Sarah Silverman made a triumphant return to Saturday Night Live (SNL) playing host and paying tribute to her hero Joan Rivers. It has only come to light recently that the 43 year-old stand up comic, actress and writer was dumped unceremoniously via fax, a sort of old fashioned version of being fired by text, from the show back during the male dominated part of the franchise in the 1990’s. What is interesting about her being “let go” is the reasoning behind it.
According to Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Fargo, Better Call Saul, and Saturday Night Live) Silverman suffered from not being able to “be anyone else.” The actor and writer who has carved out a career for himself on television since leaving SNL explained that he could see why she did not fit in to the SNL of the 90’s. Odenkirk says that Silverman does not don the mantle of other characters. Instead she is always Sarah Silverman and that she puts her comedy out there and if “you don’t like it…she doesn’t give a sh*t.”
It is this quality that makes Silverman a comic star in her own right. Daring to tread where others refuse to tiptoe, some of her comedy does make one wince and can be pretty close to offensive. Probably why she adored Joan Rivers so much. The late Joan could also make jokes that were this side of offensive but like Sarah was also capable of cutting humor that sometimes had to be looked at closely in order to find the punch line.
Sarah Silverman hosting SNL must have felt like a sort of vindication to the comic although, as pointed out by quite a few publications, she did flub her lines a bit during that tribute she paid to her hero Joan Rivers. If that is what she did. The Wreck-It Ralph actress was doing a pretty spot on impersonation of Rivers and certainly the late comedienne and presenter could fumble her delivery on occasion. Regardless of possible memory problems the segment was good, but not brilliant as it seems that the amount of greats who the cast could impersonate was pretty limited. Benjamin Franklin? Really?
The comic’s monologue was spot on, if a little watered down for telly, and both the use of her 23 year-old self asking questions – using clips from her earlier appearances on SNL – and her sitting in the lap of an “audience member,” was amusing enough to make this one a “win.” This was Silverman at her best, being funny, intrusive and pretending to be cute, something that Sarah does impeccably.
Like most of Saturday Night Live‘s more recent shows, as in the first of their 40th anniversary episodes, the show was pretty hit and miss. Some things presented were spot on and felt almost like vintage SNL, for example The Fault in Our Stars 2 trailer. The ebola punch line was brilliant and the most topical thing on the show. Maroon 5 was the musical guest this week and the first song the group performed was Animal. A great song but considering that it has been used for a car advert takes away from the performance a little. Other groups and performers have been criticized in the past for “selling out” their hits for commercials. Maroon 5, take note.
Sarah Silverman as SNL host did fine in her return to the show that did not want her 20 years ago. Paying tribute to her hero Joan Rivers was touching, if not overly funny, and fans of Silverman will enjoy her appearance regardless of the fact that the show appears to be on its last legs. Perhaps the writers and producers of the show should take the late Rivers’ catchphrase to heart, they should talk…to anyone who can turn the show around to its halcyon days of old.
By Michael Smith