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The Aristocrats

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"The Aristocrats" is a taboo-defying, off-color joke that has been told by numerous stand-up comedians and dates back to the vaudeville era.[1] It relates the story of a family trying to get an agent to book their stage act, which is remarkably vulgar and offensive. The punch line reveals that they incongruously bill themselves as "The Aristocrats".[2] When told to audiences who know the punch line, the joke's humor depends on the described outrageousness of the family act.[3][4]

Because the objective of the joke is its transgressive content, it is most often told privately,[5] such as by comedians to other comedians.[6] It came to wider public attention when Gilbert Gottfried told it during the Friars' Club roast of Hugh Hefner to recover after losing the crowd and eliciting "booing and hissing" with a joke about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which had occurred just 18 days prior.[7] It was the subject of a 2005 documentary film of the same name by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette.



This joke typically has these elements—alternative versions may change this form.

  1. Setup: A family act (or a representative, usually a head of household) goes in to see a talent agent about booking their act. The agent asks what their act consists of.
  2. Act: If the whole family is present, the act is performed for the agent; otherwise it is described, in as much detail as the teller prefers, typically ad lib. Traditionally, the description is tasteless and ribald, with the goal to significantly transgress social norms. Taboo elements such as racism, animal cruelty, incest, rape, child sexual abuse, coprophilia, coprophagia, bestiality, necrophilia, cannibalism, and murder are common themes.
  3. Punch line: The shocked (or intrigued) agent asks what the act is called, and the proud answer (sometimes delivered with a flourish) is: "The Aristocrats!"

See also



  1. ^ Gini, Al (2015). "Dirty Jokes, Tasteless, Jokes, Ethnic Jokes" (PDF). Florida Philosophical Review. XV (1): 50–65. Retrieved 2023-01-22.
  2. ^ Germain, David (2005-07-25). "Hilarious 'Aristocrats' gets the joke". Today. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  3. ^ Seabaugh, Julie (2015-07-28). "One big joke". Nevada Public Radio. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  4. ^ Czajkowski, Elise (2012-08-15). "Diving Deep Into the Dirtiest Joke Ever in 'The Aristocrats'". Vulture. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Joyce (August 2010). "The Aristocrats". The Psychoanalytic Review. 97 (4): 695–700. doi:10.1521/prev.2010.97.4.695. ISSN 0033-2836. PMID 20804331.
  6. ^ The Aristocrats (Motion picture). Mighty Cheese Productions. 2005.
  7. ^ Fox, Jesse David (2019-09-09). "After a 9/11 Joke Bombed, Gilbert Gottfried Told the Dirtiest Joke in Comedy". Vulture. Retrieved 2020-07-19.