Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen was a stand-up comedy concert film, featuring 12 comedians who all “worked blue.” In the 80s, that meant a lot of cursing and a lot of jokes about oral sex and setting farts on fire. Some of the jokes are funny but, as far as being dirty, not a single comic on the stage comes anywhere as close to being as filthy as Bob Saget was in The Aristocrats. Today, Comedy’s Dirtiest Dozen is best-known for featuring early appearances from not only Tim Allen but also Chris Rock, Jackie Martling, and Bill Hicks. The audience goes crazy when Hicks is introduced and Hicks does his trademark act, pacing the stage while smoking a cigarette and encouraging everyone to not shoot the John Lennons of the world but instead the assholes who sit at a stoplight with their right turn signal blinking. At the time that this film was shot, Chris Rock was all of 21 but he already knew how to take over and control a stage. Rock effortlessly goes from talking about little old white ladies dialing 9-1 whenever they see him on the street to the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign to the difficulty of living at home with a mother who regularly throws away his dirty magazines.
Some of the jokes are funnier than others. When you’re watching 12 comedians making jokes from the vantage point of 32 years in the future, it is to be expected that the end results might seem uneven. Since this was filmed in 1988, there’s a lot of dated jokes about cocaine, AIDS, the Olympics, and Ronald Reagan. The jokes that seem to work the best are the ones about men being immature and women getting sick of them, which just proves that universal truths never go out of fashion.
It seems like whenever you watch a comedy concert film from the 80s, you have to ask yourself whether or not these comedians would be able to perform on a college campus today. (Chris Rock, for instance, has said that he refuses to perform on campus because students are too sensitive.) Bill Hicks would get kicked off stage for daring to light up a cigarette and Jackie Martling would probably cause a riot. As for the rest of the performers, their acts in this film are frequently more profane than controversial. For the most part, though, they’re still funny and that’s the important thing.