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Bob Saget Riffs on 'The Aristocrats'

ED GORDON, host:

A new film called "The Aristocrats" is about a joke, one infamous dirty joke that comedians have retold to one another for more than a century.

Unidentified Man #1: A guy goes into a talent agent's office. He says, `I have the greatest act in the world.'

Unidentified Man #2: Hey, oh.

Unidentified Man #3: Me and my wife go on stage. We get undressed and I start (censored) my wife.

Unidentified Man #4: I remember my grandmother sitting me down and telling me the joke. So she only spoke Yiddish. The only English word she knew was (censored).

Ms. WHOOPI GOLDBERG (Comedian): So when I would tell a joke like this, you know, it would be all about dripping (censored) and maybe pulling this (censored) back and maybe making helmets out of them. You know, it would be a whole thing.

GORDON: Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock join more than 100 comedians in "The Aristocrats." Although, or maybe because, it pushes the envelope beyond vulgar, the documentary earned rave reviews at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Bob Saget turned up in the movie with his own smutty version. It's a surprising performance from the man who played the straight-arrow father on the family sit com "Full House." But Saget's been in the world of stand-up comedy for a long time, long enough to know where this joke wouldn't be welcomed.

Mr. BOB SAGET (Comedian): It's the kind of joke you wouldn't really give to mass consumptions, not something you would tell on stage. It's not something you would--it's--behind the school yard is where a joke like this originates. But the movie's dedicated to Johnny Carson. Supposedly, Buddy Hackett was on "The Tonight Show" once and during the commercial break told the audience and Johnny this joke and then told the punch line when they came back from a commercial: "The Aristocrats." It's not even a good punch line. Paul Reiser's hilarious. He's kind of, `Is it "The Aristocrats?" Is it a Disney film?' But it's the antithesis of that. It is a joke about how desperate people would be to make it in show business.

GORDON: One of the other interesting points here is ofttimes those of us who are not comedians don't see the craft of comedy, particularly if you get different people in the same room, you will be able to craft a joke that started out one way and is a better joke in the end, is it not?

Mr. SAGET: It is. It's--and if you can make a joke out of this joke, you are quite a constructor. But it's the gallows humor of it that make it fascinating and to watch a comedian really love telling it. George Carlin launches into it, and he loves it because this man stands for freedom of speech, started with the seven words you can't say on television. This movie is full of 400 things you can say on television.

Mr. GEORGE CARLIN (Comedian): You get to play with people's little danger zones. I do like finding out where the line is drawn, deliberately crossing it, bringing some of them with me across the line and having them be happy that I did.

GORDON: Let me ask you this. In relation to the times that we're in now, so many people talk about whether or not we are in need of censorship, whether or not we have allowed our society to go too far. Where do you fall on that in relation to where we sit and, again, juxtaposing it to this movie?

Mr. SAGET: Whenever we go to a very conservative time, obviously this kind of stuff comes out. And this is where extreme art comes from. It's been an interesting thing that this came out. It does lower the bar in some ways as far as it's so dirty that--dialoguewise. There's no nudity. There's no violence. And in the ad campaign, Penn Gillette is saying, `And no penguins.' But what's interesting about it is we live in a society where this movie can get released. And there's something I say beautiful about it. And it's--the movie's about censorship, too, and the freedom of speech and bad language and sexual situations with people that are reasonable people. It is not damaging. My 18-year-old saw it. She was in a theater in Santa Monica. She saw it with 600 people. They were laughing hysterically. But she's not damaged. She's smart. So if we communicate with our kids--my kids are sophisticated. They're not aristocratic.

GORDON: Comedian and actor Bob Saget joins more than 100 other comics in the documentary "The Aristocrats" opening nationwide today.

This is NPR NEWS. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.