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Magic Realism

Sarah Silverman masters the art of making the absurd seem real as the comic spark for her full-length standup film, "Jesus Is Magic."

With “Jesus is Magic,” the film documenting her full-length stand-up show, Sarah Silverman gets a forum for subtlety that gets lost in appearances like Comedy Central’s Pamela Anderson roast.

The film is simply shot, almost amateurishly so, alternating between close-ups of Silverman and a wide shot of the theater where you can barely see her. There are more produced little staged breaks edited into the stand-up that are funny but a bit jarring at first because it seems like Silverman had delivered some version of these bits on stage, but they were replaced with fuller versions with specific costumes or sets. Viewers will wonder if these worked in the simple monologue.

Out of a 75-minute film, it’s the last 30 minutes or so of “Jesus Is Magic” that contain the biggest laugh. Silverman isn’t as consistent yet as Richard Pryor or other masters of the comedy concert film. But when she scores, it’s great, because of the way she confounds your expectations with each joke or story, and thoroughly dismantles political correctness with offhanded, seemingly naïve remarks.

Her sense of humor, particularly her sense of absurdity, her writing and her delivery are all unique. It’s tough to recount examples without spoiling the surprise of the film, but one example of Silverman’s sensibility is when she calls something “retarded,” she adds, “and by retarded, I mean they can do anything,” striking right at the whole rationale for “correctness.”

Silverman’s most skillful moments in the latter part of the film come from the darkest subjects, like the Holocaust and anti-Semites perceptions about what Jews supposedly control. In fact, as a Jew finding laughs in these subjects by being completely insensitive about them, Silverman does something no one else has.

To really enjoy “Jesus Is Magic,” you must have the same warped point of view as Silverman does. Even if you do, it does build slowly. But it can be imagined that some of the bits from this film could find their way to be remembered and re-told in the same way other stand-up classics like the work of Pryor or George Carlin still is.

 

 
   

     

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