Tag Archives: The Aristocrats

The filthiest joke in the world…

Kate Copstick and John fleming - Grouchy Club Podcast

The Grouchy Club Podcast – I am incapable of telling a joke

In this week’s 27-minute Grouchy Club Podcast, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I talk about performer Matt Roper and Wilfredo being robbed in New York… Chris Dangerfield & Ricky Grover… Lewis Schaffer & Bobby Davro… How I am currently locked inside my own house… Copstick’s involvement in actual bodily harm… Taboo comedy, shaggy dog stories & bad taste jokes… And the old adage that tragedy + time = comedy. But the filthiest joke in the world also came up in conversation.

This piece is also a classic example of how I am incapable of telling a joke effectively. Because I have a shit memory. I may have mentioned that before.

…It’s like when the marvellous Paul Provenza made a documentary film called The Aristocrats.

…about the filthiest joke ever.

Well, I kept hearing about this film The Aristocrats and ‘It’s brilliant!’ and I thought: What would it be about? About posh people in comedy? Comedy about posh people? And then they did a special showing of it at the Edinburgh festival and, the minute they started, I went: Oh! It’s The Debonaires! Because, in Scotland, the joke is The Debonaires.

I think, in the UK, tagging it with The Aristocrats is just not funny, because it’s got this fantastic… Well, you tell it…

We’re not going to tell it. The whole point about this joke is it has to last as long as possible. You can probably see it online.

Yeah. Some people do it with more actions, some people do it with more swearing, some people make it last longer than others. I first heard it about a hundred years ago in Scotland done in broad Glaswegian and then when you get… Oh, so, eh, what’s it called? – Well, we call it The Debonaires!…

… because the whole point about the joke is you have to be as filthy as possible and then, at the very end, the supposed punchline is actually an up-market, clean, sweet name. I heard the reverse of this joke at Granada TV, Manchester in – God knows – it must have been the late 1970s, early 1980s, but it was the reverse.

The reverse?

It was called Porky. It wasn’t a showbiz joke; it was a joke about a family. There was this sweet boy who was the son and you had to do sweetness and light and love and bluebirds flying and everything glorious for as long as possible and then, at the very end, the person in the joke says: What’s his name? and the answer is Porky… No… You say that at the beginning of the joke… His name is Porky and then there’s all sweetness and light…

This is not going well, John, as jokes go.

I can’t tell jokes… His name’s Porky…

So we establish at the beginning of the joke that the boy’s name is Porky…

… and, for as long as possible, you do everything sweet and light and beautiful and lovely and, at the end, the person in the joke says: And why is he called Porky? And the answer is: He fucks pigs. So you have beauty and then…


…and then there was a reverse of that and I can’t remember what the reverse was. It was similar to The Debonaires, where you have to do filth and then it’s a clean ending. And it actually wasn’t as funny as Porky, because the whole point about the joke is the skill in the telling of it. It’s not actually the joke. The joke is not funny. It’s the telling of it.

It’s quite easy to make it interesting if it’s all four-letter words and filth. It’s really difficult to make it last and last and last if it’s sweetness and light and prettiness. So there’s actually more skill in the reverse one where the punchline is He fucks pigs, but everything else before that is Sally Sunshine.

There was a bloke at Granada (Graeme Wells) who could tell it brilliantly. People just lined up to hear him tell the story.

This week’s full 27-minute Grouchy Club Podcast is HERE.

And there is a trailer for the very highly-recommended Aristocrats movie on YouTube.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Let me tell you a joke about Jade Goody, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuke and the 9/11 attacks…

British so-called ‘reality star’ Jade Goody died two years ago on Tuesday. She’s gone and largely forgotten.

Can I tell you a joke about her being a racist? People reviled her before her death and said she was racist. And they made jokes about it.

She’s been dead for two years now, so I can certainly make jokes about her, can’t I? No-one can possibly say it’s ‘too soon’, can they?

This is about a blog I wrote a couple of days ago in which I mentioned a friend’s criticisms of Japan but, first, let me repeat an arguably sexist and allegedly true story about the playwright George Bernard Shaw. As is the way with such stories, it is not necessarily true; it has also been attributed to Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, W.C.Fields and even the philosopher Bertrand Russell.


The great man was at a dinner party with some very lah-di-dah people. Somehow, the conversation turned to slack sexual morals (in the George Bernard Shaw version, this was in the 1930s). He asked one of the ladies present:

“Madam, would you sleep with me for one million pounds?”

“Well, for a million pounds, Mr Shaw,” the lady replied, “perhaps I would.”

She and the other guests laughed.

The conversation turned to other topics and, later, George Bernard Shaw whispered to the lady: “Madam, would you sleep with me tonight if I gave you £10?”

“Mr Shaw!” replied the woman, deeply offended: “What sort of woman do you think I am?”

“Madam,” Shaw said, “we have established what sort of woman you are. We are merely haggling over the price.”

Which brings us back to the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

I wrote a blog in which I quoted the opinions of a friend of mine who had been to Japan last October. She was not impressed. Her image of an efficient, futuristic country were confounded.

In light of the still ongoing disasters and 10,000+ deaths in Japan, several people – mostly stand-up comics – found my initial blog and a follow-up blog in bad taste, although they were non-comedic blogs.

I know that one of the comics who found my non-comedic blog to be ‘too soon’ had, in fact, made jokes about the death of Jade Goody just a few days after her death from cancer.

I have no problem with that, but it does beg the question When is ‘too soon’ too soon? and why.

American comic Gilbert Gottfried was dropped last week as the voice of a giant US insurance company because he made jokes about the Japanese earthquake.

I don’t think him being dropped was unreasonable, as insurance companies should perhaps not be seen to make light of disasters. But the criticism was not that he made the jokes but that he had made the jokes ‘too soon’. He had similar problems when he made jokes ‘too soon’ about the 9/11 terrorist attacks (as seen in Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette’s comedy documentary The Aristocrats).

Why would a joke made a few days after the 9/11 attacks be any less in bad taste than exactly the same joke made ten years after the 9/11 attacks? Why – and when – would it become acceptable?

Why would a joke about Jade Goody be funny only two years after her death but be in bad taste two days or two weeks after her death? What could have changed to make the joke become acceptable?

If the argument is that someone who personally know Jade Goody or personally knew a victim of the 9/11 attacks could hear the joke and be hurt… then that argument holds just as strongly 2 days or 2 weeks or 20 years after the event. The emotional pain caused would, in all honesty, be much the same.

Surely if a joke is in unacceptably bad taste, then it is unacceptable, full stop.

So why would someone’s non-funny criticisms of Japan (correct or incorrect) be in bad taste – specifically because they are ‘too soon’ – a few days after an appalling triple disaster – earthquake/tsunami/nuclear problem? At what point would those same comments (correct or incorrect) become more acceptable?

I have genuinely never understood the concept of ‘too soon’.

If  joke is in bad taste, it is in bad taste. If an observation is unacceptable, it is unacceptable.

To return to George Bernard Shaw:

We have established what sort of observation we have here. We are merely haggling over the timing.


What’s all this ‘too soon’ shit about 9/11, about Jade Goody – or about Japan?

If it’s bad taste, it’s bad taste. But at some point, bad taste apparently becomes acceptable.


1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Politics, Racism, Sex, Travel