With her astonishingly foul mouth, fearless digressions on sex and race and winsome good looks, comedian Sarah Silverman is like a cross between Richard Pryor and nouveau feminist rocker Liz Phair.
She's smart, sexy and unmistakably freakish. No wonder male media types tend to fawn over her like smitten schoolboys.
In “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” the 35-year-old funnywoman (she had bit roles in “School of Rock” and “There's Something About Mary” and a short-lived gig on “Saturday Night Live”) delivers a body-slam-funny concert performance in which she takes shots at everything from AIDS to Martin Luther King to the miracle work of Christ. (“I think he made the Statue of Liberty disappear in the '80s.”)
Even Silverman's own attitudes come under her unique brand of friendly fire. At one point during the concert, she recalls being sexually assaulted by a doctor, which is “so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.”
Such wry stereotypes have compelled some to brand Silverman a racist, but thematically speaking, “Jesus Is Magic” is less about bigotry than it is about malignant show-biz narcissism. She assumes a role here. She dismisses Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock with a crudity unfit for print and French kisses herself in a mirror. She serenades residents of an old folks' home about their imminent passings and has a diva meltdown in front of her agent (Bob Odenkirk of “Mr. Show”).
Silverman and director Liam Lynch inventively alternate concert footage with skit vignettes, and it makes for the funniest film of its kind since Eddie Murphy's “Delirious.”
Still, what about the racism? When Silverman jokes that the best time to have a child is “when you're a black teenager,” it's giving her too much credit to say she's simply holding a mirror up to society's collective, latently racist face. Indeed, one cannot dismiss antipathy (and self-loathing) as constituents of her humor. Even so, through her wit and daring, Silverman demonstrates that she has a deeper comprehension of modern American racial politics than most who make it their business to brand bigots.