When a stand-up comedy concert is released as a feature film, you can usually count on two things: You will see an ethnic comedian perform material that confronts racial taboos (Martin Lawrence Run Tel Dat, Eddie Murphy Raw, Margaret Cho, Notorious C.H.O) and the entertainer will be someone that -- if you are a heterosexual male -- you probably won't want to fuck.
So, what the hell is Sarah Silverman doing telling jokes at your local movie theatre? Well, the answer has to do with both race and fuckability.
Take the following two jokes which Silverman tells in her recently released Jesus is Magic, a movie that is three parts stand-up concert and one part sketch show:
"I see these CARE commercials with these little kids with the giant bellies and the flies, and these are one- and two-year-old babies, nine months pregnant, and it breaks my heart in two -- And I don't give money, because I don't want them to spend it on drugs, but I give."
Later she explains, "Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ. And then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I'm one of the few people that believe it was the blacks."
Silverman is not a racist. As she ardently proclaimed while defending herself on Politically Incorrect last year: "these jokes are about racism, they're not racist."
But reread those two jokes and try to imagine any other white comedian telling them.
You can't, but most of you won't care because she's pin-up hot and baby-rabbit adorable (while you're exercising your imagination, try to imagine that sentence being said about any other female comedian of the past two decades). She is comedy's first female sex symbol and exploits the role by telling jokes that others can't get away with.
This is not to take anything away from Silverman, or Jesus is Magic, because she is very good at what she does, and does it with an all-knowing wink. The very last scene of the film features a less attractive "understudy" attempting some of the same jokes that Silverman has just nailed-- and falling flat on her face. It is as though Silverman is acknowledging the wide berth given to her, and saying, "Yeah, well fuck you, anyways. "
The movie is at its best when the funny lady is on stage in front of the audience. Aside from a hilarious opening sketch, the skits and musical numbers drag the laugh rate down a bit. But the edginess of her material is enough to keep the film feeling worthwhile and relevant.
Jesus is Magic is not going to be the movie that makes Silverman a star. It will be the Tenacious D series that gets her to her School of Rock -- a springboard to bigger things. And when she does arrive, it will be with a number of hot women telling jokes in her wake. It's just tough to imagine any of them being as good at it as she is.