Brian Lowry of Variety reviewed Sarah Silverman's upcoming HBO comedy special by saying that her dirty jokes are hurting her career. Everyone else explained just how wrong he was.
Lowry's point in the review, published yesterday, was generally that Silverman could have a much better career if she weren't so damn (or, well, darn) blue. "Despite all manner of career-friendly gifts – from her looks to solid acting chops – she’s limited herself by appearing determined to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys," he wrote.
Now, Silverman's special is dirty — one of the first jokes is about searching for gang-rape porn — but that's par for the course with Silverman. Which raises the question: where has Lowry been? And why does he think she needs to up and change for some immeasurable form of mainstream success beyond the considerable mainstream success she already had? Is it because he doesn't like women saying dirty things and doesn't think anyone else does either? (He argued: "This isn’t meant to suggest that female comics can’t work blue," but then added that he thinks Silverman "can and should do more.")
Of course, others have been more than willing to tell Lowry how wrong he was. Nathan Rabin of The Dissolve called the piece "sexist, clueless & condescending" in a tweet. Beejoli Shah of Defamer wrote that "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." In a piece at Splitsider, Elise Czajkowski explained that Lowry's review is not only infuriating for its sexism, but also for its lack of understanding of the comedy world. "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," Czajkowski wrote. "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."
The fact that Lowry's piece seemed so isolated from the comedy world was echoed by Bob Powers who noted in a piece at HappyPlace that Lowry pulled the same card on Amy Schumer when he reviewed her Comedy Central TV show, saying that she used dirty jokes as a "bit of a crutch." Powers wondered just who these dirty "boys" are: "Are Amy and Sarah chasing after dirty 'boys' like John Mulaney and Marc Maron, comics who rarely go anywhere near as blue as Sarah Silverman will gleefully. What about Jim Gaffigan? Is he one of the 'boys,' luring lady-comics to the dark side of talking about their vaginas by stage-whispering about Hot Pockets?"
Silverman doesn't have to work blue. In fact, she doesn't have to be a stand up. (See: her work acting in Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz.) But she is a stand up, and for years she's been honing a routine that lures you in with sweetness and then slices through that with something very raunchy. She's not just saying these things to say them. It's a carefully constructed act and it's hilarious. (See: her music video for "Diva.")
Anyway, here's Silverman doing "The Aristocrats." We'd warn you, but, by now, you should know what you're getting into.