"If it weren't for the mantra 'DVD extras,' we never could have made this movie," writes Aristocrats co-director Paul Provenza of the dirty joke doc's two hours of bonus footage (on DVD Jan. 24). It's safe to say this lovingly assembled film by Provenza and fellow comedian Penn Jillette, featuring 100 comics, writers, and showbiz veterans retelling "The Aristocrats" (a backstage favorite since the vaudeville era), does more than teach an old joke new tricks; it's a valentine to comedy. The premise, as you know, is a guy walking into a talent agent's office with a family act that involves unprintable acts—here the joke teller gets to riff and improvise—and it ends with a simple punch line. What do you call this act? "The Aristocrats!"
On their commentary track, Jillette and Provenza properly introduce the comedians, especially those less recognizable, like showbiz vets Larry Storch, Shelley Berman, and Jay Marshall. Jillette counts Buddy Hackett, Rodney Dangerfield, and Johnny Carson among the late legends he wished to feature. In the mostly unedited bonus footage, Sarah Silverman is just one performer who benefits from more time; her memory of growing up an Aristocrat turns into a Freudian Q&A session. Gilbert Gottfried, taped prior to his infamous telling at a Friar's Club roast for Hugh Hefner, grabs the table for a "Bohemian Rhapsody" of raunch. Bob Saget's three-ring "Jerk de Soleil" boasts Three Stooges sound effects and Sister Sledge's "We Are Family." Whoopi Goldberg tells the joke from her mother's prim point of view, while Ron Jeremy (cut out of the film) offers a poem-cum-rap.
Other extras include the pros telling more of their favorite jokes, and amateur contest winners. One guy dresses as a '20s-era cartoon character ("Flapjack") and tells the joke to strangers with a Mickey Mouse falsetto. Another uses animation to render an astonished Broadway Danny Rose–style agent viewing the act's S&M routine.
Other recent releases include the voodoo thriller Venom, Jodie Foster in Flightplan, Underclassman, and Eugene Levy and Samuel L. Jackson wasted together in The Man. The J- horror flick Vital was a creepy standout at SIFF '05. The Weather Man and Lord of War star Nicolas Cage. The Fog remake is no better than the original. Roman Polanski provides a making-of doc for Oliver Twist. Asylum boasts little besides Natasha Richardson. Criterion offers a new print of Bergman's The Virgin Spring. Definitely worth a look is Thumbsucker, with commentary by director Mike Mills.