I finally caved and picked up The Aristocrats on DVD… because it was in a bargain bin, and I was curious to see it in again. Although I’d already seen Sarah Silverman perform a brief, slightly bloodless bit for an Amnesty International charity show, it was her contribution to this feature-length dirty joke that made me fall for her… hard and fast. I was looking forward to hearing what Paul Provenza (the director) and Penn Jillette has to say about my fave comedian on the commentary track, and they didn’t disappoint me, alternately swooning over her, and analysing exactly why she’s such an impressive performer. She doesn’t simply tell the joke, she lives the joke. As Jillette observes, in any other context the quality and commitment she displayed would have earned her an Oscar. And so it goes.
She is, of course, not only an exceptionally gifted woman, but also an exceptionally sexy woman… but her sexuality is simply one of many harp strings, for her to pluck at will. I once suggested that if Roger Rabbit and his wife Jessica had a daughter, she would grow up much like Big S… the goofy, cartoonish energy combined with bona fide “bombshell” sensuality. It’s a killer combo. One should never confuse a performer’s “on screen” persona with their real-life personality, but I get the feeling that talking to her would be something of an emotional rollercoaster with her swinging so wildly and unpredictably between poles… which is what makes her act so interesting and compelling. For someone like me, who’s always looking for approval, it would be a constant cycle of pleasure and pain, between the glares and the smiles. Ah, but it’d be worth it! Oddly this feeds into my current reading of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. In the novel (to oversimplify horribly), the titular character, a world weary and withered soul, meets an enchanting young woman who shakes up his dry and dusty existence… meeting for their first date, the narrator notes a certain “boyish” aspect to her avatar, and observes, “Of all the things that pleased and charmed me about her, the prettiest and most characteristic was her rapid changes from the deepest seriousness to the drollest merriment, and this without doing herself the least violence, with the facility of a gifted child.” (p 127)
Hesse included a preface in later editions of the book, on the subject of readers misunderstanding his text, so it would be foolish of me to make too many sweeping statements… still, it seems to me that the aim of the strange forces/agents who have taken the narrator’s life to task, is to drag him out of the safe harbour of self-absorption, and set him off on an adventure across the choppy waters of Life, with Humour as his only compass and comfort… “Humour alone (perhaps the most inborn and brilliant achievement of the human spirit) attains to the impossible and brings every aspect of human existence within the rays of its prism. To live in the world as if it were not the world, to respect the law and yet to stand above it, to have possessions as though ‘one possessed nothing’, to renounce as though it were no renunciation, all these favourite and often formulated propositions of an exalted worldly wisdom, it is in the power of humour alone to make efficacious.” (p 67) Later it is observed that “true humour begins when a man ceases to take himself seriously.” (p. 207) Likewise, it would seem to me that the most deplorable kinds of people are generally those who can only laugh at others.
Hesse was heavily influenced by “eastern” philosophy, and name-drops Krishna throughout the novel. I was very fortunate to have finished reading the Bhagavad Gita shortly before, because it makes a great deal more sense in that light… my spin being that Humour helps us to detach ourselves from the material world, and our petty gripes and concerns, allowing our Soul to stretch its legs a little. The most shocking and surprising jokes might therefore have the greatest effect, similar to the mindf*ck “Magic Theatre” which the novel’s narrator is drawn into. To turn the world on its head, and recast our own dearly held certainties as ridiculous and misbegotten… to dance in the darkest corners of our souls, and spring clean our psyches, so that we might then improve, and enlighten ourselves. Devastation in preparation for something better to come. Assuming that one happens to believe in reincarnation, or second-chances, of course. “Well, you will do better the next time.” (p 252)
I haven’t really said very much about Silverman at all, have I? But there isn’t really anything I can say to describe how I felt the first time I watched Jesus is Magic, or to convince the doubters/haters of her talent. As far as I’m concerned she’s the gold standard of Comedy… or, to put it another way, the greatest mother-trucker alive. Bless her.