Let’s start this off by saying that if anyone one the stand-up circuit had an excuse for being a little off it is Sarah Silverman. It all started about a month ago when she had lifesaving throat surgery then had to concede that her man Bernie Sanders was not going to be the Democratic candidate, caused a little controversy at the DNC, and then, to top off this disaster sundae, she had her Twitter account hacked and it had a bunch of anti-Hillary Clinton stuff on it. Phew! That is quite a month. The health scare would have been more than enough of a reason to cancel her one night only at this year’s Just for Laughs festival, but the trooper she is she came and gave it the old college try.
Off the top I will say that I believe that this smart but twisted lady is one of the best comedians working today. She is right up there in the upper echelon with Eddie Izzard, Margaret Cho and Louis C.K. That being said Silverman did not have her best night onstage last night. She was fumbly, seemed to be distracted and out of sync. Though you could chalk it up to the fact that she had not performed stand-up in a month due to the aforementioned reasons. Also, there were moments of brilliance amidst all the “meh”.
I was underwhelmed. Maybe it was because I saw another female rambly comedienne the night before in Janeane Garofalo and it was a case of too much of a particular style. I don’t know. I just know that in this instance Janeane Garofalo did it better. Whatever the reason I found myself searching for laughs during the Silverman set rather than them coming to me naturally.
What is different between the two comediennes is that Silverman uses a whole lot more off-coloured language and material than Garofalo and less addressing of pop culture issues. Other than a funny bit about how she has never read the Bible because it is so boring. So boring that it felt like Game of Thrones written by really crappy writers.
She is a woman who is not afraid of being politically incorrect and that is what I like about her. At a Sarah Silverman show you can expect her to make fun of religion, do jokes about the Holocaust and 9/11, a woman with hooks for hands, and even take on rape jokes…kind of.
During her almost 70 minute set she showed plenty of her quirky and offbeat side. This woman loves to shock and audience with what comes out of that pretty mouth of hers. She looks innocent, but is anything but. That was proven when she told a story about one of her three sisters that she assured us was true (finishing up that thought by asserting that most of what she says on stage is lies). The story went along the lines of her sister going to college at Boston University, drinking too much one evening, going into the co-ed bathroom and being violently ill, and while doing so feeling her underwear being pulled down. Being so sick she could not stop what was about to happen and when she was finished vomiting she turned around to find no one there and that she had just had a case of violent diarrhea, so a kind soul was just helping her not raping her. She was leading us one way down the garden path and then boom turned in a completely different direction. As she taught us the laughter that story got in the biz was called relief laughter. Odd, uncomfortable, disgusting, and, yes, funny.
Then there are moments when she totally bang on and feminist. Like her dissection of Barbie dolls and how we get them to little girls as young as possible so they can have unrealistic ideas about what the perfect woman’s body looks like and feel unworthy of love for the rest of their lives. But even that very intelligent section did not have as much punch as it should have because she became distracted (by her anger towards an audience member who took a picture despite having been warned not to do so in the announcement before she took the stage), lost her place and just let it die. I was left unfulfilled. Wanting more and knowing that at her best she could give more.
What is great about Sarah Silverman’s style is how great she is at stringing words together and that you never really know where she is going with her stories. Comedy without a net, you could say. That daredevil attribute coupled with her intelligence is a winning combination. On her best nights. This wasn’t one of them and yet she still managed some golden moments.