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Political correctness officially had a massive heart attack and died when South Park hit the air in 1997, but ever since then, Sarah Silverman has been gleefully squatting over its grave and making a cocky. The writer-comic-actress uses her appealing features and twinkly eyes to throw you off as she detonates verbal WMD's about everything from Jesus's nailing to the holocaust to 9-11. (She was especially devastated by that last event because it happened on the same day she found out "the soy chai latte was like 900 calories.") And Iwho used to wear combat boots and hold signs picketing both Basic Instinct and the FDAam only protesting that she please shut the fuck up for a second and let me catch my breath from laughing so hard.
You see, bitches, pop culture has changed to the point where massive representation of various minorities has taken the sting out of any one potentially dicey comment or observation. Thanks to this new, more generous landscape, the liberal public is now willing to embrace more dangerous comedy and even grasp a comic whojust like her fellow stand-up, the raucously derisive "Queen of Mean," Lisa Lampanelliperforms the delicate dance of mocking stereotypes by smirkily embracing them. Unlike Andrew Dice Clay, the '80s comic who ultimately became trampled by his stage character (a hateful caricature of testosterone-laden excess), Silverman takes a "this is just me" approach, adding careful helpings of wry detachment and irony. She doesn't do accents, but in some ways, she's the upscale cousin of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, draping herself in insensitivity in order to use it as a mirror and reflect everyone else's.
No, she's not really racist, she's actually commenting on racism, and even white people seem to get it. In fact, in sneakily subverting biases in between trumpeting some of her own progressive thoughts ("Nazis are a-holes," she grins, bravely), Silverman probably is politically correctand that's the scariest thing this fudgepacking wop has heard in a coon's age.
In July of 2001, Silverman grabbed screaming headlines by telling Conan O'Brien that one way to get out of jury duty is to claim "I hate Chinks"as if we all haven't fantasized doing just that (and much worse) to avoid the ritualized torture of public service. Since then, Silverman's sharp-mouthed JAP act has eased deeper into the mainstream, especially now that Michael Richards has shown us what real comedy-club hate can be. (P.c. may be dead, but human decency isn't; Richards's "nig"-a-palooza rampage was greeted with universal horror, making Silverman's zingers look almost adorable by comparison. She should probably send him flowers.)
A wonderfully high-reaching Jew, she does more than just tell jokes. Last year, the slender but amusing concert film Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic mixed her stand-up routines with video-style song segments, caustic sketches, and a dazzling trio performed with her own vagina and butt. Around the same time, Silverman pulled off one more feat, bizarrely popping up in the Rent movie as a TV producer and coming off by far the funniest one in itthough, as she told me at the time, it's not really that hard to be the funniest one in an AIDS musical.
Now, The Sarah Silverman Programpremiering February 1 on Comedy Central, home of South Parkhas Jimmy Kimmel's real-life girlfriend playing herself as an indulgent, whiny rapscallion from the bowels of the most lazy-assed, privileged part of hell via Valley Village. The free-form feeling of Jesus Is Magic is so intact that the flick was obviously a dry run for this show. Emo songs, exaggerated flashbacks, and visits from a horny "black God" accessorize the basic throughline, which has Silverman assuming the role of the über-bitch of our darkest dreams. Without a shred of shame, she patronizes the homeless, invents a drama to avoid having to help a friend move, and takes out money when her TV gets stuck on a help-the-children infomercial, but only to tape the bills on the screen and cover it up. The hilarious show is both a cautionary tale and an utter fantasy. This is my kind of cunt.
Our cross-country phone chat last week went like so:
Silverman: Hi, it's Sarah Silverman. Sorry I'm a few minutes late.
Musto: That's OK. I'm the douche who called you on the wrong day last time. I hope you got over that.
I just recently did.
Anyway, I really like the show. But last time you complained to me about always having to play the bitch in movies. Won't this show pour extra flammables on that problem?
That's exactly what Jimmy [Kimmel] said! But for me there's a difference between a character who facilitates the exposition for the main character, with no layers to it, and a character that has many layers to her. I'm playing someone who genuinely thinks she's a good person and who is a douchebag, and it's not flat. I think that's interesting to watch. What am I gonna do, a show where I'm Mary Richards? Don't get me wrong, that was my favorite sitcom. But the comedy I do tends to be that contrast of sweet and sour.