The Aristocrats

From March ’07 Spotlight: Comfortably nestled between South Park and The Daily Show, comedian Sarah Silverman now has her own television show every Thursday night on cable’s Comedy Central channel. In the opening moments of the first broadcast on February 1, Silverman promised us that her show would contain “full frontal Judity,” and indeed, her Jewish identity has always been an essential component of Silverman’s shtick.

I have to admit that I didn’t quite get it at first, but a friend advised me to watch The Aristocrats and that really does help. The Aristocrats is a 90-minute documentary about the dirtiest joke ever told. The set-up is simple; it’s nothing more than pitching a lewd new act to a jaded talent agent. That said The Aristocrats’ first half hour was rough going for me, with comedian after comedian peddling the most disgusting stories imaginable. But gradually, the light began to dawn: in this case the devil is not in the details, the whole point here is simply in the telling.

In our world, especially after 9/11, where is the line separating what can and cannot be said? Does the word “transgressive” have any meaning anymore? Like Sasha Baron Cohen, Silverman consciously bases her routine on centuries of anti-Semitic stereotypes. The results in both cases are definitely not for the squeamish, but the goal is a noble one: to shake today’s viewers up the way Lenny Bruce once did.

To zero in on Sarah Silverman’s contribution to The Aristocrats DVD, start at chapter 12 (so you have some context for what she actually says in chapter 13).

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