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'Variety' Columnist: Female Comics Shouldn't Tell Dirty Jokes

Women and Hollywood By Inkoo Kang | Women and Hollywood November 21, 2013 at 3:00PM

Sarah Silverman is arguably the most famous female comic working today. But she still gets no respect, at least not from Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry, who wrote an embarrassing "review" of Silverman's latest HBO special, 'We Are Miracles.'
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Sarah Silverman We are Miracles

Sarah Silverman is arguably one of the most famous female comic working today. She's a household name and can boast among her achievements an Emmy-nominated TV show, over two dozen film credits, and an instantly recognizable comic persona that's entirely her own. 

But she still gets no respect, at least not from Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry, who wrote an embarrassing "review" of Silverman's latest HBO special, We Are Miracles. Lowry spent two sentences on the special, i.e., the thing he was actually supposed to write about, calling it "disarmingly funny right before veering into bad-taste territory," and then devoted the rest of his piece concern-trolling the comedienne's supposed lack of mainstream success despite her attractiveness. The culprit, he decides, is Silverman's "determin[ation] to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys." Lowry doesn't fault one of his favorites, Louis C.K., for telling jokes about how the frosting on Cinnabon pastries remind him of semen, but he writes that Silverman "can and should do more." It's hard to think of a more blatant example of double standards. 

Lowry's piece gets two things wrong. First, that Silverman's career may not be as lucrative as, say, the seemingly neutered Steve Carrell's is, but she's a superstar in the comedy world. (Believe it or not, films and TV aren't everything.) A kind of mea-culpa interview with Silverman that appeared on Variety's site today finds her explaining her perfectly logical, personal fulfillment-oriented professional path: 

Silverman says because she keeps her overhead low, she doesn't really do anything that she doesn’t want to -- except be on the road, which she loves while she's onstage but otherwise can leave her lonely and homesick. (She says she travels "less than I should, more than I want.") But her approach is just to follow her career wherever it goes, knowing that as long she keeps writing, she'll always have a destination.

The second is Lowry's out-of-touch assumption that raunchy female comics aren't popular. Sure, there might be some male viewers like Lowry who think women should behave like ladies or be cuddly and nonthreatening like Ellen Degeneres. (That's no knock on Degeneres, who is hilarious in her own right.) But has he asked any female audiences, who -- surprise! -- also like to laugh? Dirty jokes might, in fact, be the golden ticket to sustaining a long and successful show. The Whitney Cummings co-created 2 Broke Girls, based on the comedienne's difficult life, is a ratings winner. Chelsea Handler's talk show, E!'s Chelsea Lately, is going strong in its seventh season. And no one's ever accused Jon Stewart of being a failure because he just has a measly basic-cable show. And what does Lowry think the women on Sex and the City, a genuine cultural phenomenon, sat around and talked about? 


Ultimately, the "something simultaneously fascinating and maddening about Sarah Silverman" that flummoxes Lowry is the idea that she is pretty and funny, or more specifically, pretty and potty-mouthedly funny. Silverman's an attractive woman who wants to express herself beyond saying Look at how attractive I am. Don't you want to have sex with me, don't you don't you don't youFor that apparent transgression, Lowry is scolding Silverman for not reducing herself to being just a pretty face. 

Silverman's HBO special We Are Miracles premieres Saturday, November 23rd at 10pm on HBO.

This article is related to: Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, comedy


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