Local magician in star-studded film | AspenTimes.com

Local magician in star-studded film

Stewart Oksenhorn

There are a lot of familiar faces in “The Aristocrats.” In fact, director Paul Provenza’s film, which has screenings in the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival’s Film Discovery Showcase on Friday and Saturday, has more famous faces than any movie ever made: More than a hundred of them, from George Carlin to Robin Williams, “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker to Chris Rock. There are even comedians you’re likely to see in the street or on stage these next few days, including Eddie Izzard and Sarah Silverman.But perhaps the most familiar face for Aspen area residents is that of one of the lesser-known actors in “The Aristocrats”: Snowmass Village magician Eric Mead.Mead’s friend and fellow magician Penn Jillette, the producer of “The Aristocrats,” was telling Mead about the film, which features the comedians all telling the same dirty joke. Mead had one question: Why hadn’t Jillette put him in it?”And he said, ‘I should have.'” Mead said. “But it was shot and done and that was it.”Not quite. One performer, concerned over the filthiness of the material, begged out of the already edited film. So when Jillette reopened the editing, he told Mead he could participate – if he could be in Las Vegas within two days to shoot his take.While few would have noticed if Mead had not been in “The Aristocrats,” most everyone is paying attention to his segment. “According to Paul and Penn, it gets a spontaneous round of applause every time they’ve screened it,” said the 38-year-old Mead.Mead’s personal favorite is Bill the Mime, whose silent telling of the joke he calls “stunningly hilarious.” Also notable are Stone and Parker’s cartoon rendition; Steven Wright’s clean version; and Bob Saget, whose joke is, typically, “ridiculously over-the-top disgusting.” Another highlight for Mead is Sarah Silverman, who doesn’t tell the joke, but whose contribution is critical to the flow of the film, and hilarious to boot.Mead says the reason the film works so well is the variety of ways the joke is told. The joke is sung and juggled; Mead himself illustrates the joke with playing cards and sleight-of-hand. The staff of the satirical newspaper the Onion brainstorms about how they would tell the joke.So what is the big joke? Can’t tell that here. But it is one of the oldest jokes in the book – and not particularly funny. But “The Aristocrats” is not about the joke, but about the way it is told, and about comedy, comedians and the nature of naughty words.”It’s not one of the great, hilarious jokes ever,” Mead said. “It’s like a jazz chart – it’s got a beginning and an end, but in the middle, it’s all about putting your stuff in there.”There’s an underlying theme of obscenity and taboo. There’s an intellectual underpinning – and it’s very funny and entertaining if you can tolerate the laughing and the imagery.””The Aristocrats,” which had its world premiere at the Sundance Festival last month, has been bought by distributor Think Films.”The Aristocrats” shows Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at the Isis Theater.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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