the blood soaked death of your ruined land, castles plundered, dominions in ruin, servants destroyed, all to end the hellfire with which you sought to cover the world. A bloody conquest having consumed hundreds of thousands, countless villages razed to the ground, and over twenty thousand impaled and prostrated by you and you alone, to strike horror into the hearts of mortal men! WHAT SAY YOU!? MONSTER! DEMON! DEVIL CONCEIVED BY THE BLEAKEST WOMB! WHAT SAY YOU NOW!?
Alucard: ...The Aristocrats...
- raocow, after completing an extremely hard and sadistic level in A Super Mario Thing, ends the level by declaring "The Aristocrats!"
- In a short gag strip in GastroPhobia, we see Gastro finishing telling the joke to a very angry Phobia. In the last panel we see Klepto bandaging Phobia's hand.
Klepto: Gastro, look at what you did to your poor mother's spanking hand!
- Namedropped in Robert Bloch's 1976 short story "Crook of the Month" regarding the latest quickie crime novel the main character is ghostwriting.
"... I like that hero of yours, Lance Pustule. And having him murder his parents at the age of eight—it's going to win a lot of reader sympathy, because everybody has a kindly feeling for orphans."
"That scene where he's raped by his grandmother is terrific! And all those killings and tortures he uses to get control of the television network—you really tell it like it is! The drugs and violence and kinky sex are dynamite. By the way, what's the title of the book?"
! (Pause) ...So how much for season tickets?