What a Joke! The Aristocrats Movie

The film description of The Aristocrats really stood out to me because it was not a movie I would normally choose to watch. Even after reading the reviews and thinking about what other people had thought of the film I was not prepared for the movie itself. I was still expecting a documentary about how the comedians think of jokes. I was not ready for a documentary about one joke, the joke that apparently every comedian knows although they may not like to perform. The documentary contains a series of interviews with different comedians talking about this joke, and their views about whether or not the joke is funny. Some of the comedians refused to tell the joke and thought it was a horribly written piece, and others knew the joke but simply would not perform it for an audience.

After watching the movie I was in shock, I started thinking about how to relate The Aristocrats to human development. So I watched part of the movie for a second time, it made me wonder how people come up with such vile jokes. Some of the content in the movie was just sickening and the fact that the joke often included incest and the sexual use of children and animals was horrific. That was the whole point however, to be as horrific and disturbing as possible. The worse the joke was, the funnier the punch line. The dictionary defines the word “aristocrat” as a person who displays taste and good manners, is polite and well behaved. That is why the joke is considered to be funny, the vile middle content of the joke, and the supposedly sophisticated name of the act.

The joke that the movie revolves around is basically slapstick humor, the comedian has the liberty to behave in any manner they feel fit to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible before revealing the punch line. Watching these adults laugh about things such as throwing human feces around a stage, and urinating on each other or on the ground reminded me of being in a preschool classroom. When I used to work in a daycare I would dread the potty routines as the preschool children would yell and laugh about things such as human waste. They would threaten to not wash their hands and touch each other, or worse they would attempt to aim their stream of urine at their peers and other such unacceptable behaviours. Now looking back at the adults and thinking about it makes me wonder, are they still within their adult state of mind when they are finding amusement in such a petty form of humor? Or have they reverted back to a childlike state of mind? After all children have the ability to make anything humorous, they have creativity to spare and the excuse that they are still learning the difference between what is appropriate and what is not. Can adult comedians fall back on this childlike mindset as they come up with such creative, yet disgusting stories?

I also noticed some adolescent attributes in their jokes, after all most adults are familiar with different sexual acts and do not necessarily find sex all that funny. An adult mind can recognize sex as a basic human need and not a joke, yet adolescents as they first start to become interested in sex can be very amused by the concept. Simply saying the name of a sexual organ can set off a fit of laughter in a group of adolescents. Still I could see the obvious adult mindset dominating the joke, after all the comedians had the vocabulary and confidence of an adult mind. The most interesting part of the comedians behavior that I noticed was their discomfort at the idea of telling the joke, and then the way they kept looking to their audience (in this case the camera crew) for a reaction. It is the same way an infant refers back to their caregiver to ensure they are okay. The comedians kept looking to their audience for approval, and a few even asked if they were being funny at all. Referring to others for approval is actually a skill that infants develop to reinforce their social development; this need for approval grows throughout childhood and is overwhelming in adolescence. Adults do not seem to need the approval as much but they still crave that attention, that knowledge that they are doing well.

Another surprising quality to the movie was right near the end, there were two comedians telling the Aristocrat joke to their babies. It was interesting from a number of different perspectives. The first perspective is the obvious, if parents talk to their children in such manner when they are babies, will it have any effect on their development. I believe that the babies were definitely too young to understand exactly what was being said to them, however that does not mean that they cannot pick up on any of the language, or physical actions that they witnessed. The baby could very easily imitate the father and have no idea what exactly they were saying, or doing. This may not be problematic at first, but as the child grows unless they are taught that such behaviors are inappropriate they may continue with questionable behaviors in daycare and schools. In this case there would be a problem especially as the child learned such behaviors from a prominent adult in their lives.

The other perspective that could be taken is the possibility that the child had some understanding of what was going on. Both babies looked extremely uncomfortable and were leaning away from their fathers. They were watching their fathers intently and whining at certain points in the joke. I am not implying that the babies understood the joke, but that they understood their fathers’ tones and could pick up on their discomfort or the directness of the way they were speaking. I do not believe that the joke should have been told to children or babies of any age group whether they can understand or not.

In conclusion, this was a very interesting movie which led me to some interesting thoughts about development, but the one thought that was central in my mind after I wrote this paper was simply, do not show this movie to children, or people who are children at heart.

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