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SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC (director: Liam Lynch; screenwriter: Sarah Silverman; cinematographer: Rhet W. Bear; editor: Liam Lynch; music: Liam Lynch/Sarah Silverman; Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Heidi Herzon/Mark Williams/ Randy Sosin; Roadside Attractions; 2005)
“Silverman’s raunchy pretend comedy act can’t sustain its energy and humor.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Witty stand-up comedienne Sarah Silverman has her first starring role in film (had a bit part in “The Aristocrats”) in this provocative musical-comedy documentary. She’s the presentable looking Jewish gal with the filthy mouth as shown performing live at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, and gives an edgy performance firing away with vulgarities and a volley of sick jokes that are un-PC. The act calls for her sick rants to make the viewer squirm in discomfort and release uncontrollable laughter. It covers slurs on the following supposedly taboo topics: race, religion, rape, AIDS, 9/11, gays, Martin Luther King (claiming she’s the first comic to mock him) and the Holocaust. The jokes are told with a great sense of timing and gusto and should not be funny, but because they are so questionable as to taste one might be caught laughing at something one normally would not.

The 35-year-old Silverman is in the tradition of obscene comedy boundary pushers such as Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, but has the advantage of having that marginal territory already scoped out and made safe for a wide liberal audience. The jokes include: one about killing Christ, “I’d fucking do it again in a second if I heard those Birkenstocks padding up behind me;” about childbirth for a woman, “The best time to have a baby is when you’re a black teenager;” referring to herself as a Jewish American Princess she offers, “I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl;” jokes that her grandmother got a “vanity number” at Auschwitz; in response to a Mexican woman’s complaint about a Mexican body odor joke says, “You can’t smell yourself;” and, lets us know for her “9/11 will always be remembered as the day she discovered how many calories were in a soy chai latte.”

The film’s conceit is built around the opening scene where a frustrated Silverman listens with increasing distress to two colleagues boasting about their recent showbiz successes, as the man tells of being on Oprah and the gal (her real-life sister Laura) of selling her script to Comedy Central. So when it comes Sarah’s turn she falsely tells them that she’s putting on a show that very night about “the Holocaust and AIDS, but it’s funny and also it’s a musical.” The movie then cuts into her imagined one-woman show where she’s backed up by comedians Bob Odenkirk and Brian Posehn doing some skits and also Silverman’s band, The Silver Men.

Silverman’s raunchy pretend comedy act can’t sustain its energy and humor, and she can soon become tiresome. But while she’s hot, she can be entertaining if that sort of insult humor is your thing (I’m afraid it’s not my thing, as I was only amused by certain bits but failed to laugh out loud). That she can upset people, even though I thought her act was offensive but only in a safe way, is proven by an appearance on the “Conan O’Brien” TV show where the following quip got her into trouble with an Asian American media watchdog group: “What kind of world do we live in where a totally cute white girl can’t say ‘Chink’ on network television?” She then complains “It’s like the ’50s—totally scary. As a member of the Jewish community, I was really concerned that we were losing control of the media.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”