Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic

By Gerald Aaron, July 31, 2008



The first thing that has to be said about American comedian Sarah Silverman's bravura first feature is that it is definitely not a family film. Taste is clearly a word she has never heard of. Her language is raw and unfettered, she is vulgar, and her choice of targets for her mordant humour are strictly non-PC - among them Martin Luther King, her seven-year-old lesbian niece, Asians, midgets, blacks, rape, Aids, pornography ("I think there are not enough Jewish women represented in porn," she observes), religion and even the Holocaust.

Her humour is designed to shock. Indeed, much of what she says is beyond shocking. But in her defence she is very much an equal opportunity abuser. Deplorable? Possibly. But very funny and surprisingly perceptive, too.

While she is often embarrassing in much the same way as one blushes when a member of your family tells an off-colour joke in company, she triumphs thanks to her clever, observant material, her considerable charm and unique talent as a stand-up comic. And it adds to the effect that the nice Jewish New Hampshire girl looks so demure with it.

Silverman adopts these taboo-busting shock tactics because she is on a mission to stir people into thinking about difficult issues, and rightly realises that challenging comedy is a powerful tool to achieve that. The Holocaust, for example, is not a natural subject for humour - but if people can be made to remember through surprised laughter, then Silverman has, I believe, achieved a laudable object.

This fascinating film record of Silverman performing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles showcases her talent perfectly. She frequently renders her audience helpless with laughter with increasingly outrageous jokes, interspersed with sly sketches and songs (I particularly enjoyed her acid ditty about the incongruity of Jewish people driving German cars).

Silverman is pretty and loaded with a genuine charisma that tends to defuse even her most offensive jokes. It is definitely an adults-only show and near impossible to quote from in a family newspaper, apart, perhaps, from her "apology" to the audience: "I don't care if you think I'm a racist. I just want you to think I'm thin."

Last updated: 2:59pm, February 18 2011