REVIEW: Sarah at JFL42 in Toronto

This analytical recap of Sarah’s September 20 performance at Just for Laughs in Toronto was posted 9/21/13 at exclaim.ca.

By James Keast

The first of three headliners for 2013’s JFL42 comedy festival in Toronto found herself caught between the image she’s spent 20 years building, and the comic she’s trying to evolve into, making for an interesting albeit uneven night of comedy from Sarah Silverman.

Toronto comic K. Trevor Wilson scored another high profile spot (having opened for Louis CK at last year’s JFL42), and brought some terrific new material to the stage: about the perils of being a big guy during hot summers; the trauma of having your favourite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavour discontinued versus the delight of choosing a new one; Oshawa as a time capsule. A great set from a guy who started by saying he didn’t know any jokes and was just there to do a drywall estimate.

Sarah Silverman came out in a relaxed mood, opening with an unplanned anecdote about shooting Sarah Polley’s 2011 movie Take This Waltz in Toronto, which included her first nude scene and a mortifying interaction with the director during that moment. What followed was material less guarded and more personal than the sometimes caustic commentary on which Silverman made her name — no longer is she the smartest, hottest and most honest person in the room, there to take down the douchebag community with the sniper-like accuracy of her comic barbs. Instead, she’s turned a little more inward, a little more self-reflective than the 19-year-old who helped forge the “hot girl with a dirty mouth” comedy path.

She still aims most of her material at humanity’s stupidity, but is more apt to recognize those weaknesses in herself, and at times the material veered into a lane that sounded more like therapy than performance. (“You’re doing good Sarah” she mumbled quietly to herself a few times.) Yet at times, the audience wasn’t sure what to do with a more thoughtful and introspective Sarah Silverman; many came ready for the rapid-fire comedy judgement she often dispenses, only to find a thoughtful and maturing comic. The disconnect seemed to throw Silverman off a bit, torn between moving toward the comedian she wants to become and serving the audience that got her to a headlining spot in a 3000-seat theatre. Silverman closed with a song about women who call themselves divas when really they’re just acting like cunts (the chorus was simply a chanting of the c-word), and it got the biggest and most uproarious response of the whole evening, which was both telling of Silverman’s audience and surely disappointing for a comic looking to evolve beyond the shackles of her own creation.

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