Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza's documentary into the bluest joke in history. It's literally an in-joke, so they interview just about every great name in comedy to discover its longevity, and the nature of performing comedy.
Think of a taboo, any taboo and chances are that it'll be broken in The Aristocrats, an all-shitting, all-fucking, all-puking gag-binge. Relax, folks, none of the taboos are actively depicted, but they are discussed in breathtaking detail in this documentary that challenges 100 comedians to tell the same gag, the astonishingly sick and legendary vaudeville trick, The Aristocrats.
Although a tad too loosely structured, this offers a profound insight into the power of comedy to both heal pain (Gilbert Gottfried's performance in New York just two weeks after 9/11 is a must-see) and challenge censorship. It's the creative process that comes to the fore, though, with the telling of the gag repeatedly likened to jazz. Watching the famous (Whoopi Goldberg) and not-so-famous (Sarah Silverman's twisted rape fantasy) play with form and structure is a stunning comedy masterclass. For those with strong stomachs, obviously…
Guaranteed to offend, but also guaranteed to leave you in spasms of laughter, this wickedly sinful yet piercingly insightful flick would be a serious contender for Best Documentary at next year's Oscars... if the Academy had any balls, that is.
Reviewed by Chris Hewitt