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Image: Sarah Silverman
Rene Macura  /  AP
Sarah Silverman tries to shock you into submission with gimmicks and a slew of off-color jokes that more often than not miss the mark.
By Entertainment writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 10/3/2007 9:12:32 PM ET 2007-10-04T01:12:32

When it comes to Sarah Silverman I confess that I’m riding in on the late freight. I vaguely remember her appearances in films such as “The School of Rock” and “There’s Something About Mary”; and I’m afraid I missed her run on the all-so-memorable FOX sitcom “Greg the Bunny.”

The next time she entered my subconsciousness was when I saw promos for her special called “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic.” I was intrigued by that title, but not enough to set the TiVo.

So, basically the only things I know for sure about Silverman is that she’s Jimmy Kimmel’s girlfriend, and that she made some rather disparaging comments about Britney Spears at last month's MTV Video Music Awards. The 36-year-old New Hampshire native said something about Brit’s kids being “the most adorable mistakes,” which apparently didn’t go over very well with the BBs (Britney Bashers) or the BFFs (Britney Fans Forever).

I think I was probably too engrossed in watching BET’s “Hell Date” to care.

And then a few weeks ago I heard this story about her licking her dog’s backside. That’s all it took for me. I had to find out who this freak was and why all my friends hated her.

I wanted to talk to Silverman myself and tried to arrange an interview where we could chat about her Comedy Central show, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” as well as our affinity for Britney and Paris bashing. A personal request to her publicist went unanswered.

The publicist for her show did respond — with a no. Apparently after doing David Letterman, Howard Stern and other big-name shows, Silverman had done all that she was going to do to plug the second season of her quirky sitcom.

No clear ‘View’ of the real Sarah
That’s too bad because now I have to try and assess her personality, and more importantly her humor, without knowing where she’s really coming from. I thought I might get a better idea by watching her appearance on “The View” Wednesday morning. Big waste of time.

Whoopi Goldberg was stone-faced throughout most of the segment; Joy Behar kept defending Silverman’s choices as a comedian; Sherri Shepherd just asked the questions on the teleprompter; Barbara Walters wanted to know why Silverman was so cruel to Spears and raised objections about Silverman killing her parents on the show, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck said nothing.

The biggest laugh Silverman got was when she said, “It’s not uncommon for Jews to be scapegoats,” in response to one of Walters’ questions about Spears.

So, OK, now I know she is Kimmel’s girlfriend and a Jew. We’re making progress.

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And I did watch the first two episodes of Season 2 in an effort to get to know this wild child better. While I don’t think Silverman’s the funniest woman on the planet, I might not refuse free — emphasis on the word “free” — tickets to one of her shows. She’s kind of like a free-falling Kathy Griffin with no safety net. Like Silverman, Griffin has made a career out of bashing celebrities. The difference is that Griffin says what we’re all really thinking while Silverman says the things we’d never really think of.

Plus with Griffin it’s kind of easy for folks who dig that kind of humor to get caught up in her kind of manic energy. It also helps that viewers often get an opportunity to see her softer side on her Emmy-winning Bravo reality series, “My Life on the D-List.”

Silverman, however, tries to shock you into submission with gimmicks and a slew of off-color jokes that more often than not miss the mark. And when she bombs, she’s unapologetic. She’s much more of an acquired taste than Griffin, who has the advantage of being older and perhaps a little wiser when it comes to knowing how to appease those who aren’t exactly connoisseurs of her brand of funny.

Did you hear the one about the abortion?
The Silverman series tries too hard to be something so uniquely different. In this season’s first episode, Silverman storms into a church during a Sunday morning service to complain that the ringing bells have woken her up. She is then recruited by a couple of female members whom she refers to as “angry lesbians.” What she comes to discover, however, is that they’re actually anti-abortion activists who want Silverman, a woman who has had three abortions, to be down for their cause.

Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings Abortion is one of those issues that most seasoned comedians stay away from because it’s far too explosive. Silverman should leave it alone, too. If she was trying to make some sort of amusing social commentary about abortion, it went just over my head.

The second episode, however, is a lot easier to digest if you aren’t grossed out by the sight of someone licking a dog’s anus. Mmm good. It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but I did rewind the DVD a few times when the noise from the guys installing my new garage door drowned out the punch lines.

I don’t do that for everybody.

The truth is we’ve seen “The Sarah Silverman Program” before. The original version was more craftily written and executed back in the day. It was called “Seinfeld.”

So even though I haven’t quite figured Silverman out, I guess I’m willing to watch a third episode — if its not playing opposite “Hell Date.” If that’s the case, I’ll have to try and get to know Kimmel’s girlfriend better some other time.

Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at mikiturner.msnbc@gmail.com.

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