Editor's Note: Some jokes are funny, some are just plain disgusting, and some are funny and disgusting. What’s below isn’t even faintly amusing ... it’s just sad. (If you’d like to learn a little more about the film, “The Aristocrats” or the joke that’s at the center of it, click here to read an article by one of the movie’s two creators, magician Penn Jillette.)


What Do You Call It? ... A Joke on All of Us

 

With summer coming to an end in the way that it has, we could all use some laughs. During the past couple of weeks, a movie called “The Aristocrats” has provided at least a few.

This cult film features more than 100 comedians telling the same joke, with the same punch line, each using a different setup. It’s dusty, old vaudeville schtick that, briefly, goes like this.

A family walks into a talent agency, and the father says, “Have I got an act for you.”

The agent responds, “What do you do?”

At this point, the comic fills in the blank with a long, run-on sentence that explains in depraved detail an act so obscene, absurd, profane and/or scatological as to be unrepeatable in a family newspaper.

The agent then asks, “What’s the act called?”

To which the father replies, “The Aristocrats.”

Not so amusing? On paper, maybe not, but set up well by a good comic, it’s surprisingly funny. Somewhat less entertaining is the act taking place in Washington.

In response to the murder of 3,000 Americans, our government invades a country that had nothing to do with it, diverting hundreds of billions of dollars to a quagmire that looks increasing like Vietnam with oil wells, as the perpetrators they’d vowed to terminate continue roaming free, making videos and planning new terrorism, while our borders remain as wide open as Iraq’s.

What’s the act called?

The Republicans.

What do you call it when our vice president’s former company (which has given him more than 433,000 unexercised stock options) is awarded more than $1.4 billion in no-bid, noncompetitive contracts to rebuild Iraq, then is fined for cheating and overcharging the government, but continues to receive funding (the total has now surpassed $14 billion) as the investigations continue, and the company’s own auditor refers to the contracts as a “gravy train,” because the exorbitant charges are billed directly to the taxpayers?

The Republicans.

What do you call it when a woman who takes the heretical position of opposing the war in Iraq, after losing her son there, is vilified by the fair-and-balanced right-wing press as a traitor, a liar, an extremist and an unwitting dupe of those “radicals on the left” who have the audacity not to be enthusiastic about a war that was begun for reasons that have all proved to be false?

The Republicans.

What do you call it when legislators address rising gas prices and our continued dependence on Arab oil with billions in new tax breaks for price-gouging oil companies already wallowing in record profits (Exxon Mobil’s are up 32% and skyrocketing), while rejecting legislation to raise fuel efficiency standards on SUVs, minivans and light trucks?

The Republicans.

What do you call it when our president keeps raising the bar for what it would take for his employees (including one known as Bush’s brain) — who may have broken federal laws by leaking the name of a covert CIA agent to a right-wing journalist in order to punish her husband for opposing administration foreign policy — to lose their jobs in that administration?

The Republicans.

What do you call a group that considers itself “pro-life,” but prefers that frozen embryos from fertility clinics be destroyed, rather than used by scientists for stem-cell research that might one day cure diseases and save lives?

The Republicans.

What do you call it when the leader of a political party that claims it wants government out of your business won’t drive down the road to talk to a grieving mother, but will fly cross-country to prevent a husband from allowing his wife (who’s been in a persistent vegetative state for more than 15 years) to die, while conservative legislators and their “no-spin” minions in the media smear the husband with unfounded innuendoes about domestic abuse, and the husband’s governor threatens him with a criminal investigation?

The Republicans.

What do you call a political party that presides over the largest federal budget increases and the most profligate deficit spending in American history, supports legislation to repeal the estate tax for the wealthiest 2% of Americans and still has the chutzpah to call its opponents “big spenders”?

The Republicans.

What would you call a TV program in which the host — who happens to be his party’s most prominent religious figure, one of its most powerful kingmakers and one of its biggest fundraisers — calls for the assassination of the legally elected leader of a foreign country, because he disapproves of its foreign policy and “it’s cheaper” than invading that country?

The Republicans.

What do you call politicians so eager to continue giving tax relief to millionaires that they help finance it by shaving more than 60% from the Army Corps of Engineers' budget request for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans?

The Republicans.

What do you call politicians who select as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) a man whose only qualifications are that he was the college roommate of his predecessor and once ran Arabian horse shows?

The Republicans.

And what do you call a group of citizens that gives a congressional majority to politicians who’ve turned an enormous surplus into the biggest deficits in American history, then chooses a draft avoider, rather than a war hero, to run a seemingly unwinnable war that the military now estimates could drag on well into 2009 and beyond?

The American people … maybe we just don’t get the joke.


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