Walking through a narrow corridor inside the Ivy Substation in Culver City, one can already feel the energy. The space that once powered electric trolley cars on Venice Blvd. is now home to The Actors' Gang Theater. Everyone is gathered here on a Wednesday night at the WTF?! Festival to see The Aristocrats, a 2005 documentary about the most disgusting joke ever told between comedians.
Before the screening begins, we are led into a small outside courtyard in the back of the theater. The DJ is spinning Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" as small lights adorn above giving the space an intimate, bohemian appeal. Paul Provenza, director of the film, mingles happily with fans and friends. Also among the crowd is the talented Tim Robbins, artistic director of the Actors' Gang and curator of the WTF?! Festival.
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Later we all scuttle inside the 99 seat theater and take our seats. Mr. Robbins makes a brief introduction and then the film starts. Following almost two hours of nonstop, foul mouthed debauchery, we are treated to a live performance from Billy the Mime who was featured in the film. He depicts his own X-rated version of a dinner party and the crowd howls in laughter, clearly not bothered by the hip gyrations and sexual pantomiming displayed before them. Afterward, veteran comedian Rick Overton, also in The Aristocrats, does a 10 minute set that skewers the political right with impersonations of Obi Wan Kenobi and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He kills it. The evening ends with a Q&A session with director Paul Provenza, Rick Overton, Billy the Mime (sans makeup) and editor Emery Emery.
Provenza describes making the film as "falling in love with standup again." He also reveals that footage of porn star Ron Jeremy doing his own version of The Aristocrats joke was cut from the film. Clearly the documentary could have pushed the boundaries of taste even further had the footage been included. We wouldn't have minded.