Sarah Silverman review – after a year of exile from the stage, a standup looks inward

Brian Logan
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

“I hope this was interesting in some way,” says Sarah Silverman to end this online event, with a note of uncertainty a world away from the arrogant persona that made her name. But that version of Silverman is now a world away – because times have changed and she has too, as discussed in this broadcast. And because comedians aren’t certain of their footing right now. Somewhat contrary to billing, this livestream on the US platform RushTix is a Q&A rather than a gig. Standups are entering their second year of exile from the stage. Is what they’re doing instead still interesting in some way?

Yes and no, in this instance. The strongest sections are when Silverman, sharing a split-screen with inquisitors selected from her audience, is invited to reflect on her standup. One fan interrogates the shift in her work away from outright shock-peddling, and elicits a thoughtful response. The meaning of that kind of comedy changes, she argues, when you have a president as “arrogant and ignorant” as Silverman once pretended to be. But it’s also about a comedian learning her craft. “I didn’t used to think you could be sincere and funny,” says our host, whereas now she does.

And is, on several occasions – when describing, say, her efforts to bend a joke about Hitler and his niece into a funnier shape. It is a characteristically candid answer (to a question about when outre jokes go wrong) from a comic who doesn’t give any of her questioners the brush-off. Even the lamest inquiries get a considered, usually charming – but not always enlightening – answer. One might have forgiven Silverman for dismissing the fan who questions why she trusts the US government. Instead, she embarks on a confused disquisition into the need for regulation in a dangerous world.

All well and good, but minus scripted jokes Silverman’s takes on politics is no more insightful than yours or mine. When she chats Grape-Nuts cereal or snoring in bed, the event can seem like a weak substitute for an actual comedy show. But when she’s talking about comedy shows, and her career in them, it comes alive.

Re-Broadcast: Sarah Silverman is available as a livestream at 6pm PST until 8 March. Ticket-holders can watch the show for 48 hours after the livestream.