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One Part Sweet, One Part Raunchy, One Part Trickster
November 23, 2013  | By Eric Gould

Sarah Silverman is one part sweet, one part raunchy. She’s also one part trickster -- maybe the Bugs Bunny of standup. She can't throw a party inside a stove, or stick her arm up a shotgun barrel, but she channels the rabbit’s switcheroo style beat for beat. When she tells four-year-old girls she’s really a princess, but dresses ordinary so she can go out in public without being hassled, it’s with a delighted grin when they fall hook, line and sinker for the thing.

Silverman’s new HBO standup special, We Are Miracles, premieres tonight (Saturday, November 23rd) at 10 p.m., ET, is a mixed bag. On one hand, the comic actress, at her best, is a wily, spry prankster frequently tripping the audience, with some material on par with Louis C.K.  

On the other, she’s in in the mold of Amy Schumer – a pretty, innocent face with a trucker’s mouth. After an inventive vignette with Silverman bantering about her fashion choices with a carload of tattooed tough guys on the sidewalk outside the club, she enters to kick off the hour-long special with a gang-bang porn bit, and moves onto her elderly dog’s constipation, her dad ejaculating as she was conceived, and then finishes the set with a song devoted to repeated uses of the C-word.

She, surprisingly, even goes to rape jokes. And because of her style of breaking the fourth wall, it’s never clear whether the jokes are aimed at her’s and other comic’s attempts at controversial humor because it will get them noticed, or whether she really believes it’s all fair game, no matter how tragic the subject.

The best part of Silverman’s act is her style and delivery, which is in great form here, as it was in her 2012 NBC pilot, Susan 313 (which did not get picked up.) She’s clever, unpredictable and clearly enjoys the intimately small audience here as much as they seem to be enjoying her. She’s strongly in her element when she rants on self-obsession as being the root of modern neurosis when she states, “if you’re constantly having roommate problems, you’re probably the bad roommate.”

Otherwise, there are standard screeds here against religion and advertising. But then it’s just as quickly back to the edge, when she retells the news about a recent research study done on 9/11 widows that reports them as now excelling in a certain sexual technique.

Like many of her contemporaries, Silverman has no problem with stepping into borderline tasteless territory for a joke with the possible purpose of finding humor in the grimmest of circumstances.

One payoff here, if we’re willing to go along with her, is the process of self-confession – that we all have unwanted, inappropriate thoughts at the most inappropriate times.  She then admits the whole 9/11 widows report is made up, that she is mortified for proposing such a thing, and will consider her exploring it in her next therapy session.

The other is it’s also her conscription of her audience, the public, as equally complicit purveyors and consumers of bad taste and tabloid news. She admonishes the crowd: “But you know what? I feel like you should take some of the blame.” And it’s also in the trickster’s reversal, as she scolds the audience: “Honestly, because you decided to believe that the University of North Carolina would spend money on a study of, what, trauma-based handjobs? That's crazy. You're crazy. You're being crazy right now.”

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