Monday, January 30, 2006
And We Feed Off The Audience's Rage

Having found myself with a whole lot of extra money (because last night nobody let me pay for anything after the screening -- I mean, christ, what's a girl gotta do to be able to do something nice for someone around here?), I took a small part of it yesterday and finally fulfilled a wish I've had for nearly a year:

I went out and got myself a copy of The Aristocrats.

You know how long I've wanted this. You know what happened when I tried to go see it in the theater. The road has been a long and winding one, and it would be well-nigh impossible for any film to live up to the compacted anticipation that this one had to live up to. So it shouldn't be any surprise that the whole thing was a bit, shall we say, anti-climactic. The worst part was waiting anxiously for Gilbert Gottfried's purportedly legendary telling of the titular joke, only to find that wasn't anything all that special. Seems to me it had more to do with the context than the actual performance -- one of those "you had to be there" things.

Or maybe it's my particular sense of humor. Chanting "sucking and fucking, sucking and fucking" isn't a comedic strategy that'll normally get a big laugh from me (well, maybe, but you'd have to do it way more times than Gottfried did -- that line would demand crossing the line into absurdism to be really funny.) I tend to be more attuned to detail and nuance: just saying "fuck the dog/my daughter/my grandmother/my dad's bleeding anus" isn't enough to win my sympathy. Yes, I'm that jaded -- single-mindedly scraping to the filthiest depths of narrative depravity isn't enough for me; I want a little existential angst thrown in while we're at it. I want to feel the hopelessness -- I'm sort of Canadian that way.

Shockingly, my favorite versions were told by the people I'd have least expected -- Doug Stanhope's was especially good, telling his >1-year-old son how "... it's finally a whole prolapsed rectum, it's like an ulcerated sea snake -- remember when I took you to Sea World? Yeah." Maybe I should be paying more attention to Mr. Stanhope -- here I've always judged him by his Man Show/GGW credentials, but then again, he's also on Bill Hicks' label, so maybe there's more there than I'd assumed. (Okay, it's actually Kevin Booth's label -- speaking of which, Joe Rogan was on it, too. Kinda makes you wonder whether, had he survived, Bill would've ended up hosting the Man Show himself... and if he had, would I have watched it?)

The film felt conflicted to me, though -- it's a film about the inner-workings of comedy, but since it's being pitched to an audience that (the producers assume) only wants dick jokes, it never allows itself to think too deeply. And that's a shame, because comparing different versions of one canonical joke would be an excellent way to gain insight into the process of comedy itself -- the comedians could've given us some invaluable insight, but the viewers are, as always, just left to hunt through the haystack on their own.

In related news, I also ccouldn't help but notice that Kevin Booth has just published a new bio of Bill Hicks, Agent of Evolution. I'll be buying a copy, obviously. But I won't be reading it without trepidation -- biographies written by people close to the person being portrayed are never the best ones. There's always that promise of special insight, but too often it ends up being about the person doing the writing instead of the person being written about. (Bob Zmuda's biography of Andy Kaufman was particularly disappointing in that respect.) Booth might be better able to avoid that pitfall than most, but I'll believe it when I see it.
12:17 AM ::
Amy :: permalink
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