Review: Sarah Silverman, Bloomsbury Theatre

Sarah Silverman

A version of this review of Sarah Silverman below first appeared in the Evening Standard. You can read the original review here. I wanted to add a new introduction because Silverman is so uniquely fascinating I couldn't say everything I wanted to say there. There was no space, for instance, to argue that she may have the biggest balls in comedy. Nobody else can get away with walking onstage after Joe Jackson's It's Different For Girls has played and announce in a butter-wouldn't-melt voice "I was brutally raped to this song." Though admittedly the night after this gig she gave out an award at the Baftas but played ball rather than reveal her cojones – no rape jokes onstage there.

This UK appearance coincided with Silverman coming over to plug her new movie, Wreck-It Ralph, but presumably no underage fans of that film were in the audience here. At 42 she seems to want to combine mainstream movies with outrageous adult comedy. I first spotted Silverman as the sour girlfriend in School of Rock and she has more recently she appeared in Star Trek. In her live show she had a great behind-the-scenes story about appearing in The Good Wife, where the hard-bodied, slick stars had to duck out of the way of the cameras and squat on the edge of the set after saying their lines.

America has Sarah Silverman, we have Sarah Millican. I know who I prefer. Some critics complained that some of the material at the Bloomsbury was old, but this felt like nit-picking. For anyone who saw her wince-inducingly awkward performance at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2008 this was a comedian very much on message and on song. Silverman might have lost her Queen of Comedy Cool crown to Lena Dunham lately, but she remains a pretty unique perversely post-feminist figure. Will be she be like Joan Rivers and still be shocking us in three decades? Who can say? The one thing you can be certain of  about Sarah Silverman is that you do not know what to expect next.

It was a busy weekend for Sarah Silverman. On Friday she tangled with Mark Wahlberg on The Graham Norton Show and on Sunday she presented a Bafta. On Saturday, however, she had some bridge-building to do with her stand-up fanbase following her shambolic 2008 UK debut at the Hammersmith Apollo, which lasted around 45 minutes, leaving devotees fuming.

Lessons had clearly been learnt. This time the co-star of new animation Wreck-It Ralph delivered more than an hour of comedy that was mischievous, clever, cool, outrageous and, if scrappy towards the end she had redeemed herself so effectively by then, the audience excused her.

Silverman, 42 but looking 24 in denim shorts and trainers, called the set a work-in-progress but that felt like a way of hedging her bets. Certainly chunks, from an audacious opener about sexual assault to the expletive-filled musical finale, appeared polished.

If there was a theme it was a surprisingly satirical one. She was sharply sarcastic on both Western hypocrisy and body fascism: “If Africa was full of labradoodles dying of Aids we’d take care of it in a day.” On the miracle of everyone starting life as a sperm, “I can’t believe I was ever that thin.”

There was more than hint of Joan Rivers in her penchant for fearless taboo-trouncing. This was not humour for narrow minds, with references to rape, religion and 9/11 garnering more giggles than gasps from an audience that included Omid Djalili and Hugh Grant.

Yet the shocks were balanced by charm. When a reference to Dalston received a big laugh, she essayed a cute “little local reference lap” around the stage. One cannot see fellow boundary-busting American Louis CK doing that.

From zero to hero in five years, Silverman-style.

Hello! Thanks for reading all the way down. I wish I could give you a prize. But BTJ needs your support to continue - if you would like to help to keep the site going, please consider donating.

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.