Sunday, September 11, 2005


This guy walks into a talent agency and says to the agent, "Have I got a movie for you." He proceeds to tell the agent about a film that begins to explore the craft of comedy. Like great jazz musicians who perform wonderful improvisation to impress other jazz musicians, this film examines how comedians take a simple legendary joke within the comic community and interpret it to fit their own style. This film interviews a number of famous comedians, notably comedians recognized as exemplars of the craft by their peer, about their interpretations of the joke and how such variations reflect distinctive comedic styles. The film's more shocking moments are not all that offensive because they are used to make transparent how comics envision the joke telling art. The tools of rhetoric, in particular kairos, are so clearly evident in the art of comedy it is not even funny.

The agent says, "Sounds like an interesting act. What do you call it?"

The guy smiles wryly as he leaves the office and says, "The Aristocrats."


Dir: Peter Provenza and Penn Gillette


Blogger ronvon2 noted on 9/11/2005 11:45:00 AM that...

But, seriously folks. I really enjoyed the film on a technical level. Not necessarily the film-making prowess, but how must comedy is techne that really requires apprenticeship to help develop a keen sense of timing and context (again rhetoric at its finest) that can not really be taught by defined methods. After the film, Alessandra and I had a long conversation about how comedy might be one of the few places left where rhetroic is practiced in its purest form, in that comedy is craft where agency still remains in substantial ways.

What also struck me were the tensions that might develop between film editing and comedic timing. I expected the film to be a little bit of historical background and then a whole bunch of comedians telling their version of the joke. Instead, there were a number of interviews that were spliced together with highlights of the joke-telling. Although it remained funny and insightful, I wonder how much the editing and jump cuts disrupted the comedians' timing with the telling of the joke.