SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGICNR
"I was licking jelly off my boyfriend's penis, when I suddenly realized: I'm turning into my mother." This outrageous line is pretty indicative of the comic style of stand-up Sarah Silverman in Jesus Is Magic. If you find that funny-which I most assuredly did-you will enjoy this performance film. If not, you will be in agony for its 100 minutes, because Silverman is a take-no-prisoners mistress of outrage-in, yes, to coin a cliché, the Lenny Bruce tradition-who goes much farther than Margaret Cho or Sandra Bernhard ever dared.
The film begins in typical L.A. style, with Silverman confronted by two friends whose nattering show-biz insider gossip has her feeling career-unworthy. She hilariously fibs about being in a major show that very evening which, although a musical comedy, addresses, uh, AIDS, 9/11, the Holocaust and other important issues. You are then thrust into a theatre with Silverman onstage, convulsing her audience with her laser-like, cannily delayed timing and ultimately transgressive musings. Of course, a great part of her appeal is the contrast of her doll-like pretty looks and pristine Jewish American Princess persona with such scatological utterings.
"The best time to have a baby is when you're a black teenager" is a typical observation, but Silverman also addresses her own ethnicity when she says, "I hope the Jews did kill Christ-I'd do it again" and "I was raped by a doctor, which is a bittersweet experience for a Jewish girl." She gloriously puts paid to that overworked standard of meaningfulness, "Amazing Grace," when she performs a rendition using various bodily orifices. Less successful are a series of too-quirky musical numbers which come off like live performance-padding: Silverman, for all her amusing clunkiness, just ain't that talented in this genre, and the lyrics are a bit too bald.
But this is one entertainer who wants to do something different: entertain while making you revel in a certain loathsomeness, which redeems itself by poking welcome fresh-if-foul air into many of our infuriatingly bland accepted cultural clichés of "worthiness": the commercialized easy pathos of 9/11, for example. "Martin Luther King-what an asshole!" she snarls, and however seriously wrong that statement may be, there is a healthy release to be had in this address of our shared, so-often-facile Hallmark-card reverence. Humor can be the best weapon after all.