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.
How to cite this page
Cove, Michelle. "Sarah Silverman: Straddling Funny and Offensive." 4 July 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 26, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/sarahsilverman>.