Recalling Gilbert Gottfried’s Iconic, Dirty, Incredibly Hilarious ‘Noble’ Joke
Gilbert Gottfried, the veteran comic book creator who was announced on Tuesday at the age of 67, will be remembered for many things. He has one of the most iconic voices in Hollywood, most notably for his shrill, instantly recognizable scream for the role of Iago, the villain’s lovable side parrot. present in Disney Aladdin. He is loved and revered by fellow comedians for pushing boundaries on his set. And he’ll also go down in comedy history as telling possibly the best version of the age-old Noble joke.
For those unfamiliar with “The Aristocrats,” this is essentially an inside joke among comedians, believed to have originated in the Vaudeville era. The setting and stroke are still consistent and both are secondary. The movie Noble is really about how phenomenally comedians can pull that off and how long they can keep people laughing by setting their own goals in it. It’s an exercise in imagination and, above all, delivery. The decades-old joke is so pervasive in the comedy world that it was the subject of a 2005 documentary by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette (of magician duo Penn & Teller).
The context of the joke is as follows: a family walks into a talent agent’s office and the agent asks them what their actions include. For a few minutes, the comic strip continued to depict the vulgar “action” the family performed, each new line being dirtier than the last.
Strictly speaking, the joke violates nearly every unspoken taboo one can think of — incest, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, cruelty to animals, you name it. it. There’s also a lot of overall, body-oriented humor thrown in for good measure. Finally comes the crossroads. It’s not just about crossing the line, it’s about crossing it. When the agent asked them what they called themselves, the family sarcastically replied that they called themselves “Nobility”.
What makes Gottfried’s joke repetition special isn’t just his delivery style or the increasingly unsettling situations he devises. (Evidently, though, both are impressive – his words aside, “This is a true story” and a promotional story about the anal contractions of rats accumulating. extremely painful.) But context is very important. Gottfried decided to tell the joke, completely without a plan, after spectacularly bombing at Hugh Hefner’s barbecue in 2001.
As explained in Noble, the explosion came just weeks after 9/11, and the comedians are walking lightly as the country is still reeling from terrorist attacks. Gottfried told a joke about the attacks, saying he was nervous about his upcoming flight to Los Angeles that had a connection at the Empire State Building, and that he was met with “boos” resounding — even one audience member shouted that it was “too soon.” As Gottfried explained in 2019 Vulture in the interview, he has “lost a larger audience than anyone has ever lost an audience”.
With nothing left to lose, he began the Noble’s joke, shifting gears with a decision, “Okay, a talent agent is sitting in his office.” He continued for nine minutes and 50 seconds, garnering massive laughs from the unsuspecting crowd and completely re-enacting the joke as his own.
Amazingly, this was his first time performing on stage, but it would become one of Gottfried’s signature hallmarks.
The only other comic that has access to Gottfried’s legendary Gottfried can’t-so-dirty joke is none other than Gottfried’s late comedian and longtime friend Bob Saget. The scene of comedy will be forever changed by the loss of these two dirty-minded giants.
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