Monday, August 01, 2005

The Aristocrats -- does anybody with sanity really care?

I hesitate to tell you about this.

But then again ....

You'll hear about it sooner or later, and I want you to be prepared...

So, here it is. If you haven't heard about the film The Aristocrats, you soon will. I've seen it glowingly reviewed in articles in Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. It's quite simply a film documentary about the dirtiest joke ever told. 90 minutes of famous and hoping to be famous comedians doing their own perverse jazz riff on this same joke. That's it -- that's the movie -- 90 minutes of one really tasteless and disgusting joke. Nothing else.

Yeah, I was pretty indredulous too -- I don't care how good the comics are, it's still just a joke. But wait till you hear the hype. The film received acclaim at Sundance Film Festival -- critics are hailing it as brave and bold and the funniest movie of the year (of course, film critics have never struck me as a very discerning lot when it comes to identifying actually enjoyable movies).

The mastermind behind this project is none other than Penn Jillette -- the loudmouth half of magic/comedy team Penn and Teller. Jillette is an atheist, and an obnoxious one at that -- he loudly and cruelly mocks anyone who has faith. He's also a shameless self-promoter, along the lines of a PT Barnum for the new generation. He and Teller have an "acclaimed" TV show where they "debunk" all sorts of things -- propriety keeps me from telling you the title, but it is a commonly used pithy substitute for "bovine schatology". Their act has always been based on the shock factor, and the TV show takes it to the next level -- now Penn is going over the top. He has created a movie that has is being distributed without a rating (because it would have earned an NC-17 rating based solely on foul language). AMC theatres is refusing to carry the film (drop them a note thanking them for their sanity)

The premise is this -- "The Aristocrats" is a joke that comedians tell one another after the shows are over. The point is that they try to see who tells the best, funniest, most outrageous version of the joke. But it's all a secret, see? But clever Penn Jillette is going to let us in on the super-secret inside joke that comedians tell one another -- it's like the Davinci Code meets Lenny Bruce (I do wonder if you tell the joke just right, do you discover the path to the holy grail treasure trove of comedy, including George Burns Havana selects and the lost films of Fatty Arbuckle?). So Jillette has already set us up salivating for this "forbidden" joke.

And of course there is the shocking nature -- so many dirty words -- so many people to offend. Oh my goodness what are we to do -- the oh so clever comedians know how to tell a dirty joke and they want to offend people -- oh no, I'm so shocked and surprised (please note the thick sarcasm)

Jillette is counting on protesters in the street -- he's counting on this being so outrageous that the christians will boycott and picket -- he wants the buzz to be so great that people all across the country will rise up and say "If it's got that many people mad, it must be worth seeing." -- this is the PT Barnum effect -- any publicity is good for sales. A quote from the Entertainment Weekly Article: "'The best thing that could happen to the movie is its being attacked and censored,' says Gilbert Gottfried, who heroically delivers the movie's stirring climax (and who, in normal conversation, sounds shy — nothing like his screaming persona). 'It gives it media attention and makes people want to see it.'"

Which is why I suggest that Christians simply ignore the film (and yes I am aware of the conflicting message I send by blogging about it and suggesting we ignore it). It's presence simply illustrates the truth of Psalm 1 "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stnad in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away...."

This movie is here today, gone tomorrow. The Entertainment Weekly review nailed the film when he wrote "The Aristocrats has a lot of laughs, but as it giggles and blasphemes its way into areas not so far removed from the scandalous landscape of the Marquis de Sade, the movie, funny as it is, becomes exhausting and a bit depressing. It's at once a comedy, a horror film, and a hilariously unsettling testament to the deepest reality of what comedians are: rim-shot madmen, driven to seek out and destroy all that's taboo. The joke, of course, is ultimately about them, our aristocrats of unhinged anarchy." Psalm 1 -- the rim-shot madmen who seek to destroy will be gone tomorrow and forgotten in a generation.

So just ignore it -- or better yet (this will really take the wind out of Jillette's sails), tell people how terribly BORING this all sounds. 90 minutes of potty humor? Cant you do anything better than that? Behind all their bravado, performers crave the attention -- and hearing that their work is boring is just intolerable.

Soli Deo Gloria