The Aristocrats

Director: Paul Provenza
Screenwriters: Penn Jillette

Institute History

  • 2005 Sundance Film Festival


The Aristocrats is a very unique film. It is funny and very perverse but has a seriousness of purpose that places it dead center in any discussion about values and mores and even more specifically the nature of taboo. It features more than 100 comedians and takes an unprecedented backstage look at the world of comics, both superstars and lesser-known lights. It is a labor of love by creators Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette; because of their own comic stature, they have access to people and situations that one cannot duplicate. And all in pursuit of telling one very, very, dirty joke, a joke that has been around since vaudeville but one that nobody I know has ever heard of or, more importantly, ever heard told. Well, in The Aristocrats you'll hear this same joke told 100 times. It's a joke that previously existed only in private, among comics, and it is the dirtiest joke you will ever hear.

While there is no nudity, no sex, and no violence in The Aristocrats, this is one of the most shocking and, perhaps for some, offensive films you will ever see. But its provocativeness is never gratuitous; it creates in its own singular fashion an absolutely arresting portrait of comic art.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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