Sarah Silverman has been somewhere around almost-stardom for a decade
and a half now, honing her adorably filthy persona until she finally
broke through with a memorable turn in The Aristocrats and her own
concert film Jesus is Magic in 2005, and finally a Comedy Central TV
show in 2007. Oh, and she's Jimmy Kimmel's girlfriend, and thus is
half of a bona fide Hollywood couple - albeit one in which both
members are likely to laugh at fart jokes. Now that she's absolutely
everywhere you look, it's worth looking closer. (Her physical
appearance doesn't exactly discourage one from doing so.) Is she as
funny as her exposure warrants? Or is she Dane Cook with breasts:
cutesy, safe, and tired?
There's no question that Sarah Silverman is cute. MC Paul Barman sang
of his lust for her back in 2002 in a song entitled "Cock Mobster,"
saying, "I'm sure to spill sperm in/Sarah Silverman." Her turn in Jeff
Garlin's recent "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With" largely consists
of her taking off her clothes or talking about sex. Plus, for those
(like me) whose mothers are rather in favor of romantic developments
with girls with names like Silverman, she's practically Sophia Loren.
Obviously, cuteness is a double-edged sword. Being cute is like waving
a red cape in front of a bull: you'll get noticed, but not necessarily
for the right reasons.
Silverman smartly uses her cuteness for laughs, subverting her
attractiveness with shock comedy. Her material isn't as relentlessly
filthy as Lisa Lampanelli's, or as curse-heavy as Richard Pryor's, but
it's plenty blue all the same. For better or for worse, though, that's
her comic persona: she's a cute girl who swears, says offensive
things, and makes poop jokes, and gets laughs because of the
incongruity between her face and what comes out of her mouth.
It's effective, but can wear thin after a while - say, around the 29
or 30-minute mark, which is why she's not quite ready to star in 110
minutes out of a two-hour movie. (Or two and a half hours, if it's
directed by Judd Apatow.) Maybe she'd do well to cross genres, say,
with a slasher horror flick, as Elizabeth Banks did with Slither, or a
domestic drama, like Marisa Tomei in In the Bedroom, just to establish
that she can do something else. Right now she's getting typecast as
the quirky girlfriend, and at the age of 36, she's running out of time
to play those roles.
Her Comedy Central show, the Sarah Silverman Program, is sort of a
cross between a sketch comedy show and a sitcom, with fairly
conventional situations intercut with the occasionally utterly
bizarre. It's uneven but frequently funny, a bit like the Chris Rock
Show in its day though with much less social satire. More importantly,
it's popular, which the network needs as it continues to reel from the
departure of Dave Chappelle, and which she needs to prove that she can
actually be a star.
Sarah Silverman's one of the most successful female comedians in
Hollywood right now, especially considering that she's a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-remington/why-arent-exsnl-women-f_b_54802.html">graduate
of Saturday Night Live, but she labored in semi-obscurity for a long
time to reach this level of fame, and she doesn't have much more
substantial than one season of a television show under her belt. She's
funny, but she's not jaw-droppingly hysterical, and many women
comedians have simply fallen off the map after achieving as much or
more: Brett Butler, Paula Poundstone, Roseanne Barr (though there were
extenuating circumstances with the last two). I certainly hope that
she can last a while, but she'll need to leaven her shtick with a bit
more substance if she wants to. I'll be very glad to buy a ticket to
see her in the next Rob Zombie or Richard Linklater movie, and I'm
more than willing to be her line coach-she can call me any time.
Otherwise, I'll be chuckling until the Sarah Silverman Program gets
cancelled, and mildly upset when it does.
Follow Alex Remington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/alexremington