Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Obvious Child, featuring Jenny Slate as a struggling comedian, has us thinking back on some of our favorite stand-up specials and comedy concerts.
Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic (2005)
Sarah Silverman’s signature brand of cheery smuttiness gets the spotlight treatment in Jesus Is Magic, a 2005 stand-up film embellished with bookending scripted scenes and a handful of musical numbers. The latter are the weakest part of director Liam Lynch’s film, especially since the songs are basically one-note jokes that drag on for too long. Yet a post-show dressing room coda in which Silverman makes out with her own mirror image functions as an amusing encapsulation of the comedian’s wink-wink narcissism, which she expresses with not just brash confidence but a devilishly sunny smile. That’s also her calling card onstage, where Silverman’s cockiness is delivered with good-natured sweetness. A large part of what makes her routine amusing is the contrast between her just-trying-to-be-cute demeanor and her raft of inappropriate remarks on topics ranging from rape and the Holocaust to anal sex.
Those subjects are addressed at great length throughout Jesus Is Magic, whose title comes from a bit in which Silverman nonchalantly elevates her own Jewish faith above the supposedly fairy-tale Christianity embraced by her boyfriend. Throughout, the comedian tosses grenade after grenade at politically correct notions of tolerance and decency, going on at length about her young niece’s lesbianism and the fact that her favorite piece of jewelry comes from the tip of Ethiopian babies’ tailbones. Nine years after the film’s debut, Silverman’s graphic punchlines involving cultural and racial stereotypes are still plenty shocking. Even more skillful is her ability to elicit laughs—directed at herself, as well as the intolerant—by marrying filth with common clichés and maxims. She tells her niece that every time she loses at tag, “an angel gets AIDS,” and explains the realization she had after licking jelly off her boyfriend’s manhood (“I’m becoming my mother”).
Availability: Jesus Is Magic is available on DVD, which can obtained from Netflix, and for rent or purchase through Amazon Instant Video.