But offending is part of Silverman's shtick; why else would she insist, as she does early in her concert film Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, "I'm one of the few people that believes it was the blacks" who killed Jesus Christ? (And if the Jews did, in fact, crucify Christ, she adds, "Good ... I'd fuckin' do it again in a second.") She wants you to oooh and aaah and groan and twist in disbelief that someone so disarmingly pretty -- long neck ("Six inches flaccid"), bright grin, model thin -- would dare say things so ribald and odious, even about Sept. 11, when she discovered the soy chai latte had 900 calories. "It was also the day we were attacked," she then adds, like it's a big duh.
Hers is the deep well of insults and taunts and jabs, reserved not only for ethnic groups (because babies love ethnic jokes, she claims) and retards ("And by retard, I mean they can do anything"), but also for her nana (who Silverman believes died at 96 of rape and other foul play) and her boyfriend, Jimmy Kimmel (a Catholic who believes, yes, that Jesus is magic). And she doesn't spare herself, either: When Silverman, explaining from the stage the pattern of dysfunctions and humiliations that led to her becoming a comedian, says she wet her bed till well into her teens, she isn't lying.
But Jesus Is Magic is more than a standard comedy-concert doc, some late-night Comedy Central throwaway starring somebody you've seen in big roles in small-screen shows (Greg the Bunny and The Larry Sanders Show) or small roles in big movies (School of Rock, say, in which she played a pain in the flaccid neck). It also serves as a demo reel: She sings! She dances! She acts in a scene with Bob Odenkirk! She talks out of her vagina and ass!
It begins by mocking her status as a cult icon. Silverman's sitting around her apartment while two other comics, Brian Posehn (of Just Shoot Me and the brilliant doc The Comedians of Comedy, airing this month on Comedy Central) and sister Laura Silverman, tout their upcoming projects -- an album for Posehn, a Comedy Central pilot for Laura. They wonder what Sarah's up to, and she feigns an answer: a show about the Holocaust and AIDS, which, she promises, "will be funny." She splits, insisting she's doing the show that very night, and suddenly she's in a convertible, singing about her plight in a sequence that appears lifted from every 1950s musical. It's the most effective of the offstage sequences, which include a song Silverman sings to the residents of an old age home, who, she taunts, "are gonna die soon."
What makes Silverman a truly gifted comic is her timing and delivery: She spills her monologue like it's off the cuff, one tangent leading to the next until it builds into something profound or profane -- maybe a little of both. Her talk of raising kids Catholic or Jewish leads into her comment about who killed Christ, which stumbles into her revealing that a certain sexual practice reminds her of how much she's like her mother, which winds up with a bit about how she goads her favorite niece by insisting that when she fails at something, an angel gets "full-blown AIDS." It has the feel of the made-up -- not just because Silverman has such a careless, casual delivery, but also because each sentence bears the sting of something uttered before it's given too much care and consideration. Sure, she seems to be implying with every crooked grin and phony apology, what she says might offend, but, golly, it's just what she's thinking -- and surely, that's more important than how you're feeling about it, right? Right.