DVDs: Joker's Wild

"A guy walks into a talent agent's office.... " From that humble beginning spring 100 or so different riffs on perhaps the most vile, grotesque joke ever told. And the tellers here include everyone from Don Rickles, George Carlin, and Martin Mull to Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, and Jon Stewart. Conceived and cut together by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette, The Aristocrats (Th!nkFilm; Movie ••••, Picture/Sound ••, Extras •••½) is about crossing boundaries ("safety zones," as Carlin calls them). It also manages to question the nature of improvisation and the fundamental structures of humor. And as long as you're prepared to be shaken and offended, it's one of the funniest movies you'll ever see. It even has a hilarious bit by a mime, and that's saying something.

DVD quality isn't the point here; shot documentary-style in a 4:3 aspect ratio, the film consists mostly of a series of impromptu interviews. But the extras - a commentary from the filmmakers, extended versions of the joke, other favorite gags from the comedians, and a weird "tribute" to Johnny Carson - are as addictive as the movie. Leave your good taste at the door and dive in.

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