Weapons and witticisms:Two films show the dirty sides of war and stand-up comedy

Theresa Bowman

Paul Provenza’s documentary about the telling of one very dirty, shocking and offensive joke is just that – very dirty, shocking and offensive. You will cringe throughout “The Aristocrats” and yet, somehow, you may find yourself laughing.

Armed with what appears to be a very cheap camcorder, Provenza and fellow comedian Penn Jillette piece together interviews with comic all-stars to determine what makes the infamous “Aristocrats” joke so infamous. One hundred comics share their own versions, simultaneously illustrating why one joke merits an entire movie.

The discussion of the joke touches on some interesting comedic history. The ad-libbed joke has been told since the era of Vaudeville, both on stage and by comedians to each other as a backstage warm-up. Every comedian starts and ends the joke the same – it’s the middle that tends to get a little dirty. The joke’s evolution is a reflection of how comedy has changed in order to successfully push the boundaries of taste.

All 89 minutes are an opportunity for everyone from Andy Richter to Andy Dick to show off the filthiest sides of their imaginations. Some comics, like Gilbert Gottfried, tell their versions with hilarious enthusiasm. Others, like a disappointing Jon Stewart, seem less willing to go the distance.

The best cameos are the most unexpected. “Full House” alum Bob Saget is responsible for some of the movie’s most revolting and detailed lines, uttering words that would have made Danny Tanner faint. One of the movie’s funniest moments is Saget asking, “Can I get a copy of this? I’d like to send it to the kids from the show ‘Full House.'”

And perhaps it’s the diversity that makes “The Aristocrats” so fun. The joke itself isn’t that funny, and if it were just about the joke, this movie would be, well, boring. But thankfully, it’s about the comedians who put the joke into their own words.

-Theresa Bowman