She who last laughs…
Sarah Silverman laughs best at Associated Students comedy night
When asked how he felt about the last Associated Students Presents show of the season before summer break, its director, Ajamu Lamumba, did a brief Elvis dance, clutching at invisible reins of power and letting out a loud, “Hell yeah!”
It wasn’t only Lamumba who was pumped and primed; the nearly sold-out crowd was bustling with nervous energy for comedians Rob Cantrell, Nick Swardson and the star of the show, Sarah Silverman.
The least polished of the three comedians, Cantrell was the sacrificial opening-act lamb. Often pointing out how white and dorky he was, he juxtaposed this white-man-with-no-soul stereotype by throwing “props and shout-outs” to the audience and asking everyone to “give it up for life.” Noting that “surfing is the only sport that involves a shark,” Cantrell also shared how he got kicked off the water polo team when his horse took a dump in the pool. Ba-dump-dump! Next!
That was Swardson, a polished storytelling comedian who knew how to use current events to anchor his schtick. He set up the locals by saying his friends in L.A. were so impressed when he told them he was coming to Chico to perform that he might as well have said he was going to “Snoop-Dogg’s birthday party.” This elicited a gigantic response, and Swardson made the most of it by sticking with “stoner” jokes that the pro-partying crowd could identify with.
“My roommates are all stoners, and the only problem is they make a pipe out of everything in the house…”
“I stopped smoking pot and found that I suddenly became psychic; I always knew where my car keys were!”
Cantrell and Swardson are the type of comedians whose approach is to befriend the audience. This is not what Silverman had on her mind as she took the stage. From the moment the mostly white, suburban, non-Jewish student audience heard the notoriously Jewish Silverman begin her routine, there was a distinctive change in the room, as the crowd’s mood went from upbeat to apprehensive.
“I was raped when I was 7. By a doctor. Which is a bittersweet experience for a Jewish girl.”
Silverman’s humor is intended to shock (an approach similar to that of her boyfriend, Jimmy Kimmel, who was formerly employed as a host of Comedy Central’s decidedly non-P.C. The Man Show), and in a pre-show e-mail interview, I asked her if she wrote her own material.
“I do write all my material. Sometimes a friend may come up with something and tell me to use it, and I’m not above that, but for the most part, yes, I write my own material,” said Silverman, adding, “I enjoy performing possibly more than writing. Shit. I like both, [but] I don’t work the road as much as I used to.”
As her Chico show progressed, I could almost hear the “pop” of minds being blown with each successive joke.
“I asked my girlfriend what kind of birth control she uses. She said she just lets her boyfriend come on her face. So now I’m going to try that.”
By the time Silverman said that the best time to have a baby is when you’re “a young black teen,” a few dozen students were rushing to leave the venue.
Either Silverman is pushing the limits of freedom of speech à la Lenny Bruce, or she’s playing it more along the lines of Andrew Dice Clay—the bad girl offending her way to the top.