Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Aristocrats

Okay, I finally got to see the movie The Aristocats, a documentary about perhaps the most famous – and filthiest – joke ever told. First of all, I picked the wrong day to watch it. I have a terrible cold today and it’s not very pleasant to be laughing that hard while coughing up chunks of phlegm the size of hamsters. But if you haven’t seen this movie and you have a strong stomach for dark humor (very important, this is definitely not for everyone), you should find it and watch it by any means necessary.

The lineup of comedians is staggering. Everyone from Shelley Berman to Robin Williams was in it. The highlight of the whole thing is seeing Gilbert Gottfried tell the joke at the Friar’s Club roast of Hugh Hefner. After that roast was taped, I had heard stories that Gilbert had told this joke there (a joke that no one ever actually tells on stage) and brought the house down and I wished desperately that I could find a tape of it. For those who have never seen Gilbert live, go. Run, don’t walk. I know he’s got an annoying voice (he’s also rather creepy in real life), but he’s absolutely one of the darkest and funniest comics you will ever see live.

The Hefner roast was taped a few weeks after 9/11 in New York. Rob Schneider had gone up and didn’t do very well, prompting Jeffrey Ross (also one of the funniest men on the planet) to follow him to the mic and say, “Rob, hasn’t there been enough bombing in this city already?” The audience didn’t like that at all, so Gilbert, true to form, decides to go right for the sore spot (believe me, there is no line that he will not cross). He got to the mic and joked about how difficult it was to find a direct flight to Los Angeles, and said that he was nervous because the flight he was on had a connection at the Empire State Building. The crowd turned on him completely (something Gilbert is quite accustomed to, believe me).

So he decides to launch into his version of the Aristocrats joke and as the comics on the stage realized where he was going with this, they all sat there with their mouths agape as Gilbert dug this hole deeper and deeper and deeper. It turned into a 10 minute festival of vulgarity that I can’t even consider repeating here. By the end of the joke, half of the comics on stage were literally on the floor with tears rolling down their cheeks from laughter. And in the process, he won over the audience. None of that made the TV broadcast of the roast, of course, but I would have given my left arm to have been there to see it in person.

Anyway, when this thing comes out on DVD, rent it, buy it, steal it if you have to. If you’re the least bit squeamish, please don’t. If you think Jay Leno is funny, trust me, you’re gonna hate it. If your idea of comedy is the show Full House, avoid it at all costs (though seeing Bog Saget tell the joke is one of the highlights of the movie as he shreds all of his Disney credibility in a single cathartic event). But if you like dark humor, this is an absolute goldmine.