Sisterhood Blog

Sarah Silverman Ends 'Are Women Funny?' Debate

By Elissa Strauss

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“Okay, last night I was visited by Jesus Christ, like the Jesus Christ. And he told me he was really bummed by all these people who use my name for intolerance and oppression.”

And so begins Sarah Silverman’s latest viral video, in which Christ comes to Sarah’s living room to tell her that she has been chosen to deliver his message about personhood. “Fertilized eggs aren’t people. People are people. But people who believe fertilized eggs are people are people too, and you have to love them, and you’re not better than them.”

Silverman then goes on to explain that the lines between religion and state have been increasingly blurred over the past fifty years, and how women are paying the price for the ongoing erosion of our reproductive rights.

I love this woman.

The place of women in comedy has been a big debate that has lost steam in recent years, and for good reason. If a Christopher Hitchens-type were to pronounce that “women aren’t funny” in next month’s Vanity Fair we would all just laugh. Hard. What, with the success of “Bridesmaids,” “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Girls,” and “The Mindy Project,” there is no longer an exposed nerve for this statement to touch. We always knew are funny, and now everyone else knows it too.

The majority of the women behind these projects identify as feminists, and some of them have made appearances at rallies and pro-women organizations’ lunches and the like. For the most part, though, their strongest feminist statement is simply being a woman in a man’s world, and kicking butt there. Silverman, on the other hand, gets her hands dirty, like, really pretty dirty, taking on the political issues that are most threatening women right now.

I am not trying to minimize the work of ladies like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler or Lena Dunham. They have done very important things like introducing a world weary of dick humor to the comedic possibilities of the female anatomy. It’s just that it is nice to see a funny woman use her funniness and fame to aggressively advocate for women’s rights, like Silverman does.

Of course, the fact that Silverman never achieved as mainstream success as the other ladies gives her a little more freedom to say exactly how she feels about abortion without alienating her viewers in, say, Texas. Still, she is putting her very long neck on the line, and risking future fame and fortunes, to defend progressive politics.

“Jesus” follows a series of other schticky political videos from Silverman, including one challenging voter ID laws and another in which she offers to scissor Sheldon Adelson for a $100 million dollars donation to Obama instead of Romney during the last presidential election. (Both these ads, by the way, were paid for by an organization called the Jewish Council for Education and Research.)

In all of her political videos, Silverman uses her trademark “Who me?” grin and upspeak voice as the set-up for the slightly shocking or just totally offensive punchlines. The finish, however, is always sincere and to the point. This lady is earnest about change. I can only hope that other comedians and entertainers follow her lead, instead of playing it safe with environmental causes or hiding their politics all together.


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