Last Night: Sarah Silverman at Nob Hill Masonic Center
Nob Hill Masonic Center, San Francisco
September 7, 2008
by Oscar Pascual
Better than: Watching "Jesus is Magic" on DVD.
It’s really easy to hate Sarah Silverman, and that’s exactly the point. The average person looking for a good laugh could dismiss her act as narcissistic, racist and flat-out offensive, but the more discerning comedy aficionado realizes therein lie the genius. And judging from last night’s crowd at the Masonic Center, more people are just now getting it.
Silverman got harsh right off the bat, explaining that she would never have a child naturally -- or what she referred to as a “vagina baby” -- and that she would only adopt from “some place brown,” because she wants “credit for it.” She then unabashedly revealed her history of multiple abortions -- her first in high school, her second because it “just wasn’t a good time,” and getting her third “because I was like, ‘What?’”
Silverman’s shtick is now easier to grasp due to the success of her cable television show, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” whose main character spouts the same sharp-witted, insensitive jabs as Silverman does in her stand-up bits, but only in a fictional universe. It’s a better vehicle to digest her brand of humor because we suspend belief to view Silverman as a character instead of her actual self. The thing is, she plays that exact same character while doing stand-up. It doesn’t exactly fit in well with popular modern stand-up comedy, as audiences haven’t been too comfortable with live satire. The Andy Kaufman approach is difficult to execute, and Silverman is more than capable in pulling it off.
Silverman recalled the time when she attended a fundraiser for Barack Obama and asked him if he encountered any racism while going to school in Boston. “He said something really interesting. He said, ‘Um, I’m Kanye West.’ And I was like, wow, I totally got it. Yeah, I’m Kanye West, too.” Silverman then went on by hoping that our country would vote for a half-black president. “I’m so negative though, I’m such a pessimist; he’s half-white.” The comedian was also wearing an Obama T-shirt during her performance, and cleared things up by saying, “You might have thought it was Bill Cosby from far.”
Sure it’s racist, but in a good way, if that’s possible. Much like Carroll O’Connor’s beloved bigot in "All in the Family", Silverman intentionally makes herself the fall guy to point out how ridiculous racism is. The actual racism itself isn’t funny, but the ignorance behind it sure is.
But Silverman suggests that a little racial ignorance wouldn’t be a bad thing sometimes. “I love that Palestinians and Jews fucking hate each other. It makes me giggle because it’s like, who can tell the difference between them? They’re all brown and pushy. It’s like sweet potatoes hating yams,” quipped Silverman.
The act wasn’t entirely built on ethnic observations. Silverman also performed songs about pooping, and described her odyssey at the Democratic National Convention while high on a pot brownie. Gross-out humor was present as well, with a story of how her teenage niece doesn’t understand why her old gym shorts smell like fish, or a bit about making the word “pussy” sound gross again by uttering the word with a lisp while puffing your cheeks.
Put that all together and Sarah Silverman’s performance was vulgar, offensive, and wrong. Just like Tony Clifton and Archie Bunker. And just as hilarious.
Personal Bias: I take comedy seriously.
Random Detail: Why heckle loudly at a comedy show? People think you're a jackass and you end up getting dished on by a witty comic.
By the way: "The Sarah Silverman Program" just finished shooting for season 3, and premieres Oct. 16 on Comedy Central.