The Aristocrats Paul Provenza

The Aristocrats is so simple that it works like a charm. Over a hundred comedians, writers and producers repeatedly tell the filthiest joke ever created. It has the same introduction and punch line, with the journey in between serving as the ultimate personality test for performers. The object is to make the joke as perverse as possible. Most versions (told by stand-ups like Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin and Drew Carey) contain detailed accounts of incest, scat and water sports. It's how each performer tells it that's revealing.

The joke reinvents itself over the course of the film through Provenza's shrewd editing. Sarah Silverman gives up a typical third-person telling for an improvised first-person monologue. Trey Parker and Matt Stone do a South Park version involving the victims of September 11th, and Martin Mull tells a version with missionaries choosing between certain death or "the Aristocrats." Kevin Pollak even does an imitation of Christopher Walken telling the joke. Surprisingly, one of the best retellings is by Full House's Bob Saget. His sense of detail is sick. Who knew?

But the Aristocratic Crown goes to Gilbert Gottfried ("Aflac!") for a performance at a Hugh Heffner roast. Just three weeks after September 11th, he cracked a twin tower joke that "bombed" then launched into a screaming version of the joke, most likely to save himself. And it worked. It's still considered by many to be the best ever performance of "The Aristocrats."

The Aristocrats is a study in boundary pushing, so leave your sense of decency at home. It doesn't belong in a theatre showing this movie. And even if you do bring it with you, the joke's repetition will kill it soon enough. The Aristocrats grabs you by the gut and doesn't let go until you're exhausted, shocked and laughing. (Th!nk)