Tulsa TV Memories      

NOT to be confused with Disney's 'The Aristocats'

"The Aristocrats" at the Circle Cinema, 9/2/2005


"The Aristocrats" is an insider show-biz joke with the following elements:

A "family act" (or just the father, or their agent) goes to see a talent agent, who asks what they do.

The act is either performed for the agent or described in detail. Traditionally, the joke teller ad-libs, being as crude, degrading, and scatological as he (or rarely, she) is able.

The talent agent asks what the act is called, and the answer is always: "The Aristocrats!"

I learned about both the movie and the joke that is its subject from my brother by email only a month ago:

Here's a link to a website about the legendary "dirtiest joke ever"...The Aristocrats.

Coming soon to a theater near you.

I replied:


I woke up before dawn this morning. Gaye was already awake, watching "Mama's Family".

After fixing coffee for us both, I looked at my email. Got rid of the spam, worked it down to where your message was the last one I opened.

I chose the Rotkopf Von Schmutz's "Wonder Dog" variation of the joke as an homage to Monty Python's Funniest Joke in the World sketch.

After reading the Zen-like punchline, I returned to bed. I told Gaye that I had just read a link from you called "The Aristocrats" about "The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told". I said it was so dirty, I couldn't even tell her anything about it, except that it featured a talking psychic dog. Just after I said that, the joke kicked in.

Gaye thought it was funny watching me laugh about a dirty joke, but kept worrying about my coffee. I had to tell her several times that I had it under control because it was only half-full.

I must say, that was one harsh dog.


My laughing fit was fueled by the truly awful nature of the joke, coupled with the utter futility of finding an acceptable way to frame it for my wife.

A month later, I attended the opening day 6 pm showing of "The Aristocrats" at the Circle 2. It was followed by a panel discussion with local celebrities John Wooley, Dennis King and Barry Friedman.

Barry is a columnist/comic, who, incidentally, had a role in Weird Al's "UHF". He is also the author of Road Comic: Heartbreak, Triumph and Obsession on the Comedy Circuit. Dennis is the Tulsa World's film critic. John is a novelist/entertainment writer; his latest is The Big Book of Biker Flicks. More of their books in the TTM Gift Shop.

John took issue with the extreme language of "The Aristocrats", drawing an analogy with the biker films of the 50s and 60s. The subversive action in those films morphed into mainstream convention over time, losing its charge in the transition. With neither taboos to violate, nor bounds to transgress, there is nothing to subvert, which is no fun.

His observation shed some light on my own experience. I was a little shocked, but not overly so when I read the joke on the internet. Only when forced to filter it through my wife's much sweeter sensibilities did I really react.

(By the way, does "Full House" cast member Bob Saget seem like a Goody Two-Shoes to you? He isn't. At all).

Some comics in the film felt the joke epitomizes the pathetic acts they see on the road. Perhaps it also reflects their blackest view of themselves and what they do. That might explain some of the the unholy glee with which they spun their own idiosyncratic versions. (My favorite was Martin Mull's. It was relatively brief and the punchline was not anti-climactic.)

The telling of the joke was likened to jazz performance, improvisation within a structure. In the film, it certainly resembled a jazzman's "cutting contest", where each tries to outdo the other.

As with my non-telling of the joke to my wife, social context is make-or-break as to whether the joke hits a funny bone. Gilbert Gottfried found the "sweet spot" at a just post-9/11 roast of Hugh Hefner and surfed to triumph with his raucous rendition. Hapless street witnesses of Billy The Mime's silent version were the main source of humor for the film audience. Sarah Silverman's "frame-up" of easy-going veteran TV host Joe Franklin was a creative take on the joke. Tom Smothers completely failed to tickle brother Dick, but the interaction did tickle the audience.

It was suggested that the relatively small audience for this showing represented Tulsa's "cutting-edge intellectuals". Either that, or they were just people who like to hear a lot of dirty talk. If that's what you are seeking, in no way will you be disappointed.

Worthy of any TU Subversive Film Festival, "The Aristocrats" plays at the Circle Cinema through 9/8. (Held over until 9/15!) The only theater besides the Circle showing the movie in Oklahoma is in Norman.

"The Aristocrats" official site.

Copyright © 2005, Mr. X. All rights reserved.

webmaster reviews    Tulsa Film & Cinema    Main page