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Sarah Silverman: Straddling Funny and Offensive

When Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, basically a filmed version of Sarah’s comedy act, came out in theaters last year, I didn’t see it. I knew nothing about her brand of comedy, and was hardly willing to commit to being trapped in a theater for two hours. But a bunch of friends recommended it, so I decided to check it out when it came to video.

This weekend, in the comfort of my home, I decided to give the film a shot along with a friend and my husband. I went in with no preconceptions and low expectations—and I’ve got to tell you, I laughed hard. Sarah Silverman is one of the most shocking, post-P.C., bawdy comedians I’ve seen. She slams into every ethnicity and race (including Jews, her own people), old folk, and, yes, even starving children. In her wake, she leaves her audience wide-eyed with mouths agape. So why exactly is her no-holds-barred attack on almost all of humanity funny?

I finally realized that in addition to her excellent timing and sincere delivery, Sarah herself is actually the butt of every joke. She comes across as a spoiled, shallow, self-entitled—okay, Jappy--brat. There is never a wink or inside-joke smile to let us know she’s kidding with us; she remains fully committed to character, a vapid Archie Bunker. “I don't care if you think I'm racist,” she sneers at the audience, “I only care if you think I'm thin.”

Admittedly, I couldn’t help but glance nervously at my friend and husband, to see if they were laughing too. Mostly, they were. I can think of several people I’d NEVER see the film with. After all, it’s often uncomfortable laughing; I even found myself ashamed for giggling at some of her most inappropriate, make that horrifying, jokes (i.e. “When God gives you AIDS - and God does give you AIDS, by the way - make lemonAIDS.”). But then I’d remember that it’s Sarah’s character—and all the ignorant morons like her—that we are laughing at.

Does she reinforce the Jappy stereotype? Definitely. But here’s why I forgive her: to stand in front of the country and let loose a verbal gunfire of attack sure to hit every person listening, even under the mask of satire, is as brave as it gets.

Did you see it? Do you think that her comedy encourages the Jappy sterotype? Is she funny? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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9 Comments


Honestly, the "self-absorbed racist" schtick is about the only part that she plays well, as I suspect that she is happiest when trying to shock people. I love some of her comedy (the "you're going to die soon" song, "give the jew girl toys") and such, because I enjoy shock comedy when it's well-done. Unfortunately, sometimes she thinks that joking about racism IS the joke. That's when she falls apart, as well as when she tries to play a wholesome character ("Greg the Bunny", for example).






She could be a very likable person off-camera if she wasn't so dedicated to being unpleasant.

I love Sarah Silverman, I think she's hilarious. I think good comedians can toe the line between offensive and funny - that's what makes their style uniquely hilarious.

I am a big fan of Sarah and I do not see her as offensive in anyway.

I don't agree... as you said it is funny but it is not offensive...

Here's Something Sarah Should watch!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Regardless of her act, and yes I believe that comedians have a certain license to entertain, there are somethings that are just racist. Where does it stop. I am not Jewish, and hell, I don't like it when she talks about them. She was not raised with morals. She would have more class. She is a sicko. Why would Jimmy want a girl like that? She is not funny. Chelsea Handler is rude but, at least she is funny. This girls material is based on stuff folk would not say. Hell I could do that. Be orginal.

And for you who watch her, you should be ashamed of yourself.

No, Sarah Silverman is NOT funny. I've watched some of her bits (I'm not going to waste my time watching "Jesus Is Magic") and they're repetitive, crude, racist and nasty. Her fans continually scream to people like me "you don't GET her comedy! She's making FUN of racism!" Oh, I get her comedy alright, and it's NOT FUNNY. "All In The Family" was a wildly popular comedy series whose main character was an unrepentant bigot named Archie Bunker. Sometimes that show was very funny, but watching it today makes me cringe. Listening to Archie Bunker go on about "spics" and "wops" and "hebes" and "coloreds" and "fags" is grotesque, just as it is to listen to Silverman talk about the inferiority of blacks and the unwashed Mexicans and her idea to put AIDS patients on a plane and send them to another planet. This is Sarah Silverman's schtick, "a study in broad contrast" as one critic put it: "cute" girl (she's pushing forty) dressed in clothing more approriate for a little girl (or boy) spewing bigotry and obcenities in a high-pitched, sing-songy voice, That's it. That's her whole act, which she does over and over again (she's been doing the same material for years and years). She comes across to me as a very unpleasant, emotionally disturbed person.

Thank you so much for writing this. I feel like people don't get Sarah's comedy and just think she's trying to be offensive and obnoxious. They don't understand that she herself is the satire. Right on!

I'm not sure I agree that she's funny, but you at least helped me understand what other people see in her. Thinking of her like an Archie Bunker makes me like her a little more. But you won't catch me seeing her film again.

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How to cite this page

Cove, Michelle. "Sarah Silverman: Straddling Funny and Offensive." 4 July 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 22, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/sarahsilverman>.

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