‘The Aristocrats’

The Aristocrats is a new documentary about a hoary inside joke in the informal guild of American stand-up comics. The joke, a fraternity-like test of wit and manhood, involves improvising as many deeply sick events you can imagine within the framework of a simple story. Most comics tell the joke only to other comedians. They often begin with incest and pedophilia, delve into scatology and bestiality and finish with a chaser of sadism and necrophilia. This joke doesn’t play in Peoria. The most fun thing about the movie is seeing George Carlin, Robin Williams, Drew Carey and Jason Alexander together on the same reel.

The documentary shows a female comedian doing a throwaway joke about desis. It goes something like this: ’Maybe we could bring in an Indian guy. The slurpee kind, not the casino kind. He could sprinkle curry all over everyone, make them stink.’ The joke, which takes much more racist digs at blacks and Latinos, is purposely illustrating offensive comedy. The comedian is pointing out that for shock value, race is the new sex.

You’d think the racism joke would be the least memorable thing about a movie which catalogues all the variants of a deeply repellent story. But it was actually the only one in the entire movie that stood out to me as mean-spirited. It proved its point exactly: sex and cartoon violence don’t hold a candle to what happens in real life.

Update: Watch the trailer. Here’s a very filthy, NSFW South Park version of the joke (thanks, Project37). Don’t watch it unless you have a strong stomach.

34 thoughts on “‘The Aristocrats’

  1. what’s funny is that out of all the great comedians in this thing, gilbert godfried comes out as the funniest, who woulda thunk?

  2. ‘Maybe we could bring in an Indian guy…He could sprinkle curry all over everyone, make them stink.Â’

    sure it sounds offensive. But we ourselves have been joking about ourselves since so long. Sardar jokes, Gujju jokes, Punju jokes. Johnny Lever must one of the guys who has joked on every Indian community.

    On this issue, I guess we took have the same attitude as the African-Americans, where it is ok for them to use the “n” word but if anyone else utters the “n” word even as a joke it is nothing short of the greatest insult committed ever.

  3. Although oz has a point, it is funny that they’d mention the “slurpee kind” as opposed to the “sillicon valley” kind.

  4. … it is funny that they’d mention the “slurpee kind” as opposed to the “sillicon valley” kind.

    The East Coast stereotype is cabbie/cornershop, West Coast is techie.

  5. The slurpee kind, not the casino kind

    Um, didnt get the ‘slurpee’ thing… SOmebody help me out, please? Is it a reference to the DQ ad – the ‘killer bee’ one? Is the movie THAT new?

  6. Thanks for the tips, DDIA and Manish. ANd Bongz, no I’ve never watched the Simpsons. I guess I’m not worthy. What to do , I’m only a a fob, na? :)

    But seriously, I ve always wanted to. I decided last week that I had to remedy my mal educacion somehow. I have put The Complete First Season in my Blockbuster queue. No Apu reference is gonna get by me again!!!!

  7. Forget the first season boss – go for seasons 3 onwards. I am honestly applying to Mastermind (apparently they’re after Asian contestants) with The Simpsons as my specialist subject.

    See you in hell candy boys!

  8. Oh ok, no wonder I was so shocked. Living in the Bay Area, a common response to any racial epithet concerning Indians is usually “hey, stfu! you’ll be working for me one day!”. Not to say I haven’t seen any desis working in 7/11…

  9. “The techie stereotype is not as popular as the slurpree one. The slurpee/cabbie/motel stereotype is still the dominant one in the American mainstream.”

    How very convenient for the majority.

  10. Doesn’t anyone feel that they should probably stop referring to Native Americans as Indians?

    A friend of mine (a Christian) was once called a Hindu – when he tried to make ‘em understand he was Christian, the response was, “Well there are Indians(as in Native Americans) here too”.

  11. I got to see this a few weeks ago and thought that while it was reasonably entertaining, it went on way too long. There really isn’t that much to explore in terms of the joke’s effect on people (you’re either entertained, offended, or indifferent). It could have made for an entertaining short film, but as a documentary it’s stretched a bit thin. Wait for cable.

    I wrote a bit more about it here: http://project37.blogspot.com/2005/08/evening-with-aristocrats.html

  12. I think the underlying message of the joke is that Indian food smells. I don’t see how this is offensive because in many cases it’s true. C’mon, we all know that putting curry in the fridge (even if it’s sealed tight in Tupperware) is a surefire way to make it smell like ass.

  13. The slurpee/cabbie/motel stereotype is still the dominant one in the American mainstream.

    Those occupations are the most visible to the common person in the United States.

    Hell, my cousin owns four 7-11′s and he’s laughing at the stereotype minting money all the way to a bank.

    For some reason, I haven’t noticed the service industry folks (stores,motels,cabs) get all that upset over these caricatures. Folks who get a laugh out of it just don’t connect to the doctor or enginerd stereotypes (call center people buck this trend, again service industry).

    While we’re at it, pray, what’s the “casino kind” of desi?

    This is similar to,” The dot type of Indian, not feather.”

  14. They often begin with incest and pedophilia, delve into scatology and bestiality and finish with a chaser of sadism and necrophilia. …… “YouÂ’d think the racism joke would be the least memorable thing about a movie which catalogues all the variants of a deeply repellent story. But it was actually the only one in the entire movie that stood out to me as mean-spirited”

    Manish- your reaction to the aristocrats makes as much sense to me as the ESRB coming down on Rockstar’s ass for including a scene where you can have sex with a prostitute (o mi gawd!)- as opposed to practicing the countless ways you can blow her brains out in the game.

    Why is sepia so touchy? I see no difference between sepia and the TOI’s attitude towards desis-nowadays, quick to take credit, even quicker to take offence, for anything brown. Grow up.

  15. … your reaction to the aristocrats makes as much sense to me…

    See the FAQ:

    Why do you guys zero in on the desi angle of everything you post?

    This is a focused, cultural interest blog, not a general-purpose site. It brings readers together for that exact reason. Why is Sports Illustrated so focused on sports? ;)

    Why is sepia so touchy?

    The post is pretty clear on this: my issue is with the curry epithet, not with the movie.

    Grow up.

    With practice your reading comprehension will improve, young padawan.

  16. o forgive me my jedi masta! may be i wasnt coherent enough.My point is not that sepia shouldnt cover desi angles, i understand its a SABlog,and I think you guys do a great job.

    But, what i find difficult to believe, is that someone who can laugh for two hours, at improprable variations of paedophilic incestuos caprophagic necrophilia, can still be offended by ANYthing, let alone a curry joke that was one amongst a litany of “much more racist digs at blacks and Latinos”.

    While I dont find anything harmful with watching pop culture through sepia colored glasses, and spotting aalok mehta in 10 seconder spots , might legitimately be considered tracking SA cultural infiltration in some circles, I think getting our collective lungis in a knot over the aristocrats curry joke is solpa overkill. Afterall (atleast in my mind) where SM differs from TOI, is that you guys dont take yourself seriously.

  17. I think getting our collective lungis in a knot over the aristocrats curry joke is solpa overkill.

    Mundeya,

    Where did you grow up? It’s not a joke the comedian came up with on her own, it’s a degrading racial slur in the U.S. and UK.

    Afterall (atleast in my mind) where SM differs from TOI, is that you guys dont take yourself seriously.

    Also, we didn’t post about how the #1 problem of people stuck in the Bombay floods was that they didn’t have access to this blog ;)

  18. “But, what i find difficult to believe, is that someone who can laugh for two hours, at improprable variations of paedophilic incestuos caprophagic necrophilia, can still be offended by ANYthing, let alone a curry joke that was one amongst a litany of “much more racist digs at blacks and Latinos”.”

    Read again the final sentence of Manish’s second paragraph:

    “The comedian is pointing out that for shock value, race is the new sex.”

    The point of his post is to agree with that comedian based upon that comedian’s demo of the above concept in the movie. Not to complain that the movie was racist or that the curry joke was the worst racist or sexist joke in the movie.

  19. “Read again the final sentence of Manish’s second paragraph” “The comedian is pointing out that for shock value, race is the new sex.”

    deepa-better yet… watch the movie..

    i dont think the comedian meant anything, this is manish’s take on it.

    which was the larger point i was making abt SM’s hypertouchinness- when you see everything through sepia colored spectacles, everything starts looking turdulent after a point.

    Mundeya,

    Where did you grow up? It’s not a joke the comedian came up with on her own, it’s a degrading racial slur in the U.S. and UK.

    -thanks, i wld never have guessed.

  20. i dont think the comedian meant anything…

    That whizzing sound you hear is the point going over your head.

    The joke… is purposely illustrating offensive comedy. The comedian is pointing out that for shock value, race is the new sex.

    … when you see everything through sepia colored spectacles, everything starts looking turdulent after a point.

    Fortunately, desis are never cast in the U.S. media as cabbies, terrorists and freaks.

  21. The East Coast stereotype is cabbie/cornershop, West Coast is techie.

    Intresting, it holds true for all of my desi acquaintances in America.

  22. That whizzing sound you hear is the point going over your head.

    -and the grinding sound i hear is you at work with your blunt brown axe.

    pointing to 3 links about dysfunctional desis to prove your point is as pointless as my pointing out 12 chest thumping articles on how desi’s are taking over the world from TOI/Rediff.com

  23. pointing to 3 links about dysfunctional desis to prove your point is as pointless as my pointing out 12 chest thumping articles on how desi’s are taking over the world from TOI/Rediff.com

    He is talking about how desis are (mis?)represented in the American media.

  24. … the grinding sound i hear is you at work with your blunt brown axe.

    Touché. But then my axe of reality meets your cranium of titanium. -300 hit points! ;)

    pointing to 3 links about dysfunctional desis to prove your point…

    The actors aren’t dysfunctional, but the roles they’re given in the U.S. are pretty stereotyped. So far only Kal Penn and Jay Chandrasekhar consistently get non-stereotypical roles, Chandrasekhar because he writes or directs his own material.

    Prove me wrong, I’d be ecstatic. Here’s some remedial reading.

  25. To be fair, Kal Penn has only really had one non-stereotypical role. His first, i would say, was pretty bad (as Van Wilder’s assistant in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder)