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The Aristocrats

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"So, this family walks into a talent agency..."

Few comedians truly 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, risqué, disgusting, and downright 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 (the messier the better), torture, necrophilia, coprophilia, and urophilianote , 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. Extra-risqué versions will also try to work in offensive political themes on top of everything, such as racism, blasphemy, sexism, homophobia, etc. (like the family insisting on including blackface and minstrel songs into the act).

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.note 

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 here. Doug also held a contest on YouTube to determine who could tell the best version of the joke. The winner was an overweight, bald, heavily tattooed man with the handle "Church of Dave," who describes an act climaxing in the souls of every evil person being raped by the souls of every good person, which is called Justice.
  • This TGWTG review of the game F.A.T.A.L. ends by implying the game is one big Aristocrats joke.
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • In his review of FernGully 2: The Magical Rescue, the Critic references this joke (followed by a Rimshot) when Budgie accidentally pulls down her grandpa's pants:
      Grandpa: Uh, this is no time to practice our act, Budgie!
      Nostalgia Critic: ...'Kay, I don't want to know what kind of act requires her to pull his pants down... but it's probably called "The Aristocrats"!
    • He also references it (again followed by a Rimshot) in his review of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, when mocking the mother's over-the-top scream:
      Nostalgia Critic: Seriously, what woman — especially seeing her daughter get eaten — would take the time to raise her arms in the air and throw them down? You do that while telling a joke: "The Aristocrats"!
    • In his review of Scary Godmother, when Count Maxwell the vampire tells the old one-liner about Abraham Lincoln's assassination:
      Count Maxwell: "So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?"
      Nostalgia Critic: Strange enough that there's a Lincoln assassination joke in this, but to have that classic followed up by crickets? Ain't none of you know good comedy! Hey Dracula, tell your version of "The Aristocrats"!
  • Oancitizen of Brows Held High (quoting Phil Buni of The Bunny Perspective) compares the content of A Serbian Film to this joke. Instead of the usual punchline, he delivers a very stern "Art!". *Beat, finger snap*
  • This very wiki briefly described Salς, or the 120 Days of Sodom as: The Aristocrats meets Hostel, only worse. The same thing was also said on this wiki about The 120 Days of Sodom, the Marquis de Sade novel that Salo was based upon.
  • The Cinema Snob said that Caligula, being a big-budget mainstream porno film for those "craving the finest in bestiality and the finest in Shakespearean actors", was "like tracking down Laurence Olivier and asking him to perform The Aristocrats joke."
  • More of a reference than an example, but a couple of times during some of the live episodes of What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?, when Nash got to a particularly nasty news article, either he or one of the people in the live chat would yell out "The Aristocrats!" after reading it.
  • 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.)
    Dwight: 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 inverts this trope. In his version, the act is incredibly tame and standard and the punchline is the offensive part.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged: When Abraham Van Helsing confronts Alucard about his many, many atrocities, Alucard responds with this. Doctor Van Helsing is not amused and then proceeds to ram his stake through Alucard's chest.
    Van Helsing: 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.
    Van Helsing: Grrrrr! (stakes Alucard)
  • 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 PepsiaPhobia, 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."
    "Ann, please—"
    "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?"
    "The Aristocrats."
  • One part of the Robot Chicken segment "Who's Killing The Muppets?" has Fozzie say "And then the dad says, 'The Aristocrats!' Wocka-wocka!" before the mysterious killer in the segment visits him.
  • On the blog Rejected Disney Princesses, the entry for Elisabeth Bathory (a noble-born Serial Killer of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Hungary) has a lengthy description of the various crimes Bathory was accused of in her lifetime, the things she was accused of after her death, the torture and execution of her accomplices, and how she was bricked up in a room for the rest of her life. The section finishes with, "In conclusion: the aristocrats!" (The post does go on to give a more accurate explanation of Bathory's life, and discusses the possibility that Bathory was innocent.)
  • Sgt. Frog: The dub of episode 18 has Koyuki attempting and failing to tell the joke.
  • Luigifan invokes the punchline, in similar fashion to What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? mentioned above, to lampshade an argument between Justin and Lydia (who are siblings) during the "Growing Pains in the Neck" roleplay of White Dark Life. Notably, what he actually says is "The Aristocats!", but he does so on purpose for the sake of a pun and as further lampshading of the argument (Lydia's boyfriend, who Justin intensely dislikes and mistrusts, is part-cat).
    • Lydia, being an unabashed fangirl of the Disney Animated Canon (and pretty much everything Disney-related, for that matter), immediately thinks of the movie. Justin, on the other hand, immediately realizes what Luigifan is actually referencing, and is not pleased.
  • In one episode of The Odd Couple, on a Show Within a Show Oscar is hosting, he announces an act called the Aristocrats, but we never actually see the act.
  • In the Real-Person Fic "Enter Backstage", Robert Sean Leonard, of all people, tells a puppet-centric version of this joke to some of the rest of the House cast.
  • Magic: The Gathering has a popular deck archetype nicknamed "The Aristocrats", which focuses on sacrificing many small creatures for some benefit, usually draining life from the opponent. The original version simply took its name from two key cards in the deck, Falkenrath Aristocrat and Cartel Aristocrat, but between the gameplay of the deck, the flavour of these cards, and the inclusion of Blasphemous Act as a finisher, the joke basically wrote itself during every game.
  • The SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-3288's article plays this entirely for horror. SCP-3288 is a species of The Morlocks dwelling in the underground of Central Europe, and bear immense physical strength, More Teeth than the Osmond Family, and massive physical deformities. They use this strength to kidnap and cannibalize surface-dwelling humans, or to impregnate them with spawn whose birth is invariably fatal to the mother. The kicker? They're all horribly inbred descendants of the Habsburg dynasty, and the name of the trope provides the title of the SCP.
    • At one point in the major Mind Screw that is SCP-3999's article, a version of this is given as the containment procedure for SCP-3999, one of many nonsensical procedures listed. Rather than being offensive, it's recursive; characters play each other acting out the introduction to the joke, going deeper and deeper until SCP-3999 seems to force the chain to abruptly stop, ending with a splash of Word-Salad Horror.
  • In one chapter of The Great Alicorn Hunt, Sweetie Bell is desperately searching for a bad enough joke to set off some grouchy, self-aware tomatoes to fight off a horde of zombies. Then she remembers that joke. The one her uncle told her. It got him banned from visiting her, and it gets her the Soap Punishment for even saying the punchline. "The Aristocrats!"
  • Twice in Born to Be Wilde, the joke is used to describe a ludicrously stacked Curb-Stomp Battle. Once internally by Carla Hyenandez (Fighting against two feral animals in a cage match likely rigged in their favor), and another out loud by Count Reynard (Staring down an army of cops and criminals unified and dedicated to taking him down, in stark contrast to his army of loosely organized lackeys.)
  • One episode of Peeking Through the Fourth Wall After Dark features a The Loud House fanfic called The Edgy House, a story where Lincoln tells the true, disgusting story of him and his sisters which ends up being just his version of the Aristocrats joke.
  • In Vaccines: A Measured Response, H.Bomberguy uses this joke after describing the actual extent of Andrew Wakefield's misconduct.
    Harry: Let's just... walk through that again. Andrew Wakefield might have offered a cushy job to a guy to let him experiment on his kid, with a drug that he probably got from a guy who got fired for stealing medical supplies, wasn't a doctor anymore, and thought he could cure autism using his bone marrow. (Beat) The Aristocrats! (corpses)
  • BattleTech: The joke that lead to shock artist Belasz Nagy's death at the hands of a lynch mob in 3072 is heavily implied to be this.
  • Brandon's Cult Movie Reviews: For his review of Felidae, he describes the movie as what happens when you cross The Aristocats with The Aristocrats.
  • Unshaved Mouse: Mouse makes the obvious joke to start his review of The Aristocats, doubling as a quick summary of why he disliked the movie itself.

"...The Aristocrats!"
That's disgusting! (Pause) ...So how much for season tickets?