Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Joe Franklin raped me."

Today's column previews "The Sarah Silverman Program" on Comedy Central:

"The Sarah Silverman Program" may be critic-proof.

I don't mean in a "Hostel: Part II" or Rob Schneider comedy way where no matter how harsh the reviews are, the target audience will eagerly plunk down their 10 bucks. I mean that I'm not sure the written word -- or the spoken word if anyone other than Silverman is speaking -- can possibly capture what it's about. But since I get paid to tackle the dangerous jobs, I'll give it a try.

Half the things Silverman says, I can't repeat in a family newspaper. The other half make her sound like history's worst monster.

And maybe to some people, she is. The Asian-American community pilloried her after a joke she told on Conan O'Brien's show with a Chinese racial epithet for a punchline. Joe Franklin threatened to sue her after her scene in "The Aristocrats" suggested, however mockingly, that he had molested her when she was little. Courtney Love isn't too happy with her after Silverman verbally dissected her during Comedy Central's roast of Pamela Anderson. And once the first few episodes of "The Sarah Silverman Program" air, she'll no doubt have offended several dozen other groups, including the police and leukemia patients.

But the character Silverman has crafted in her recent work, whether "The Aristocrats," her concert film "Jesus is Magic" or here, works because of the stark contrast of what she says and the way she says it.

To read the full thing, click here. We can also use this thread to comment on the first episode, which I believe is actually the second episode shot. (The pilot, featuring Sarah and Black God, got pushed back for reasons passing understanding. Or not.)


Adam said...

I think Tad Friend hit the nail on my problem with Silverman: "Her game is to throw out stereotypes in a little-girl voice and with a winsome look that suggests no offense can legitimately be taken. You might admire Silverman’s boldness, or you might feel that there’s something sneaky in her appropriation of slurs that never wounded her -- that it’s the standup equivalent of the person who cuts in line and then can’t believe you object."

It's shtick, and I think it's a bit tiresome. It's like, "Great, you've got a pose. What are you going to do with it?"

Undercover Black Man said...

I agree with Adam. I used to think Sarah Silverman was something special... ten years ago. But "Jesus Is Magic" took the bloom off the rose for me. She's so totally a shock comic, I don't see anything of substance beyond the shock. (Unlike, say, a Bill Hicks... draw-droppingly shocking, but a serious observer of the culture and of his own soul.) Plus "Jesus Is Magic" didn't make me laugh.

I'll check out her show... but am not expecting much.

Silverman did snap off one vicious, hilarious joke at Alan King's expense during one of those roasts. She looks at him and goes: "Alan, we just got a call from Miami Beach. The last person who knows who you are died."

Undercover Black Man said...

I meant "jaw-droppingly."

Bret LaGree said...

Silverman was definitely funnier ten or so years ago when she first came to my attention on Larry Sanders. I'm not sure that it's primarily due to her act not evolving much or that she's become a more polished (and/or cynical) performer and her character's innocence is so much more obviously a put on.

Unknown said...

She was pretty good in "Greg the Bunny."

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Kimmel is sapping all the funny out of her.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As I pointed out in the column, I think Silverman works best in short doses. If she'd dramatically advanced her act in the last decade, that might not be the case.

Joel said...

Talk about taking a quote out of context, Adam... Friend's review was overwhelmingly positive.

I'm with the crowd here, though; I found Sarah's schtick to be hilarious even as recently as a couple of years ago, but now it seems to be one-note and tired. She has the potential to do Bill Hicks-style humor, and the fact that she's still doing this "sweetly offensive" routine is disappointing to me.

Anonymous said...

I never understood what was so bloody clever about that Joe Franklin bit. Silverman had been around long enough for us to know when she was lying through her teeth.

Of course, there's the rub: Silverman's always lying through her gritted smile. It makes for... not boring comedy, but I've always wondered why I hoot and holler when Ryan Philippe clocks her at the outset of Way of the Gun.

Adam said...

Joel, people can read the piece on their own. Friend's conclusion includes these lines: "The brilliance of the show -- the force of its argument that sitcoms turn us into loserish loners -- is also its abiding flaw. We admire the purity of Silverman’s scornfulness, but we don’t want to hang out with her the way we did with Mary and Rhoda."

Not overwhelmingly positive.

Anonymous said...

"Jimmy Kimmel is sapping all the funny out of her."

I think it's more like he's pumping all his unfunny into her, as a side effect of the other thing.

Anonymous said...

Heh, Jim. And also, gross, dude!

I was thinking more along the lines that his vortex of stupidity is sucking her in as well. Maybe this proves Alan's point in the "30 Rock" entry that men and women think differently? ;-)

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