Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ubber Chochom

The Yiddishism "Ubber Chochom" means, basically "smart-*ss" or wiseacre.

You want a more concrete example?

Read on.

Questions for Sarah Silverman

Funny Girl


Q: The opening credits of your new television sitcom, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” include a scenic glimpse of a cemetery plot, as your voice explains that your parents are both deceased. Is that actually true? No. They’re both pretty retired.

How do they feel about being knocked off in your show, which makes its debut on Comedy Central on Feb. 1? They’re fine with it. It was a way to bring a little bit of pathos to a self-centered character. It’s like Mr. Rogers said, There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love if you knew their whole story, and I figured if I added dead parents —

Even so, the show’s protagonist, who is named Sarah Silverman, is not exactly Mr. Rogers’s type. A model of political incorrectness, she becomes enraged when she is forced to watch a commercial for a humanitarian-aid group. Whom is she based on? I would describe her as ignorant and arrogant. The character is a lot of myself and a lot of my mother.

Much like Sacha Baron Cohen, you specialize in a kind of shock comedy that seems designed to give offense. What do you think of him? “Borat” was the most retarded yet most important movie I’ve seen in many years.

In the documentary “The Aristocrats,” you set a new record for outrageousness by claiming, with a straight face, “Joe Franklin raped me,” referring to the elderly television host. I heard that he threatened to sue you. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t really mad. I think he was just milking the extra publicity.

Do you see your work as social commentary? I don’t see it as anything. I try not to look at it. Deconstruction is a comedy killer.

How are things going with your comedic other, Jimmy Kimmel? Excellently! All my friends are comics, but I don’t know that you would know them — Mark Cohen, Doug Benson, Todd Glass, Todd Barry.

Why don’t you have any female friends? Tig Notaro, she’s a woman. She’s probably one of my best friends. She’s a comedian.

Tell us about your childhood in Bedford, N.H., where you were the youngest of four daughters. Isn’t your oldest sister a rabbi? She got into it on her own, after grad school, even. We grew up in a place with very few Jews. I didn’t look like the other kids. I had hairy legs, hairy arms, hair everywhere. I looked like a little monkey.

This doesn’t sound like a description of an idyllic childhood. I wouldn’t want to do it again. I had a lot of depression as a kid.

During adolescence, you mean? From 13 to 16. I didn’t go to school for months. It was so awful. I didn’t know how to express what it was. I remember trying to explain it to my stepdad and saying, “I feel like that terrible homesick feeling, but I’m home.”

Were you treated at the time for depression? I had very bad experiences with doctors. I got sent to a psychiatrist who put me on Xanax when I was 13. I went back for my next visit, and he had killed himself.

That’s a pretty good story, but is it true? I swear to God. I had to wait for the rest of the hour for my mom to pick me up.

You eventually wound up at New York University, where you dropped out after a year to work in comedy clubs. I didn’t really drop out. I just didn’t go back.

Do you wish your new show were appearing on HBO, if only because Comedy Central bleeps out the swear words? No, I spent two years developing shows at HBO, right before this. I wrote two pilots with Larry Charles. Neither of them was even shot. They’re so good too.

And then you were rescued by Comedy Central. Yes, I’m one of those lucky people who’s attracted to people who like me.

Okay, so there's nothing wrong in being funny. A bit of self-deprecation is alright, too.

Full frontal Judity?

But let's not get carried away Sarah.

Her blog.



See this article in The New Yorker


“The Sarah Silverman Program” puts the mean back in funny.


So “The Sarah Silverman Program,” much the meanest sitcom in years—and one of the funniest—premières this week, perforce, on Comedy Central. Silverman, the telescope-necked comedienne, has had trouble finding the right showcase for the contrary elements of her persona: the post-feminist tomboy who’s sexually cocky and emotionally frigid, the eerily alert counterpuncher who’s totally self-involved. (In her 2005 concert movie, “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” Silverman makes out with her own mirrored image.) She is best known for jarring “The Aristocrats,” the documentary about a legendary joke, with her deadpan claim that “Joe Franklin raped me,” and for dropping the epithet “chinks” into a joke on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Unlike many comedians, Silverman excavates prejudice less by digging into her own background (though in one episode she insincerely promises “full-frontal Jew-dity”) than by strip-mining the turf of other minorities, particularly blacks and gays. Her game is to throw out stereotypes in a little-girl voice and with a winsome look that suggests no offense can legitimately be taken. You might admire Silverman’s boldness, or you might feel that there’s something sneaky in her appropriation of slurs that never wounded her—that it’s the standup equivalent of the person who cuts in line and then can’t believe you object.

The show’s credits beguile us into anticipating yet another wry, candid-seeming look at a comedian’s private life...The show’s only formal rigor is Sarah’s own: her beefs and run-ins always showcase her intolerance (at the expense of Silverman’s winsome streak). When a driver in a red Ford Focus pulls up alongside her red Ford Focus and cheerily observes, “Hey, same car!,” Sarah parrots his remark with an expression of utter spastic disgust.

...At times, you wonder whether you’re laughing with Silverman or at her, and then you realize that she’s laughing at you.

Silverman dispatches empathy with a kind of emotional judo. When Sarah and an older black woman start chatting at the market, a bond seems possible:

WOMAN: You know, family is the most important thing in life. It’s who you are.
SARAH: That is so wise.
WOMAN: Well, that’s just what comes with being seventy.
SARAH: No, you’re not! There is no way you are seventy! You look too young! . . . (The woman moves in for a hug, but Sarah halts her.) Oh, now that you’re closer I can tell you’re old.

...Touché. The brilliance of the show—the force of its argument that sitcoms turn us into loserish loners—is also its abiding flaw. We admire the purity of Silverman’s scornfulness, but we don’t want to hang out with her the way we did with Mary and Rhoda. Not that she’d let us get that close anyway. “The Sarah Silverman Program” is like a club so exclusive that only the owner can get in—not even God is on the list.

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