Not quite as raunchy, but twice as offensive, as The Aristocrats (in which she briefly appears), stand-up comedienne Sarah Silverman’s debut concert film Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic officially ends whatever cinematic cease-fire remained on filthy jokes about 9/11, sexual assault, the Holocaust, AIDS, and race. “I knew something good would come out of that, out of rape,” Silverman self-deprecatingly deadpans toward the start of her set (filmed in September 2004), an early indication of the 35-year-old’s brand of bluntly confrontational and subversive humor in which taboo topics are fodder for gruesomely tasteless punchlines about ejaculation and feces. Yet there’s a method to Silverman’s comedic madness beyond simply insulting every segment of the American populace, an undercurrent of socio-political criticism that aims to lay bare the hypocrisy, nastiness, and absurdity of people’s commonly held opinions. “The best time to have a baby is when you’re a black teenager,” she riffs with a smile, her naïve and jovial Jewish American Princess persona dissonantly clashing with her ugly remarks. The devilish Silverman uses this visual/aural disconnect as her means of cheerfully forcing audiences to confront their everyday beliefs, actions, and prejudices, using irony as her chief weapon to go after religious hatemongering (“I hope the Jews did kill Christ. I’d do it again”) and ethnic stereotypes (in response to a Mexican woman objecting to a joke about body odor, Silverman retorts, “You can’t smell yourself”). Such ribald provocation is consistently hilarious and discomfiting, but only the latter is true of Jesus is Magic‘s momentum-halting, laugh-free song-and-dance interludes. These parodic, scatological ditties are shot by director Liam Lynch (a frequent Tenacious D collaborator) not as they’re naturally performed on stage but as cheeky music videos which exhibit a forced awkwardness at odds with his subject’s casual, confident stage-bound presence. Fortunately, however, these speed bumps (as well as the sporadic, so-so comedy sketches) don’t hamper Silverman’s go-for-broke bawdiness, the goal of which the controversial comedienne cannily reveals with the throwaway statement, “I love getting into the psychology of people” and then proves with the film’s funniest line: Recognizing the political incorrectness of using the term “retarded,” she facetiously corrects herself with “And by ‘retard,’ I mean They can do anything.”
- Liam Lynch
- Sarah Silverman
- Sarah Silverman, Bob Odenkirk, Brian Posehn, Laura Silverman
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