One film did, however, make at least one groggy viewer giddy with endorphins. "The Aristocrats" is unspeakably raw and brilliantly hilarious, a documentary featuring dozens of famous comics and comedy writers telling and discussing a notorious dirty joke that has for decades been a staple of behind-the-scenes bull sessions among comedians. A pantheon of comedy stars -- George Carlin, Robin Williams, Phyllis Diller, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Carey and dozens more -- vent some astoundingly raw stuff that drove some critics out of the theater and left others wheezing with laughter in their seats.
The film's co-creators, comedian Paul Provenza and magician Penn Jillette, met with reporters Sunday, bittersweet at the thought that their movie coincided with the death of their hero and mentor Johnny Carson. But they gleefully pointed out the delicious irony that their film, which has no sexual imagery, no violence and, indeed, no conflict, is likely to be slapped with an NC-17 rating and be met with outrage in the predictable quarters. And this despite the volcanic Jillette's insistence that "the red state-blue state thing is nonsense. NASCAR fans like a dirty joke just as much as anyone else. But there are, like, 17 people on the extreme right and the extreme left who will take a film like this and make an issue out of it."