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Film / The Aristocrats

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No Nudity. No Violence. Unspeakable Obscenity.

In 2005, Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza made The Aristocrats, a documentary featuring about a hundred comedians telling their own version of the eponymous joke and their own stories about its history. While the joke itself isn't funny (which they note during the film), the comedians talking about it are frequently hilarious.

Nobody should confuse this film with The Aristocats, although several of the featured comics acknowledge the hazard of accidentally ending the joke with "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: This movie is where many people discovered that Bob Saget ain't exactly a family-friendly comedian, despite his work on Full House and America's 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.
    • Leading to a Brick Joke when, towards the end of the movie, there's a brief snippet of Joe Franklin being asked about Sarah Silverman. Who he hasn't met.
  • 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 highest-ranking tribesmen sexually violating them in every hideous 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 casts 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.
  • Depending on the Writer: Some comics prefer the more American and modern, "The Sophisticates" as a punchline.
  • 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 and several other comedians break 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.
  • Freudian Slip: As noted in the lead, accidentally saying "Aristocats" as in the Disney movie screws up everything.
    Paul Reiser: "What do you call yourself?" "The Aristocats. Oh, no – the Aristocrats!" So people would think that was part of the joke, that the guy himself got the name wrong, and people would be saying, "Why did he say 'cats' and then 'crats?'" He didn't. I just had a problem. Which was more absurd.
  • Inversion: The inverted version of the joke is an inversion; the act is sedate, the title is profane.
  • 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.
  • Perverse Puppet: One of the segments is a ventriloquist trying to deliver a sedate version of the joke... only for his puppet to get incredibly graphic describing how it should go.
  • Precision F-Strike: Wendy Liebman's version inverts the joke: describing an extremely bland, wholesome, sedate act... and then the interviewer asks "What do you call that act?" The response: "The Cocksucking Motherfuckers."
  • Self-Deprecation: Carrot Top — "It's not a fucking prop act, is it?"
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: As noted under "Don't Explain the Joke", this trope is in play for the sake of the joke as realistically, the police and family services should be called the minute the act begins.
  • 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.
    • To the horror of passersby who pay any attention, most of whom don't.
  • 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.