From on High

I retort. You decide.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Aforementioned Exhibit

White Cabinet and White Table

Monday, August 08, 2005

Telling a Joke One (hundred or so) Too Many Times

Last night I went to see the movie/documentary The Aristocrats with some friends. For those unfamiliar, the movie is about a famous joke by the same name. In the joke, a family goes to a talent agent and purports to have an act which they hope to perform with the backing of the talent agent. The act is then described in detail and consists of the most vulgar activities one could possibly imagine a family doing together. Each comedian fills in the details using his own style and substance, but the act inevitably involves copious human excrement, sex, and incest. The punchline comes when finally, the talent agent asks what the name of the act is and the family responds: The Aristocrats.

I should not have gone to this movie, seeing as though I view the joke as a crude (in both senses of the word) and an utterly ineffective attempt at humorous irony. Dragging various incantations of the joke over a two-hour movie, therefore, was unsurprisingly not the best cinematic experience I've had.

Then today, I went to MOMA and saw an exhibit that I consider to be a far better use of the type of irony that the joke seeks to elicit. The exhibit consisted of a table whose surface was absolutely filled with broken eggshells piled several inches high. Above the table was a large cabinet with transparent glass doors, also completely filled with hundreds of broken eggshells. The eggshells in the cabinet were piled in a way such that the bottom portion of the pile was slightly narrower than the top, giving the observer a disorienting sense that gravity is working in reverse. All in all, the hundreds of eggshells made for a quite a scene. HOWEVER, the title of the exhibit (and here's the punchline) is: White Table and White Cabinet.

Using the MOMA exhibit as inspiration, I decided that my own version of the Aristocrats joke, if I ever had to create one, would work off of the eggshell exhibit's premise. I'd have the family's act begin with a rather mundane event, say, the ringing of a doorbell. Then they'd engage in all the vile and repulsive behavior that is common to the joke in a manner so shocking that the audience would be begging for an end to the discomfort after just a few minutes. At the end, the talent agent would ask what the name of the act was called and the response would be: The Doorbell.

Of course my version is hardly high comedy, but I do think it's an improvement on an otherwise lame joke. On the other hand, maybe I just have no sense of humor.