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.