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.
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.