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The Aristocrats

You probably already know everything you think you need to know about "The Aristocrats". I'll just add my own two cents worth on the off-chance it tilts you one way or the other.

First, let's get this straight. I hate it when people tell me jokes. The minute somebody starts telling me a joke, I can feel myself blushing in embarrassment for them. I look down at the floor. I smile sourly. I do just about everything I can think of to send the message, "Please don't continue telling me this joke." It never works, of course. People can rarely stop themselves once they've started.

Dirty jokes are the worst. I can tell from the third word into it that I'm not going to find the joke funny. By then I'm already trying to think of the least response I can get away with once we get to the punchline. I usually come up with just enough to gracefully get me out of actually having to laugh.

So you can be pretty sure I would hate a movie that is about nothing but the telling of one incredibly filthy joke. Of course I loved it.

The thing about movies is that you always want them to somehow teach you something about yourself. What this movie taught me is that it wasn't that I hated -- for all these years -- people telling me jokes. What I have always hated is that most people, the vast majority of the human race as a matter of fact, are really terrible at telling them.

The people in this movie are the God-Emperors of telling jokes. They are superpowered. They climb the highest building you can imagine, walk out onto the observation deck, leap into space, and then tell a joke to save themselves from splattering on the sidewalk. The difference between most of us and them is that these people actually save themselves. While the rest of us hit the sidewalk and turn into something like tomato puree, these people set down lightly on both feet, then stroll away as if nothing had happened.

There were times during this movie when I literally could not breathe for laughing. It was the kind of laughter where you really can't imagine being able to ever stop laughing -- not huge guffaws of laughter, but that desperate, choking, airless laughter where your diaphragm is locked into a shallow spastic pattern -- guh, guh, guh. I think it must be like what happens when you are choking to death on your flank steak and there is no one around to administer the Heimlich Maneuver.

This movie is probably the most sustained instance of filth and pus and vile and horror laced humor I've ever encountered. I'm not kidding. I'm not exaggerating even slightly. But the filth is not the point. Really, it isn't. The filth becomes (almost immediately) strangely irrelevant. This isn't a movie about a filthy, repellant joke. It's a movie about people who jump off buildings and turn fatal falls into human-powered flight.

This is not a smile movie. This is a laugh-out-loud movie. Wait. Let me rephrase that... that sounds a little too much like a universal recommendation:

This movie is for laugh-out-louders. It is dangerous for smilers-only. Rent it only if life means more to you than an occasional smile.

Finally, on a personal note, and I'm not kidding about this... If you ever meet me, please don't try to tell me a joke unless you are a certified god of joke-telling. If you have any doubts about that -- hell, even if you are absolutely certain of your joke-telling skills -- before you start in with me, please take this simple test:

Go find a tall building. The tallest you can find. Go out onto the observation deck...

[Netflix, B & N, ]


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I finally saw "The Aristocrats" this past weekend. Besides agreeing wholeheartedly with your take on it, I want to add that one shouldn't miss the commentary track from Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza. They are very funny in their own right, and they talk pretty much non-stop about stories around the filming, editing decisions and lots of subtle nuances that I missed when I watch the film the first time through.

Absolutely. Thank you for pointing that out. The commentary track is very good. I love listening to Penn Jillette. He's one of the most interesting talkers I've ever heard.

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