Don’t Quote Me: Sarah Silverman Stands Up


"As a lesbian, I resent your laughter. And all laughter."

— Sarah Silverman, in character as a lesbian wannabe on The Sarah Silverman Program

Somewhere in the spaces between the four words "I stubbed my vagina," I fell in love with Sarah Silverman. I admire her wit so much that I want to have amusing little children with her — babies that emerge from her dented tunnel of life and love, mimicking their mother and saying, "I don’t want to be labeled as straight or labeled as gay, I just want people to look at me and see me, you know, as white" — and I don’t even like kids.

That’s how I feel about Sarah. And it’s a shame everyone doesn’t feel the same way.

Silverman, stand-up comic and star of Comedy Central’s new (and recently renewed) hit, The Sarah Silverman Program, does something that few comedians — male or female, gay or straight — dare attempt, and that few since Lenny Bruce have come close to doing well: Onstage she embodies bigotry, as well as society’s hypersensitivity to other important issues, just to expose the absurd aspects of them.

Sure, any comic can get laughs at the expense of others, but Silverman — who, by the way, is straight and in a relationship with late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel — wants more than just guffaws. She wants her audience to get the unfortunate truth behind her jokes — understand what they mean in the bigger picture, in a world that not only allows bigotry and hypocrisy to exist, but also far too often conforms to both. The thing is, she doesn’t make it easy.

"Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ," she says on her 2005 DVD Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. "And then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I’m one of the few people that believe it was the blacks. I hope the Jews did kill Christ. I’d do it again. I’d f—ing do it again in a second if I hear his Birkenstocks clacking this way."

A dubious narrator, who consciously creates contrast, is what Silverman claims to be. When Jesus Is Magic was released in 2005, she told the New Yorker: " People say I’m a nice girl saying terrible things. I tend to say the opposite of what I think. You hope that the absolute power of that transcends, and reaches the audience."

Needless to say, Silverman’s message doesn’t always transcend the potency of her words. She’s a foul-mouthed ironist who blows a few minds when blowing her horn, and as a result, she has her share of critics who believe she embraces intolerance and is not a controversial voice against it, nor is she an unreliable narrator, but rather an unbalanced one.

Because Silverman, like most people with unconventional messages, preaches to a choir, it looks to some that her intention is moot or wasted on the open-minded. In the eyes of her critics, if her message isn’t affecting the bigots directly, all she’s really doing is telling tasteless and racist jokes. But what these folks fail to realize is that all anyone who speaks to a choir can hope for is that the choir will spread the message, and that it will eventually reach those most in need of it.

Besides, is it ever OK to shoot the messenger?

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