JFL Northwest 2017: Sarah Silverman

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Sarah Silverman | JFL Northwest | Queen Elizabeth Theatre | February 25, 2017

Exuding the cool confidence of a seasoned comedian, Sarah Silverman knows her strengths and weaknesses and how to please a theatre full of fans. But not everyone is a fan it seems. The heightened security and metal detectors at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre were in response to threats against Silverman’s life after she tweeted in support of a military coup against President Donald Trump. Silverman’s stand up is infused with a similar boldness. She isn’t afraid to talk about anything, including her own internet porn search terms.

Local comedy darling Charlie Demers opened the show with some great material about the hypocrisy of a “real life nazi” he saw eating tacos. He discussed the nonsensical nature of white supremacy and his belief that there is about a 4% chance that anything you do is now the last thing you’ll ever do thanks to Trump. With an overtly political message that always ends with a laugh, Demers is able to discuss sometimes difficult subjects without losing the crowd.

Silverman shared many personal stories, or laser hair removal, of her sister’s unfortunate experience shitting her underwear, and of her other sister who is a rabbi (muse on that awkward relationship on the way home, she said). Silverman that she “draws a pretty godless crowd,” and I’m sure that’s very true. She even asked if there was anyone near the front who was a follower of a major religion, and there were no responses. She told us that if someone does offer themselves up she asks them “would you let god cum in your mouth?” 85% of people she’s asked say no, and she finds that hypocritical. There was also a section about Abraham and God that turned into a bit of fan fiction.    

Referring to her notes often, Silverman would pause and think out loud about what to talk about next. This style allowed her to Segway into vastly different topics ranging from squirrels, to Andy Kaufman, to lunch with Kanye West and her experiences in “show business.”

Often jumping from one story to the next before coming back to the first later, she would ask us to “put a pin in that” as she paused one story to elaborate on some aspect or give more background. These long round about stories are generally quite effective as they create narrative tension and allow for suspense and a rewarding punchline.

While some may find Silverman’s humour offensive or crude — for example she jokes that she needs to put her dog down to avoid the emotional pain of thinking about the day when he will die. There is nothing that we shouldn’t joke about, but the effectiveness or offensiveness of a joke depends on the delivery and intent behind it. Silverman uses her shock value to make pointed comments about our society and sometimes that is the only way to urge people into consciousness. Plus, there’s nothing better than a theatre full of adults laughing about poo. 

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