You may have your own opinion, but over the past couple of weeks, fans of comedian Sarah Silverman have decided they either love her, or they love her so much that they hate her if she lets them down. For those of you who need catching up, follow me…
Two weeks ago, Silverman’s Comedy Central program began its third season, which prompted a series of interviews and promotional appearances. She also appeared in a video pushing "The Great Schlep" asking young Jews to visit their grandparents in Florida and convince them to vote for Barack Obama for president. Combined, that got Silverman profiled again in The New York Times. She also appeared on David Letterman’s show and got the CBS Sunday Morning profile treatment from Katie Couric. Here is an extended video remix of Couric and Silverman:
Meanwhile, across the pond, Silverman was completing a weekend promotional tour of the U.K., complete with TV appearances and a live performance at the Hammersmith Apollo. Her TV gig made news for the fun she had with fellow guest Ricky Gervais. Her live performance made news for fans heckling her and general disappointment that the show did not go on as long or as orderly as planned. Steve Bennett at Chortle chided Silverman for not delivering her best or fullest: "Silverman may be more than a simple insult comedy, but with this
shockingly brief performance she delivers a stinging insult to the fans
who had been so ready to laud her." In The Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish quipped: "She came, she saw, she fizzled out." And in The Guardian, Ed Stafford offered a mix of praise and criticism: "I’d still rate Sarah Silverman as one of the strongest US comics of the
moment, but surely even she can’t believe she’s worth £1 a minute." Steve Agee, who performs on Silverman’s Comedy Central show and literally had to phone it in for Sunday’s U.K. show due to illness, went on the message boards at A Special Thing to defend Silverman.
Let me add my two cents with another example: Ricky Gervais. Earlier this year, Gervais performed three shows at the Madison Square Garden theater taping his first HBO stand-up special. Practically all the material he performed for the special, which debuts on TV in November, already appears on his three U.K. specials. Should we boo Gervais for that? Should we take him to task for it? In his mind, certainly, he’s treating this special as his formal introduction as a stand-up comedian to American audiences. But Americans who already adore Gervais probably have sought out and heard this material. Which puts them in the same boat as the British fans of Silverman who wondered why she didn’t deliver more new jokes for them. That, combined with a short running time for a theater show, likely made some fans feel shortchanged. Literally. I’m sure casual fans who only know Silverman and Gervais from what they’ve seen on TV enjoyed these shows a lot more than eager fans who already had seen their comic idols say all of these routines several times before via the Internet. Yet another example of how comedy differs from music and other performing arts. You pay a lot of money to see the Rolling Stones, you want to hear their greatest hits. But pay that same high ticket price to see your favorite comedian, and you may like hearing a reference to a popular routine, though you’re really hoping to hear something new, different or unique that makes your live comedy experience special. The Brits obviously didn’t get what they wanted.
For further reference, I’ve compiled most of Silverman’s recent videos to get you caught up after the jump…
Grainy footage of Silverman’s "encore" in London:
Silverman on London chat show with Jonathan Ross (and other guests Ricky Gervais and Gordon Ramsay):
Silverman on Letterman:
Silverman on The Great Schlep: