Critic Tells Sarah Silverman to Watch Her Mouth; Internet Tells Him Where to Stick It.

Television
by Sam Adams
November 21, 2013 11:45 AM
16 Comments
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Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles premieres on HBO Nov. 23

So Variety posted TV critic Brian Lowry's review of Sarah Silverman's upcoming HBO special, We Are Miracles and, yeah, it didn't go over so well. 

The nut, so to speak, of Lowry's critique is that Silverman, whom he writes has "all manner of career-friendly gifts -- from her looks to solid acting chops" has sabotaged her own career by working blue:

Comics often impress each other with that kind of bawdy fare (see The Aristocrats), but Silverman frequently seems to be playing more toward those peers and a loyal cadre of fans than a broader audience that's apt to be turned off by the questionable stuff, which feels more about shock value than cleverness. And if she really think saying "c--t" repeatedly is a form of artistic expression, more power to her, but in commercial terms, indulging those impulses comes at a price.

The rebuttals to Lowry were swift and manifold, focusing especially on his contention that Silverman has "limited herself by appearing determined to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys." I'll be honest: As a critic, I flinch whenever a review, even one so flagrantly wrong-headed, gets attacked en masse, but it's hard to muster too much sympathy in this particular instance, not when Lowry's review is filled with so many baked-in assumptions about women and comedy. 

But there's no need for me to mansplain. Take it away, ladies.

Beejoli Shah, Gawker:

Articles like this are infuriating for a number of reasons -- primarily the suggestion that female comedians can't be as raunchy as their male counteraprts. This sort of gender essentialism is troubling coming from a layperson, but coming from a seasoned journalist at a reputable entertainment news publication? It's disgusting. Lowry never once rails against raunchy comedy in general -- and let's be honest, this sort of article would never be written about a male comedian. 

Elise Czajkowski, Splitsider:

Clearly, the sexism of the piece is real and deeply ingrained, as he's insinuating that a female writer should stifle her voice so she doesn't scare anybody away. But even more infuriatingly for a comedy fan, any of these so-called debates about whether a woman can be funny and attractive and still "as dirty as the boys" have been dismissed long ago. Frankly, we're past that. If the folks at Variety intend to review standup, they need to keep up.

Sarah, LaineyGossip

Sarah Silverman has built up a solid career while remaining true to her voice and what she thinks is funny. That isn't a bad career move. She is the comedian she is, and she has found a large and loyal following, without the aid of "mainstream success." (And please, define "mainstream" to me in the age when almost all of the good comedy is coming from cable, podcasts, and internet shows.) She's a woman working in a field still predominately defined by men, both as creators and as consumers, and dealing with outdated ideas like "pretty women can’t tell dirty jokes." The problem isn't with Silverman. The problem though might be with Lowry.

Amanda Marcotte, Slate:

It's easy to be mad at Lowry for his condescending nonsense, but I'm actually in awe of his ability to hit nearly every major trope of the misogynist blowhard in a mere 500-word piece. 

Bob Powers*, Happy Place:

Here's the bottom line, Brian Lowry: you are a TV critic, not a comedy critic. I have no idea if you know anything about TV, but I am certain you know nothing about comedy. That's evident by the fact that you have to Xerox old reviews any time you write up something new from a female comedian. The fact that you don't know "proving she can be just as filthy as the boys" is an outdated, ridiculously condescending cliche proves you should let other people write about comedy. 

(* not a lady.)

If there's any doubt that Silverman is "working dirty," the below clip should clear that up nicely, but there's little to support that idea that Silverman's potty mouth is the cause of any career troubles she might or might not have. Although she's taken a few stabs at having her own sitcom, she's clearly not interested in playing within the confines of the form. (For that matter, neither is Louis C.K., whose garbage mouth doesn't seem to have held him back unduly.) It's true that in the olden days, the saltier female comics tended to be those who couldn't get by on looks alone -- your Fanny Brices and Mae Wests and so forth. (In real life, Carole Lombard swore like a sailor, but you never saw that on screen.) But times have changed, and now women with dirty minds are acceptable and, let's be honest, kinda hot. If anyone thinks a TV star can't be attractive and foul-mouthed, I have a four-letter word for them: Veep.

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More: From the Wire, Sarah Silverman, HBO

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16 Comments

  • stevieb | January 29, 2014 11:36 AMReply

    And as far as being some kind of icon for foul mouthed Jewish people...you can have her...but she sure isn't one for any women, anywhere...I think it's funny that this writer thinks she is...

  • stevieb | January 29, 2014 11:30 AMReply

    This 'writer' must live in an old shoe somewhere. I don't know anybody who thinks this moron is the least bit funny. She's a mealy-mouthed Jew. That's her act. Period.

    Yyyyyaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwnnnnnnnnn......

  • chris | November 22, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    Like all commedians, you've overdone it when the audience can't find the joke through the words. When I heard Richard Prior the words (dirty) enhanced the jokes, I tend to find the opposite with Silverman.

  • glam comedy | November 22, 2013 11:31 AMReply

    I think it's not people criticizing Sarah Silverman because she's a woman, but people DEFENDING her because she's a woman that is the real sexism. She's vulgar and offensive, and people call someone sexist for thinking so? To me, it's not so much the sexual nature of her act that offends, but the racist stuff. Is she joking or isn't she, is not a game that I constantly like to play.

  • Glam comedy | November 22, 2013 1:33 PM

    "J to the G", I think by following along with the trend, it is you who is missing the point, which is: so what? From the quote presented here, the reviewer made only a rather indirect reference to her sex, and mainly just talked about finding her vulgar style unfunny. And here is where I where I find the real sexism: defending her because of her sex and not for her comedy, which many people find off-putting.

  • J to the G | November 22, 2013 12:39 PM

    Uh, I think you missed the point entirely. The issue with Lowry's critique isn't that he criticizes her for being vulgar and offensive, but that he tsk-tsk's her for being vulgar and offensive *because she's a woman* and she shouldn't do that because that's not what women should, in his mind, do.

  • Plain Sara | November 22, 2013 11:25 AMReply

    This just seems like the type of fanboy fascism that is rampant these days. I think the critic expressed what a lot of us feel: we're not exactly sure how to take Ms. Silverman. If this critic was wrong, Silverman would be famous for more than just a guest-shot on The Simpsons as one of Bart's love interests.

  • Plain Sara | November 22, 2013 11:38 AM

    It should also be noted that this is probably a publicity stunt designed to promote Silverman's latest attempt at fame with her new HBO show in the works. Silverman is someone whom Hollywood execs like but the public doesn't, and they keep pushing her at us.

  • Jackson | November 21, 2013 2:10 PMReply

    Lowry is not being sexist at all and it's kind of stupid to think he is. He's criticizing her trashy humor, not her being a woman doing it. At no point does he say its ok for men to do it and not women. He says absoultey nothing about her gender Are women totally immune and untouchable when it comes to criticism? No rational person would think so. Lisa Lampanelli is an unfunny sack of immoral s**t, but just saying that make me sexist? People will desperately cling to pulling the gender card and make it a gender issue, even if it makes no sense whatsoever.

  • BEN | November 24, 2013 5:31 AM

    Wendel:

    "Sexism is not new. What's exactly the big problem"

    Everything about those two sentences.

    "Racism is not new. What's exactly the big problem"

    "Anti-semitism is not new. What's exactly the big problem"

    "Homophobia is not new. What's exactly the big problem"

    I guess you agree with all of the above too under that ethos. Shame on you.

  • Wendel | November 22, 2013 4:27 PM

    Ben, I think your critique makes sense, but one should remember that we're talking about a whole genre of ultra-dirty female comics, who play on the whole idea of women being filthy. In that sense, the gender specification actually fits. Sarah Silverman launches herself at the audience with a sort of sociopathic persona that reminds one of the more crazier elements of the fair sex, shall we say? and is bound to make men feel uncomfortable. It's just one review. Sexism is not new. What's exactly the big problem? Let's stop being the internet police.

  • Ben | November 22, 2013 9:52 AM

    I think that you might have been basing that on the extract given above. The title of his article was: "Sarah Silverman’s Bad Career Move: Being as Dirty as the Guys". This is fundamentally sexist, it perpetuates the idea that there are certain things that men can say that women can't get away with saying. His criticism of her is a means in which to criticise any woman who appears to 'emulate' male comedians, which in itself is hugely derogatory to the base of female comedians from which Silverman has drawn a lot of inspiration. Women aren't immune from criticism. If he posited "Sarah Silverman isn't funny", that is different to "Sarah Silverman isn't as funny as men". One is a critique of the person, one is a fundamental critique of a gender. You forget, perhaps, that we live in a patriarchal society, wherein whilst these comments don't seem derogatory, they have essential placement enforcement. It suggests that women can be comedians, thus placating the idea that they can't do the same jobs as men, yet in that field they must remain within a gendered stereotype. I suggest reading some feminist discourse about the matter and the article in full in order to understand the particularities of his misogynistic statement.

  • Marley | November 21, 2013 1:54 PMReply

    If Sarah was "Michael" he wouldn't have said these things about her. He's totally sexist. Sorry she doesn't fit your mold of what a proper lady comedian should say. What does he want, to have rainbows and Dounty fresh come out of her mouth while she's performing?

  • Jane | November 22, 2013 11:27 AM

    She's disgusting. Sorry if you feel that filth coming out of the mouth of a woman is more vulgar than from a male is so sexist. In fact, I think we dealt with Andrew Dice Clay a long time ago, and he did not come out of it as some sort of male hero.

  • aenvaoei | November 21, 2013 1:22 PMReply

    Wow. Send him to the laundromat. This guy is done. I get these people's points, but I'm just saying it could've been worse. Trust me, I see his problem, but...uuhm...it's not dangerous. I guess you could say. He's also saying that she's stifling her own voice because, range-wise, it's not gone very far. He's not saying she needs to shut up and get back in the kitchen as everyone seems to be implying.

  • Tom Haverford | November 21, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    Lowry's article is also a near-perfect copy of a critique he wrote about Amy Schumer's show when it started airing, so not only is he a misogynist, he's a lazy one.

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