.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Aristocrats

Instead of Crash, I crashed in my sofa, and watched the comedy documentary, The Aristocrats.

For those 3 of you out there that don't know, The Aristocrats is the punchline of the filthiest joke, told by hundreds of comedians, which has been a kind of inside (for lack of a better word) joke in the industry for years.

Until tonight, there were 4 of us, but hey presto! now I've been enlightened.

Don't worry -- no spoilers here.

Let's just say, however, that after the dozens, and dozens of tellings of this joke, with each comedian portayed in the documentary giving it their own spin, I laughed exactly three times:

1- George Carlin's first take in the opening sequence (the one with the polyps)

2- The guy with the deck of cards (genius)

3- And Mario Cantone doing Liza (not literally, eww, now that is gross)


I know, I know.

I got it, so don't bother me with your "you didn't get it"s just because I didn't like it.

I understand it's the journey, rather than the punchline, that allows this to be about creavity, not about a conventional set-em-up, knock-em-down kind of joke.

But Eric Idle (who was awful, by the way) said it best when he asked a pertinent question:

Why did Americans create a joke where the punchline is about aristocrats, and why do they find it funny...if ya'll don't have aristocrats?

I'll leave that to the behavioural psychologists out there to work out.

My slant in this post is different.

Like a few Brits, I've known an aristocrat or two in my time, and I love telling stories against myself, regarding them.

Like the one about the time I called Lord Roy Jenkins (self-made aristocrat, and head honcho at Oxford U) "Lord Gherkins" to his face. By mistake, out of nervousness, but still.

And then there is this one.

Once upon a time, I used to have a friend named Penelope, whom some of you might recall.

Pen had several sisters, the second eldest of whom (the pretty one) had married a peer of the realm. She lived in a huge manor home, surrounded by her exquisite furniture.

But the sisters were always playing jokes on one another, in the manner of large families, but particularly large British families.

There was an edge of cruelty to the jokes, which is hard for foreigners to delight in.

Being cruel, making people uncomfortable, getting under people's skin is a part of British culture -- an integral part, mind.

So Penelope devised a scheme one day, part joke, part comeuppance on her sister who she thought had turned very conventional and snobby (the kiss of social death for aristocrats, contrary to what you've learnt from Hollywood).

You know what it was?

She would invite this sister over to the town home of a new friend of Penelope's.

The kicker is that when the sister arrived at this home, which she had obviously never been to, she would be surrounded by HER OWN FURNITURE, from her living room in that grand manor home of hers.

Everything would be as it was there, down to the positioning of the furniture, and the photographs.

This would take the wind out of her sails, erm, I think.

Off we set out, in two cars, from Gloucestershire, to London in Maida Vale, to meet this "friend".

I was to set out in the first car, and do everything in my power to get lost, which let's face it, wasn't hard. I always got lost in the country.

Penelope would come up a few minutes behind us, allegedly, but in fact, she was at the sister's home, directing the moving of the furniture, with the help of the housekeeper who was in on the joke.

As with any joke, practical or not, timing was key.

They had about 2 hours to work with, to pile everything into vans; rush them to London, set everything up, all the while I was stalling, getting lost, and having to stop for unusual amounts of petrol.

But that's okay. I was pumped! Oh hush.

So anyway, it was all going perfectly according to plan, until I caught sight of the green moving van with a giddy Penelope in the passenger's seat, and I thought we had had it.

But no, the sister was too intent on scowling disapproval at my driving, and yawning at my 20th go-round of "99 bottles of beer on the wall", and "I spy with my little eye" to notice.

The van sped off, and I suddenly remembered I had nervous colon syndrome, giving the movers a precious 15 minutes as I barricaded myself in the loo.

So, we arrive, right, and in walks the sister.

Staring back at her, was her OWN living room, down to the casually laid aside books on her Victorian chintz divan.

Now, you've seen reruns of Candid Camera, or Punk'd, I'm sure.

Do you know that split second moment when the person who is being punked, thinks there is obviously some mistake.

The face goes from "No way", to "What the", to "This isn't happening" to "For real?", in one East London second.

This is when you or I would've given up the ghost, and confessed all to hysterical shrieks of laughter.

But not Penelope.

She carried on, COMPLETELY unfazed, chatting up a storm with her "friend" (in reality, an actress friend of the oldest sister, who was a small-time Covent Garden actress herself).

She even complimented her on her lovely home, so tasteful "if perhaps a bit old for you". Ouch.

And that's not the half of it.

The photograph frames were identical, but they had been replaced with other photos, to show you the level of planning this had taken.

I was too overwhelmed by the audacity of the joke, to laugh, or give anything away.

Not a giggle.

I kept waiting, and waiting, and then I realised.

Penelope wasn't going to tell her.

And the sister, if she had figured it out, either didn't want to make a fool of herself by being wrong, or didn't want to give Pen the satisfaction of knowing that she knew.

Instead, the sister would arrive home, to see her own furnishings in exactly the same place she had left them.

And wonder. And wonder. And wonder, hmmmmmmmmmm.

Thankfully, we stayed overnight in another sister's home, allowing the mover's to do everything on their own, with the housekeeper, without the earlier rush job.

How much this little oddjob cost, I'll never know. I never asked, obviously.

But you can be sure, this is one joke where the build up was everything too, but the punchline could only be successful with true aristocrats.

It's about indifference: to life, to outcome, to laughs.

Indifference is not caring what other people think, about you or about anything.

That most aristocratic of characteristics.

13 Comments:

  • I'm a busta gut over the mimed version of the joke! Although I agree that the movie was no where near as funny as I hoped it would be...

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Feb 05, 12:47:00 pm GMT-5  

  • If indifference is key, I should be highly ranked.
    I've never seen the Aristocrats and suppose won't. I would gladly have paid to see the show you were in however. You mean she never asked?? Never finally gave in and having to know, asked? Penelope, if not, defines indifference and you define secrets kept in confidence and collaboration.
    This story, I loved. That was too much like work.

    By Blogger Paul, at Sun Feb 05, 12:48:00 pm GMT-5  

  • PS, oh yes, we're glad you're back and "defunked", Victoria! Blogger seems to have come down with the digital sickness...

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Feb 05, 12:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I'm a busta gut over the mimed version of the joke!

    I hate mimes! So I found that mildly funny at best.

    Funnier were the reactions of the passersby, as the mime did the doggie. ;)

    Although I agree that the movie was no where near as funny as I hoped it would be...

    So far, I have enjoyed the Featurettes section much better, especially the favourite jokes comics tell.

    It's the last item in that featurette section. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 01:50:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Ron, you'll be happy to know that shortly after posting my comment above, I decided to audioblog that awwwful joke, which nevertheless, I hope you found amusing. ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 02:37:00 pm GMT-5  

  • If indifference is key, I should be highly ranked.

    Are you indifferent to what people think of you, Paul?

    Because it's difficult to be like that -- I, at best, am half way there.

    My mother (who comes from another old family) is also completely indifferent to what people think of her, and how liberating that is.

    I've never seen the Aristocrats and suppose won't. I would gladly have paid to see the show you were in however. You mean she never asked?? Never finally gave in and having to know, asked?

    Not to my knowledge, no.

    Which is exactly exactly the point of this little charade -- it is so very British, because it has the necessary socio-cultural ingredients:

    1- Upper-class hijinks which you or I could not mimic successfully

    2- Indifference to the laughs most of us would wish in the denouement of the joke (the punchline)

    3- And leaving the situation in the balance, without clarification, because he who explains, looks like an unsophisticate

    The most I ever did, was making apple-pie beds for the new formers at my school. Hoo-bloody-hah.

    Penelope, if not, defines indifference and you define secrets kept in confidence and collaboration.

    Now that you put it that way, drat! I just let out a confidence, yes. :(

    But I have my secrets, and I didn't reveal all. ;)

    Anyway, you think those people have computers? No, they don't.

    They barely watch television.

    This story, I loved. That was too much like work.

    The more work you put into it, the better the joke teller you are.

    I think I am beginning to "get" the Aristocrats!

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 02:45:00 pm GMT-5  

  • PS, oh yes, we're glad you're back and "defunked", Victoria!

    Oh, they don't last long, my bad moods.

    Although I was MIGHTY upset yesterday I didn't get to go to the Keillor thing, and actually spent all evening moping.

    Now I'm okay.

    Thankfully, I listened to the show on the radio, and realised the show sucked...a lot.

    I feel better not having spent $65. :)

    Blogger seems to have come down with the digital sickness...

    Tell me about it.

    My paltry 85 hits yesterday will really make a dent on Blogosphere.

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 02:47:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Word verification: Rensue

    Hmmmmmm. Renato sues me?

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 02:48:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Are you indifferent to what people think of you, Paul?

    I am curious about people I am drawn to and it is of some difference what they think about me, to be liked, yes.
    In general though I know myself and the way I treat others is simply what I want from them too, regardless of what they think.
    I am what I am, Olive.

    The most I ever did, was making apple-pie beds for the new formers at my school. Hoo-bloody-hah.

    Victoria! No! My favorite and only pie I will eat defiled in such dark humour. How could you? You will have to show me your Helen Keller jokes now ;)
    P.S. I knew the meaning of denouement when several years ago a young, sophisticated lady told me a story containing it. I had to look it up.

    And leaving the situation in the balance, without clarification, because he who explains, looks like an unsophisticate

    aaah...slowly I learn.

    By Blogger Paul, at Sun Feb 05, 05:10:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I had to look it up.

    It = dress? ;)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Feb 05, 05:56:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Please, Victoria, your audioposts give us the great delight and the much happiness, plus grande! Of course we love them!

    By Blogger Ron, at Sun Feb 05, 11:55:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Please, Victoria, your audioposts give us the great delight and the much happiness, plus grande! Of course we love them!

    Aww, thanks, Ron. :)

    The thing of it is, until I get a bigger HD in my new computer (which I haven't bought yet ;), I'll have to stick to podcasting via Audioblogger.

    And though free, and I shouldn't complain, it's a drag to dial up, not the least of which, is that they have an automatic cut-off for podcasting. I believe one gets 2 minutes for each post.

    You can't say anything in 2 mins! Not even about squism.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Feb 06, 09:39:00 pm GMT-5  

  • It = dress? ;)

    ......alright

    I think I may have not quite told the truth, either.

    By Blogger Paul, at Tue Feb 07, 05:16:00 pm GMT-5  

Post a Comment

Who linked Here:

Create a Link

<< Home


 




Advertise on blogs
British Expat Blog Directory.