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(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sarah Silverman is answering a reporter's question during lunch at an open-air restaurant when a car alarm goes off. She persists a few moments as the car horn throbs. Then, in an exaggerated whisper, she pretends to shout an ultimatum at the horn: "Shut! Up!!!"
An instant later, the horn stops.
"Wow!" giggles Silverman, pleased with her masquerade of power.
Of course, the character she plays on The Sarah Silverman Program would have wasted no time taking direct action. On last week's season premiere of the Comedy Central series (which is set to air in Israel, but has yet to be scheduled), the conveniently named Sarah was rudely awakened by Sunday morning church bells. She was plenty steamed.
Still in her pajamas, she barged into the sanctuary where the service was in progress, and gave the congregation hell.
"Who are you people praying to: Jesus of Noise-rith?" she screeched.
From there, the twisted narrative somehow whisked Sarah into the arms of anti-abortion activists.
By the end of this episode - which managed to mock all sides of the abortion rights debate, but most of all, mocked Sarah - its story came full circle: When assured by an anti-abortion zealot that the bomb meant to blow up the abortion clinic had been set for the middle of the night, thus sparing any humans, Sarah fumed, "You were gonna blow up a big noisy bomb at 5:30 in the morning when you know I'm asleep?!"
Thus does the series (which Silverman co-writes and co-produces, as well as stars in) channel the same shrewd, often shocking, wrongness that fuels her standup act.
Like Standup-Sarah has always done, TV-Series-Sarah keeps the audience on edge by being cute, obnoxious and depraved.
Aimless in the town of Valley Village, she is looked after by her sister (played by Silverman's real-life sister, Laura), her gay-couple neighbors (Brian Posehn and Steve Agee) and Laura's dimwitted policeman beau (Jay Johnston). Rounding out the support system: Doug, a Chihuahua-pug mix played by Duck, Silverman's real-life pooch (and, oddly, the show's only character with a made-up name).
This week's episode centers on Doug, whose zesty displays of personal hygiene (or is it more than that?) become a source of fascination for Sarah. She gets a little too close to the subject. Then she gets busted.
Maybe somewhere in this tale is an exploration of what is, and isn't, a sexual offense.
"I'm not a monster!" argues Sarah when she pleads her case in court. "I'm just a curious eccentric."
Welcome to another day in comedy for Silverman, who, on other days, has tapped how-dare-she topics like AIDS, 9/11, rape, the Holocaust, even the children of Britney Spears (whom she christened "adorable mistakes" while hosting the MTV Video Music Awards last month).
All this from someone whose worldview holds that "everything constantly moves in a circle. So when it's good it's good, and when it's bad it's about to be good. I'm an optimist that way."
She's also a romantic. Before she could turn off her cell phone for the interview, its twinkling sound announced a call. "Jimmeeee!" she squealed at the sight of the caller's photo on the cell-phone screen: talk show host Jimmy Kimmel checking in from L.A., where he and Silverman, 36, have been together five years.
Dressed comfy in a sweat suit, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she reports that, for her series' second season, a half-dozen episodes will air this fall, another 10 next summer. She's been plugging away at it since May.
"It's hard!" she says with a who-knew laugh. "I had come so far in my career with doing almost no work, and now this show takes so many hours! Writers are lazy, and comics are really lazy. But I always do my homework," she adds sweetly, "'cause I want the teacher to like me."
And she continues to prove she's more than the class clown. But how much more? Maybe jokes about flatulence, minorities and God speak for themselves. But does her humor's razor-sharpness point to something more profound? What's the underlying message from this comic minx? What is she really up to?
"I just want to be funny, and the things that make me laugh tend to be toward the taboo side," she explains. "I try not to imply anything deep. But if something's inferred from it, all the better."
Maybe it's in the eyes (and ears) of the beholder.
"I'm not saying that my stuff is either smart OR stupid," she says, "but a lot of dumb stuff can be seen as smart if a smart person chooses to find it thought-provoking, and glean something from it.
"There's a guy who made Campbell's Soup deep" - shades of Andy Warhol! - "and he didn't do anything particularly intellectual to make that happen. It's really for the audience to make it what they want it to be.
"I try to stay light," she offers, smiling, "and let other people be heavy." (AP)