Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic wasn't as funny as people told me it was, but that's the way it is with comedy. It's much easier and safer to laugh alone these days. Stand-up routines (even when mixed with choreographed studio pieces, as in this film) often seem more stilted and less spontaneous on film, too, even if they were filmed live. But, my friends liked it enough to send me off and packing to the theater, and the audience I was with laughed at nearly every joke, and this is really the point--Jesus is Magic is a timepiece, representing "that" friend we all have, the one who embarrasses us in public with their uncouth, un-p.c. jokes. It is really indicative of this post-liberal attitude where acknowledging the prejudice is all the rage. The facade of "equality" and "give peace a chance" is as antiquated to this generation as "We can do it," or any other Baby Boomer slogan. So, Martin Luther King and the Holocaust are tossed in amongst all those words that George Carlin couldn't say on TV (updated and revised, of course, but most of the words seem to be well established and timeworn). When Silverman calls something "gay," she is not reclaiming the word from hate, or even disempowering it--for her, it is just a word that she's gagged on from its repression, and finally its finger is out of her throat and out comes the word: "gay." Her vernacular isn't so offensive as it is defensive. The shallowness of her usage, she hopes, will downplay its vulgarity. Then again, such humor is so commonplace these days that vulgarity finally means what it is supposed to: common.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.