"The Aristocrats": what's the joke?

This documentary The Aristocrats that I hear tell of. As I understand it, it consists pretty much solely of several dozen comedians each telling “the dirtiest joke in the world”? AMC’s not going to allow it in its theatres and it may be that other theatre chains will follow suit, meaning that those of us outside the major metropolitan areas might not get to see the film.

So what’s the joke?

If you Google on “south park aristocrats joke”, you can find a video of Cartman telling the joke.


The idea of the movie is that several comedians tell the joke with the same punchline, but make up the middle parts.

Suffice to say, it is NOT safe for work.

Not safe for a lot of homes, too.

Is there anything funny in it for someone who doesn’t find “dirty words” or sexual activities deliberately described in filthy tones intrinsically amusing?

I remember 2nd grade, and how some of the boys would tell “dirty jokes” which consisted not of punch lines or setups but just an excuse to tell long bawdy sex-and-toilet shaggy dog stories. Is this like that?

Or is it second-hand funny like laughing at the victim-audience of a shaggy-dog story being told because they’re expecting it to be funny and instead the storyteller is making them listen to this interminably bad tale that has no point or punchline?

In the South Park version, a large part of the comedy is watching the other kids react to Cartman’s telling of the joke. But other than that, yeah, it’s pretty much just one obscene act after another.

As the South Park link demonstrates, the joke is basically this:

Family goes into a talent agent’s office. Say, “we have a great act.”

Talent agent says, “I’m not interested in family acts.”

Family pleads to be allowed to demonstrate their act. Agent relents.

The “act” is one vile, disgusting, tasteless thing after another. At the end, the agent says, “wow, that’s some act–what do you call yourselves?”

The family replies, “The Aristocrats!”
So the joke is that they do all this classless stuff and call themselves by a classy name. But the humor, as in most cases, is in the delivery (namely, what vile stuff the comedian thinks to put into the “act”).

I love bawdy humour and most of the comedians involved (especially Saget), but I just don’t think the joke is funny. In the least. Any time I’ve read or heard it. Will I still lke the movie?

Nope, not funny to me. All during the vulgar descriptions, I was expecting a spectacular punchline as the payoff. What a disappointment.

The funniest part of that IMO is the end where one of the boys says “I don’t get it” and Cartman says “Neither do I…”.

Thanks for the explanation. I really was expecting the joke to at least make sense…

If you view it as the storyteller playing a joke on the audience, it does (and it’s pretty good, IMO).

It’s a very dirty varient of a Shaggy Dog story. It all depends on the storyteller, since it’s not about the joke.

Well, the joke does make sense, though the punchline is satiric–here you have a family so desperate to get into show business that they’re willing to debase themselves in the most vile and sordid matter possible. However, they’re equally desperate to hold onto whatever tiny shred of dignity they still might have by trying to present themselves (in a completely delusional matter) as a “class act”. And what could be more classy than calling yourself “The Aristocrats”?

It’s the very last thing you would expect such an act to call itself, which is why it’s funny (just like the last thing you’d expect a sensitive and refined piano solo to be called is “Lick My Love Pump”–also funny).

From what I read about this, the joke was originally used by veteran comics as a way to mess with the heads of novices before they went on stage. The humor is not the joke itself so much as it is in the attempt to shock the person that the joke is being told to as well (as in the case of the movie) for comics to try to one up each other on the obscenity and depravity of the details.

That’s how I heard it: the joke is an old comedy tradition that goes back to turn-of-the-century vaudeville, and probably further. Apparently every comedian in America is familiar with this joke, and it’s been a sort of inside tradition for years.

I saw the movie a couple of months ago at a film festival. I don’t think the joke is particularly funny (it’s more abstractly amusing, in that nodding-at-absurdity way), but the movie is fucking piss-your-pants and shit-in-your-popcorn funny.

aptly put

Wikipedia has this to say.