If Sarah Silverman hasn’t shocked you yet, she soon will. Hailed as the world’s most outrageous comic, her act courts the sort of controversy that makes her impossible to ignore.
Nothing, for Silverman, is sacred. Her targets include her fellow Jews, blacks, “Chinks” even the untouchable Martin Luther King: “I want to be the first comic ever to sh*t on Martin Luther King,” she says in her act.
But if the material is dynamite, Silverman’s delivery is velveteen. Pretty and petite – she’s featured on the cover of men’s mag Maxim – her on-stage persona is a dippy Jewish ingénue. It’s her wide-eyed innocence – as opposed to the seat crawling confrontation of other shock comics – that makes her so pleasureably funny to watch.
She first caused serious offence amongst her fellow Americans back in 2001 with a joke about trying to avoid jury service. She had decided, she told chat show host Conan O’Brien, to deface her selection form, but rather than write “I hate Chinks” – she’s not a racist – she decided on “I love Chinks” instead. Not everyone got it.
Never one to shy away from accusations of racism, she kept the row raging as material in her act, at one point commenting that “as a Jewish comedian I was really concerned… That we were losing control of the media.”
While, of course, she doesn’t have the monopoly on Paris Hilton-baiting, her joke about the heiress’ imminent spell in prison, with Hilton watching in the audience, takes ruthlessness to a new level.
As do her comments about Britney Spears, delivered immediately after the troubled singer left the stage following her comeback performance at the same awards show last year: “Wow, Britney, she is amazing. I mean, she is 25 years old, and she has already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life.”
In the documentary, The Aristocrats, in which scores of comedians improvise around the same joke, Silverman states she was raped by an American radio and TV personality. Joe Franklin didn’t see the funny side and threatened to sue.
But it was the spoof video she recorded with actor Matt Damon for her boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel’s late night chat show that took her fame to a new level this year. The video, in which she makes a musical confession, confirmed by Damon, that she is f***ing the star, went viral, and has now been watched several million times on YouTube.
Since 2007, she has been developing her comedy persona into the lead character in her own TV show, The Sarah Silverman Programme. The sitcom, which she also writes and directs, centres around her relationships with her on-screen sister, played by her real-life sister, her gay neighbours and her policeman boyfriend. Sketches have included Silverman using a story about her own abortion as a children’s pep talk and, having discovered her Russian ancestors were raped by Mongolians, suing the entire Mongolian nation.
Her video in support of Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency is now doing the rounds. The Great Schlep urges Jews to convince their Florida grandparents to vote Democrat. It’s not the profanities that make the Great Schlep another Silverman act of daring but the comparison of an elderly Jewish woman with a young black man. Her list of all the qualities the two share, includes their love of tracksuits, an adoration of their grandchildren and that “all their friends are dying”.
Sarah Silverman’s best quips and clips
“To make [Paris Hilton] feel more comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises. I think it’s wrong too – I’m just worried she’s going to break her teeth on those things.” MTV music video awards 2007
“I was raped by a doctor. Which, for a Jewish girl, is so bittersweet”.
“Guess what Martin Luther King: I had a f***ing dream too. I had a dream that I was in my living room. It wasn’t my living room but it was playing my living room in the dream. And I walked through to the back yard and there was a pool and as I’m diving in there was a shark coming up through the water, with braces. So maybe you’re not so f**king special. Martin Loser King. I want to be the first comic ever to sh*t on Martin Luther King.”
“Wow, Britney, she is amazing. I mean, she is 25 years old, and she has already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life. It’s mind-blowing. Have you seen Britney’s kids? They are the most adorable little mistakes you’ll ever see! They are as cute as the hairless vagina they came out of!” ”
“Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ and the Jews tried to pass it off on the Romans. I’m one of the few people that believe it was the blacks.”
“I love how Palestinians and Jews hate each other. It’s so cute. Honestly, what’s the difference? They’re brown. They have an odour. It’s like sweet potatoes hating yams”
“If my boyfriend, who’s a Catholic, and I ever have a kid, we’ll just be honest with it. We’ll say that Mommy is one of God’s chosen people, and Daddy believes that Jesus is magic.
“I don’t care if you think I’m racist. I just want you to think I’m thin.”
“[About the racism row following her “Chink” joke.] As a Jewish comedian I was really concerned … That we were losing control of the media.”