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September 14, 2007

Silverman Backlash

I'm with Ross on Sarah Silverman. I like her actual act, but her award show schtick -- at least as directed against the easy targets of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton -- has been deeply cruel. It's fun watching the powerful get skewered, which is what Silverman's act does: It skewers the blithe self-absorption of the privileged. Watching the pathetic get publicly humiliated is substantially less enjoyable.

I may, of course, simply be helping this backlash along so I have one less competitor in my quest to succeed Alan Dershowitz as Spokesperson For The Jews.

September 14, 2007 | Permalink


I tend to agree with you. Sarah is better than that -- they are too easy targets.

Posted by: catherine | Sep 14, 2007 2:47:19 PM

We got Scarlett Johannson?

Posted by: Jamey | Sep 14, 2007 2:49:47 PM

Hopefully, she'll lay off of Paris Hilton and start making fun of privileged people again.

Posted by: Andrew | Sep 14, 2007 2:51:36 PM

Clearly, Sarah lives in a home without mirrors. I mean, goddamn, you can fit a golfcart in her nostrils.

I just don't find her to be particularly funny. Maybe she only seems funny compared to her inamorata, Jimmy Kimmel.

Posted by: Jamey | Sep 14, 2007 2:51:46 PM

Clearly, Sarah lives in a home without mirrors. I mean, goddamn, you can fit a golfcart in her nostrils.

The hell kind of world do you live in where huge nostrils has an inverse correlation to having a bunch of mirrors lying around?

Posted by: Senescent | Sep 14, 2007 2:59:03 PM

I can't stand her. Hew show is deeply unfunny and her live appearances aren't all that much better.

Posted by: lux | Sep 14, 2007 2:59:43 PM

Heh, didn't figure on THAT angle, Sen. Nicely played... But don't most H'wood types do lines off each others' rock-hard abs?

Sarah Silverman slags Britney for being fat and unattractive. Sarah herself is blindingly, stunningly unattractive. Ergo, Sarah must not know what she looks like--she has no mirrors. Either that, or she's being like Mr T when he admonishes kids for pitying too many fools.

Posted by: Jamey | Sep 14, 2007 3:08:01 PM

i find sarah silverman not humorous, but absolutely cruel.
hard to remember the details of some of her skits, but using chldren with balded heads from chemotherapy and deaf people in any context where cruelty passes for humor, makes me sick.
...i watched her show, hoping that it would be inventive or creative, but i thought it was spiritually depraved.
....sarah silverman gets my "worst person" award for putting a nail in the coffin of what is good, uplifting or beautiful.
....laughing at her humor is like laughing at a dogfight.

Posted by: jacqueline | Sep 14, 2007 3:16:57 PM

For a different take, see Jane Espenson's complaint about the media not printing the joke correctly.

See that? By making "she's already accomplished" into "has already accomplished," they've taken away the possibility for the syntactic reanalysis that makes this joke possible! You can't end a sentence with "has already accomplished," and thus the joke doesn't work. You need the apostrophe-s in that sentence so that the listener doesn't know if it's a contraction of "she is" or "she has." That's what makes the reanalysis possible!

There's no way for a reader of the Washington Post's article to even discern that there was intended humor in what Silverman said!

Posted by: Mark | Sep 14, 2007 3:23:47 PM

I loved her at first. Her shtick of cute (and I think she's very attractive, nostrils aside) little Jewish girl being unbelievably inappropriate is hysterical, at least to my sick mind. However, she really only has that one joke as far as I can tell, and it's getting a little old.

Posted by: JewishAtheist | Sep 14, 2007 3:32:49 PM

I'm not a Silverman fan for the most part, but isn't there a chance that her bits about Hilton and Spears are EXACTLY THE SAME as her bits about starving kids in Africa? Reading Douthat's excerpts, they look the same to me. In the first bit she comes across as an utterly-horrible rich-girl who is judgmental about starving people in Africa she doesn't know and will never meet. In the second and third bits she comes across as an utterly-horrible rich-girl who is judgemental about - Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton, people she doesn't know and will never meet.

Now, in the first case it's so obviously over the top that she would be saying those things about starving kids in Africa that you make the leap to "oh, she's making fun of people who have the persona she's presenting" - much like the humor of All in the Family - we were supposed to be laughing AT Archie not WITH him. But in the second case, you can laugh at Silverman too - for being judgemental and disgusting about people she has never met and doesn't know. Is there a difference there because one group is popularly considered to not be deserving of ridicule while Spears and Hilton somehow are?

I mean, this may not be her intent, but I can't tell from these bits. She may very well be making a joke at the expense of an audience who thinks they "get" her comedy and don't actually get it. Or she could just be taking advantage of having some unpopular punching bags to take some of her actual aggression out on. That's why I don't really care much for her brand of humor - sometimes it gets hard to tell whether the comedian still expects us to be laugh AT them or WITH them.

Posted by: NonyNony | Sep 14, 2007 3:48:22 PM

Ezra consistently prefers his humor cruelty-free, which I think is a rather large conceptual mistake.


Silverman, of course, is fucking brilliant. Her awards show performances are somewhat boring, but it's basically impossible to make awards show performances not boring. It's her act and TV show that make her special.

Silverman is degenerate art at its very best. Plus, she has immensely sexy nostrils.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 14, 2007 4:04:55 PM

I don't find Sarah Silverman funny at all. It seems like she's just inappropriate for the sake of being appropriate, and it doesn't work for me.

Posted by: Steve | Sep 14, 2007 4:04:57 PM

"what Silverman's act does: It skewers the blithe self-absorption of the privileged."

No, you don't get her act at all. Silverman plays (or is, or both) a spoiled pretty girl who knows that she can get away with anything because she's pretty. And she IS pretty- even you guys who don't like Jewish noses have to admit that. The humor is, how far will the (male) audience go in excusing her rudeness because she's cute? And so she keeps pushing and pushing. It's Andy Kaufman style humor, and the joke is on the audience.

Posted by: Bloix | Sep 14, 2007 4:32:12 PM

I think one either gets the knife-edge where Silvermen works, or one doesn't (I suspect it's along the same lines of the love/hate reactions we have around Borat): if you think that she puts across that just-right sense of a certain sort of young woman who says bitchy things but doesn't quite realize how inappropriate they are to say, then you're right there. If, though, you think "she knows perfectly well how rude and obnoxious all of this is", it kind of spoils the joke. I thought both the Paris and Britney jokes this year ran right up to the line, without going over - Brit, after all, had just done her opening performance looking high, so saying her best years are behind her may not be so wrong (and Ezra, after all, said much the same thing just days ago). Silverman takes special glee tweaking Paris for being overly sexual, and it seemed this year's joke as opposed to last time at the Movie Awards, was funny without seeming too coarse (I agree "she'd lick anything that looks like a c**k" was too much). Silverman seems determined to play in this space (if you saw The Aristocrats, you know how far she's willing to go), and it's always going to be borderline tasteless, I think. And yes, in some respects, what Silverman does is really not that different from other comedians - her twist is how she tells the joke, not its content. And maybe it's just that I have a place in my humor bone for this sort of slightly spacey, Jewish girl humor - I still find Rita Rudner funny, at her shtick, which is similar, is far more rote and established at this point.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 14, 2007 4:32:17 PM

Sarah Silverman is doing the same thing she's been doing from around 1990.

Seriously, here's an article from GQ in 1997 (scanned from the magazine):

If that didn't start a backlash, what possibly could?

Posted by: Aaron | Sep 14, 2007 4:39:13 PM

"The humor is, how far will the (male) audience go in excusing her rudeness because she's cute? And so she keeps pushing and pushing. It's Andy Kaufman style humor, and the joke is on the audience."


Also worth noting how historically difficult it is for a sexy woman to do conceptual comedy well, which makes Silverman's accomplishment all the more impressive.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 14, 2007 4:39:46 PM

"never under-estimate the taste level of the american people."

~ p.t. barnum

Posted by: jacqueline | Sep 14, 2007 4:43:17 PM

Her sister's the one with the talent. (Oh, why did HBO cancel The Comeback.)

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Sep 14, 2007 5:05:56 PM

"Her sister's the one with the talent. (Oh, why did HBO cancel The Comeback.)"

Well, you can still catch her sister on The Sarah Silverman Show, and the eleven Damien Young fans on the planet can still catch him on the abysmal Californication.

But I agree with you on the overall tragedy of the cancellation of The Comeback.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 14, 2007 5:11:13 PM

"Her sister's the one with the talent."

Also, I had such a crush on animated her on Dr. Katz.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 14, 2007 5:19:34 PM

You're both...cute.

Posted by: has_te | Sep 14, 2007 5:51:37 PM

But I agree with you on the overall tragedy of the cancellation of The Comeback

Was that the one with Lisa Kudrow? I agree -- that was some good HBO. I'm still pining over "K Street" -- which I thought was brilliant, but which I was apparently alone in watching.

The little I've seen of Silverman has impressed me. Utterly hilarious stuff. Anybody see her in "The Aristocrats"? I didn't realize her attractiveness was really an integral part of her comedy -- I just thought she was cute. I think it's inevitable that, when you skate as close to the edge as she does, you're occasionally going to offend even the hippest, most broad-minded people. I'm sure if I watch her enough I'll be offended, too. You can't avoid that. The comedian she reminds me most of is the brilliant George Carlin.

Posted by: Jasper | Sep 14, 2007 6:42:39 PM

As to whether Silverman is "attractive": who gives a shit? She's a comedienne, she's supposed to be *funny.* She should be judged on that basis. I personally don't think she's especially funny, which is a problem with some of these high-concept, post-modern comics. But then again I haven't seen much of her work -- mostly just bits of her Comedy Central show.

And anyway, my understanding is that Silverman didn't bash Britney's looks, just the overall suckiness of her performance and career. Which may have been unfunny and mean (I don't know, I didn't see it), but it's not necessarily nasty and misogynistic, like attacking her appearance would have been.

As to the "Britney is fat!" bullshit, don't even get me started. Seriously . . .

Posted by: Kathy G. | Sep 14, 2007 6:44:55 PM

I'd never seen Silverman perform before, so I just presumed her Britney/Paris routines were attempts to deliver a much-needed intervention or two. Given the support networks enormously rich people tend to have -- i.e., having their asses kissed continuously from every angle -- those two need as much cruel public humiliation as the world can muster if they're going to change the train-wreck path of their lives.

In fact, if Sarah is reading, I'd like to suggest an added bit (which, for all I know, someone has already thought of). Tell your audience that you have traveled 20 years into the future, and you took pictures that you're going to share with them.

"First, here's Paris Hilton in the year 2027." (Show picture of Michael Jackson today).

"And here's Britney Spears in the year 2027." (Show picture of Elvis Presley just before his death.)

Thank you very much, I'll be here all week.

Posted by: Swopa | Sep 14, 2007 7:03:55 PM

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