Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, June 23, 2005  

Does not tickle my funny bone

Drudge links to a story about a documentary of comedians telling the world's dirtiest joke over and over. The article describes the basic story of the joke, and even with all the expletives added by any imagination, I don't get the punch line or find it funny.

So what's the joke? Basically, it's this: a guy walks into a talent agent's office and says he has a terrific family act. The act, the guy explains, involves a husband who comes out onstage with his wife and two kids.

What follows is the part that can't be told in this publication, or most others, but it's the point at which each comedian in the film cuts loose in a can-you-top-this exercise in pornographic oratory. Cut to the kicker where the talent agent asks, What's the name of the act? The answer comes: the Aristocrats.

The point of the joke, and the film, may be freedom of expression, or self-censorship, or what happens among professional comedians behind closed doors. But for practical purposes, the joke is so absurdly obscene that the viewer is shocked into hilarity, or deep offense. Or possibly both.

Okay, I can see where the ribald might become funnier and funnier as it escalates levels of obscenity, but the capper, the punch line of "the Aristocrats", well that might have worked in France or England 100-200 years ago, but as an American, it simply means nothing much to me.

There is something peculiar about so many comedians who find the height of hilarity lying in bathroom humor and obscene sex talk. I think we are talking about seriously disturbed creatures stuck in basicly creepy adolescence.

It's a bit like all those writers who have to write the most most grotesque, lurid, and diseased kind of stories (see Hannibal Lector inter alia).

Everything we do and say is a message not so much about the world, but about our own nature. A mind that thrills in creating horrors is not a healthy mind. A mind that delights in the roughest possible obscenities in jokes, is a diseased soul.


This from Fr. Neuhaus at First Things is priceless and skewers so deep a wound as to make you want to give a standing ovation:

Today’s column by Mr. Rich is entitled “The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told,” and it rails against the censors of the right who are enlisting the government to restrain pornography and related smut on television. He is further appalled by the decision of PBS to delete profanity from a documentary on American soldiers in Iraq. The First Amendment is on the ropes as the religious ayatollahs have taken control of the Bush administration’s assault on the artistic expression of real life. This is very serious. The freedom Mr. Rich is defending is represented by the aforementioned great dirty joke he heard at a Friars Club roast. A family comes to a talent agent who asks them what kind of act they do. Mr. Rich writes, “What followed was a marathon description of a vaudeville routine featuring incest, bestiality, and almost every conceivable body function. The agent asks the couple the name of their unusual act, and their answer is the punch line: ‘The Aristocrats.’”

The joke as it was actually told, Mr. Rich assures us, is hilarious, and he complains about the current Comstockery that forced its omission from the television broadcast of the Friars roast. But why doesn’t Mr. Rich give us the “marathon description” that made the joke so funny? The obvious answer is that the Times would not publish it, and the Times pays Mr. Rich’s large salary. Mr. Rich does not complain about being censored. Presumably the Times does not publish what he thinks should be broadcast to the general public because it would offend its readers and hurt advertising sales, which is the business the Times is in. Unless, of course, the Times has been taken over by the religious right, which seems improbable. Neither, for that matter, did the Times, in its story on the PBS documentary, tell us what had been cut. Mr. Rich and other free-speech zealots do not complain about being censored or having to practice self-censorship by resorting to euphemism and evasion in their own writing. That is required by the discreet “respectability” of the Times and is in no way to be compared with the oppressive “decency” that concerns those religious fanatics.

Perfect. But futile, I know. Sigh.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:52 PM |