The Holocaust, pedophilia and mental retardation aren't apparent comedy fodder.
But Sarah Silverman somehow managed to mine the subjects for laughs, pushing the boundaries of humor and taste in the third and best season of her Comedy Central show.
The third season, unfortunately, could mark the last stand for "The Sarah Silverman Program."
Deadline Hollywood reports that Comedy Central has canceled the show – a development Silverman's immature, potty-mouthed character might call a bunch of doody.
But after 32 episodes, we haven't had our fill of the cringe-as-you-laugh sitcom, and humbly offer a suggestion to the folks at HBO: Save Sarah Silverman.
Her humor would be a good fit with the cable network's comedy lineup, which currently includes such off-kilter standouts as "The Ricky Gervais Show" and "The Life & Times of Tim." Silverman's outspoken, antisocial character has drawn apt comparisons to the exaggerated, cantankerous version Larry David plays of himself on HBO’s "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in which he picks apart ordinary human interaction.
But Silverman's show plays on a more whimsical level, with her childish, attention-obsessed character regularly plunging into fleets of twisted fancy and making odd leaps of logic that lead to bizarre behavior.
Pedophiles often drive vans – so it must be the vehicles that turn them into perverts, Sarah reasons in one episode as she buys a van to test her theory. In another, she concludes she’s mentally challenged, and ends up getting shot out of a cannon in a misguided bid to inspire people.
The best example of Silverman sharing the inner workings of her warped world came this season where her childhood imaginary friend, Troy (played by Andy Samberg), returned as an adult and led her into non-stop debauchery.
This is all better seen than described, though Silverman's brand of humor is an acquired taste – much like Tab, the old-school diet soda her gay, stoner neighbors Brian and Steve became addicted to in Season 1.
Not everybody gets her act – or appreciates it. Chris Anderson, who invited Silverman to perform at the TED technology conference in February, wound up dissing her on Twitter over a routine in which she mused about adopting a mentally challenged child.
We won’t knock anyone turned off by Silverman’s shock-humor sensibility. But we'll point out that she's playing a character, one who is self-absorbed, foolish and sometimes unlikeable. The comic is brave enough to make herself the butt of her often-crude jokes.
Silverman saved perhaps her best and edgiest show for last: an episode in which she and her (mostly) goody-two-shoes sister, Laura, unveil dueling Holocaust memorials. Laura's is tasteful. Sarah's is not. A silly time-travel twist brought a rare happy, and in its own strange way, sweet ending.
We’re going to be selfish, just like Silverman’s TV show persona, and hope for a new beginning in which HBO or some other forward-looking network ensures “The Sarah Silverman Program” lives on to offend.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NY City News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.