Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic
|Jesus Is Magic|
|Directed by||Liam Lynch|
|Produced by||Heidi Herzon|
|Written by||Sarah Silverman|
|Music by||Liam Lynch|
|Cinematography||Rhet W. Bear|
|Edited by||Liam Lynch|
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions|
The movie is a concert film consisting of 72 minutes of clips taken from Silverman's previous stand-up show of the same name, interspersed with flashbacks and comedic sketches. Silverman addresses a number of topics, including religion, AIDS, the Holocaust, race, sexism, political parties, people with disabilities, homeless people, and dwarves. Silverman also performs several original songs in the film.
The film was released November 11, 2005 in eight theatres. Receiving positive reviews, it made just under $125,000 during opening weekend. Its performance led to an expanded release in as many as 57 theatres, resulting in a box office take of more than $1.2 million. The movie was released on DVD on June 6, 2006 in the United States, June 13 in Canada, and October 13, 2008 in the United Kingdom. A soundtrack CD was also released featuring most of the musical numbers, excerpts from Silverman's stand-up comedy, and several additional songs which did not appear in the film.
Jesus is Magic has been the subject of mixed reviews. Some, like A. O. Scott of the New York Times believe that the film’s comedic value rests too heavily on the shock value of having such irreverent jokes delivered via the Jewish American Princess persona embodied by the lovely, sexy and blatantly narcissistic Ms. Silverman. Mr. Scott wrote, "Most of the humor in 'Jesus Is Magic' depends on the scandal of hearing a nice, middle-class Jewish girl make jokes about rape, anal sex, the Holocaust and AIDS. She makes fun of religion. She riffs on 9/11. But Ms. Silverman is not smashing taboos so much as she is desperately searching for them."  Others, like Leo Benedictus of The Guardian, credit the intelligence of Silverman and the skill of the performance. Using as an example of Silverman’s off-color joke that “being raped by a doctor” could be “kind of bittersweet for a Jewish girl,” Benedictus concluded that “it's not the Jewish stereotype that really powers the laugh, or the perfect inappropriateness of [Silverman’s words], it's the flip of mood from: ‘Here's something you can't joke about’ to, ‘Oh yes you can.’ Dangerous – and liberating.” 
Demystifying the Jewish American Princess
Like many in Silverman’s audience, A. O. Scott is obviously shocked by the discord between Ms. Silverman’s presentation and what she says. Silverman appears first off stage in a wholesome ponytail and baseball jersey. She then appears on stage in tight black slacks and a cropped shirt, showing off a small but sexy amount of skin. She is thin, with long dark hair and striking with little make-up and almost no jewelry. “It's not just that she is reasonably pretty. She also comes across, at least at first, as nice, smart and responsible -the kind of girl (never mind that she is almost 35) your parents would encourage you to be friends with or to take to the prom, more teacher's pet than Heather. But then she opens her mouth, and the vilest, filthiest things you've ever heard come pouring out of it. Scatology! Baby killing! Masturbation!” With a coy tilt of the head and a deliberately sweetened voice, Ms. Silverman matter-of-factly describes her friend’s choice of birth control. “He just comes all over her face.” Even more vulgar is Ms. Silverman’s description of her sister’s chosen punishment when her seven year old niece came out of the closet as a lesbian. “No pussy for a week.” Silverman even undermines her own feminine image when she cuts to a video clip of herself, disheveled and half-naked, chanting “fuck my tuchus” and later holds a microphone to her mouth, crotch and rear end as she sings a rendition of Amazing Grace from these orifices in three part harmony. She is no lady. Or is she? The uncertainty is part of the movie’s experience. As Judy Oppenheimer of the Baltimore Jewish Times explains it, “ Tough and Funny. She’ll make you laugh – and sooner or later, she’ll punch you in the gut. Guaranteed. So seeing her movie is bound to be a slightly anxious experience. You’re not sure how it is going to go.” 
Jewish Identity and the Boundaries of Insider Status
A self-identified Jew, who in one breath proclaims herself “one of the chosen people” and in the next breath worries about “sounding like such a jap,” Silverman simultaneously acknowledges her Jewishness with pride and a glaring self-consciousness of her outsider status. With her jokes about the Holocaust and the use of racially charged words like “nigger,” “chink” and “jap, “ Silverman really taps into the confusion about whether populations with outsider status can mock themselves and each other. Bewildered by the idea of so many Jews driving German cars, Silverman notes the irony that companies like Mercedes and BMW “helped facilitate the genocide of their best customers.” After shamelessly using the Holocaust as the basis for a joke about Jews and Germans, she manages to address the relative outsider status of Jews and Blacks. “If Black people were in Germany in World War II, the Holocaust would not have happened.” Big pause. “Or not to Jews.” Some may be offended by Ms. Silverman’s blasphemous use of the Holocaust or the liberty she takes in comparing Jews to other minorities. As if anticipating potential criticism, Silverman launches into a musical litany of stereotypes about Jews (who love money), Asians (who are good at math), Puerto Ricans (who need bats) and girls (who love dolls) and Blacks (who don’t tip). Ending the song with an awkward exchange between a 1960s flower child version of herself and two intimidating Black men, Silverman casts doubt on whether or not one outsider has the right to make insider jokes about another.
Although Jesus is Magic is clearly part of a modern comedic tradition that challenges the limits of identity politics and political correctness, Silverman herself did not purport to be a politically minded reformer until much later. In a 2010 interview with Washington Jewish Week, Silverman reverted to comedy to deflect from the idea that there was a political purpose to her art. "To be honest, I would like to go about my life exploiting the subject of Jewishness for comedy, and not be saddled with the responsibility to actually represent, defend or advance die because of the Jewish people," she explains. "Nevertheless, my Jew editor convinced me to write a chapter on Jewiness by using one of our culture's greatest tools of persuasion: nagging." 
- Gross, Terry (November 9, 2005). "Sarah Silverman: 'Jesus Is Magic'". NPR.
- Benedictus, Leo (March 21, 2012). "Comedy gold: Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic". The Guardian.
- Scott, A. O. (November 11, 2005). "A Comic in Search of the Discomfort Zone". The New York Times.
- Benedictus, Leo. Comedy Gold: Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic. The Guardian. March 21, 2012)
- Oppenheimer, Judy. Sarah is Magic; Sarah Silverman never fails to shock – or make you laugh. Baltimore Jewish Times, Baltimore. Vol. 287, Iss.6. (December 9, 2005): 67.
- Sarah Silverman's 'Jewiness'Kirsch, Jonathan. Washington Jewish Week; Gaithersburg [Gaithersburg]03 June 2010: 25.
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