Friday, September 09, 2005

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic


My familiarity with Sarah Silverman pretty much starts and stops with her subversive and sublime segment in the recent documentary: The Aristocrats. While the bulk of the comedians there are taking scatological humour to the breaking point, Silverman turns the joke into an awkward confessional with herself as a charmingly naïve rape victim (Hey, it’s all in the delivery). It is funny on its own, but also because it is 180 degrees from everyone else.

For her one-woman show, Jesus is Magic, she capitalizes on her own good looks, building a persona which is both Jewish spoiled-brat-princess and ditzy young starlet, not unlike the one Ana Farris played in Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. Her deadpan in-character delivery implodes the entire notion of starfucking, as popular culture and media look to pseudo-celebrities to comment on racism, religion, and global tragedy.

Not only that, she gets a lot of mileage out of “I can say this because I’m beautiful and white,” which is sure to rub at whatever is left of the veneer of political correctness and offend those unwilling to see these hypocrisies repeated again and again within America (and back-patting 'aren't we great' Canadian culture which is amusingly represented by the the self-congratulatory circle-wank, complete with a multiude of black&white hands, of this years Toronto Film Festival promo-bumper shown prior to each TIFF screening). Silverman wittily deconstructs ‘degrees of racism’, and runs with the notion of: If I can make fun of Jews because I’m Jewish, why can’t I make fun of any other minority out there. Remember that scene from Office Space where Michael Bolton is loudly signing to gangster rap while stuck in traffic, only to turn it down and go rigid when a black guy pulls up in the car next to him? Silverman nails that feeling again and again in fresh and interesting ways. She drags phoniness into the limelight by being as blissfully phony as she can.

There are sketches and musical bits in between interspersed which break up the simple flow filming her live stage-act. The opening sketch where she listens to the success of a couple of her friends, while simmering with awkward jealousy is winning in a Christopher Guest sort of way. Likewise, the opening “I want to be a star” musical number (complete with 1950’s bad-bluescreen matteing) and eschewing hiring Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman or Sandra Bullock for her show, because she is “better than those twats!” perfectly set up her tone. But later sketch material cuts away from the stage and only undermines the sophistication of her style by too (painfully) obviously underlining some of her best material.

After the show, during the Q&A someone asked why after Mocking blacks, Asians, Handicapped, Midgets and the Elderly, did she not go after fat people. Her response “Oh, they’re sensitive.” It’s all in the delivery.
Somebody ought to hook up Sarah and Todd Solondz. That would be something.

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