"Like a Maya Angelou poem"

This morning, I went to a free sneak preview of a movie. I took a large double Americano and a banana nut bread. This was a mistake– the coffee, the brown nut bread– because the movie was the fabulously foul The Aristocrats.

It’s a good one. All of you who love performance and raunchiness should go see it. It’s basically dozens of performers doing their take on the raunchy incest-and-shit fueled vaudeville joke. In the classic telling of the joke, a man goes to see a talent agent and describes a family act for him: he and his wife have sex on stage, he shits on his wife, his wife shits on him, their kids come out and wallow in the shit, and the act is called – da da da daaa– the aristocrats.

I had never heard the joke before, but when I heard the first telling, I thought it was a comment on class. What is the upper class anyway but a bunch of over-priveleged babies wallowing in their parents’ shit?

I loved Dana Gould’s take on the joke, that it’s about shit and incest and therefore, a lot like a Maya Angelou poem. I also loved the comedian who told a genuinely sweet, family-oriented version of the joke and called it “The Cocksucking Motherfuckers.” Other favorite variations include those told by Kevin Pollak (which involved a Christopher Walken imitation), Billy the mime, Whoopi Goldberg, and the dude who used playing cards.

I was not, however, impressed with Gilbert Gottfried’s performance of the joke at a Hugh Hefner roast. He told it the most classical way, with “A guy walks into a talent scout’s office. He tells him, ‘I got a family act for you. My wife comes out naked, I shit on her, she shits on me, my daughter comes out, I fist her, my son comes out and fucks my wife,'” etc., but then he ends it with “And the agent asks, what do you call this act?”

Gottfried went with the safe “The Aristocrats!”

If I were roasting Hefner, I would have said, “We call it the Playboy Mansion.”

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