Starring: Sarah Silverman. Rated R.
Sarah Silverman is very, very funny.
Let there be no
confusion on this topic. Silverman, along with funnymen like David Cross and
Patton Oswalt, have fueled the resurgence of standup comedy, and her act is
refreshingly shocking. Sure, she riffs on rape, race, AIDS, masturbation and
9/11, but it’s not simply a case of picking taboo targets. She does, and she
attacks them all with savage wit, but the key to her comedy is her personality.
She seems intelligent, proper, even sweet, but then she opens her mouth and out
comes the bile. It’s discomforting, and it’s funny.
most of her peers, Silverman is also lazy, and that’s
unfortunate. I should confess that I have seen her perform on several
occasions, dating back to 2002, and I can now watch her on stage recite the
words to almost every joke. They’re like familiar songs, and while it’s always
fun to hear the Rolling Stones tear through a blistering version of “Jumpin’
Jack Flash” – as they have at nearly every one of their concerts during the
past 25 years – it’s not such a good thing to hear the same punch-lines, over
and over. The jokes become stale, predictable, and so has Sarah Silverman.
For the uninitiated,
Jesus is Magic will deliver plenty of big
laughs. It’s the film
version of her one-woman show, taped in 2004 at a theater in North Hollywood.
All the familiar jokes are there, and they’re far too vile to repeat here, but
for the most part, they work. There are awkward pauses, and Silverman’s
delivery always seems a few beats off, but that’s deliberate. She lures her
audience into a comfort zone and then jolts them out of it with some of the
raunchiest, filthiest one-liners you’ll ever hear. They’re not for the faint of
heart or the politically correct, but they are frequently hilarious.
Rather than merely present
minimally edited concert footage,
a la Eddie Murphy in Raw, Jesus
is Magic divides its time between the
one-woman show and a handful of new skits, some funny, some not so funny. In
one sequence filmed with her sister, Laura, and fellow Mr.
Show grad Brian Posehn, she plays a character who has
never accomplished anything, so she lies to impress her friends. Silverman
captures the character’s tone perfectly, and it’s her spot-on delivery that
makes the bit work. Elsewhere, she throttles her grandmother’s corpse, and it
seems almost desperate in its desire to be shocking. And it’s tasteless, no
doubt, but funny? Sadly, no.
will probably be a pleasant surprise to those unfamiliar with Silverman’s cutting brand
of comedy, and there’s no questioning her talent. But for fans of her work,
this stuff is getting tired, and it doesn’t help that the movie is edited so
haphazardly that it never quite establishes a flow. Maybe that’s deliberate,
too. If it is, I’m not sure what or whose purpose it serves. Definitely not
Sarah Silverman’s. -- Rossiter Drake