The nut, so to speak, of Lowry’s critique is that Silverman, whom he writes has “all manner of career-friendly gifts — from her looks to solid acting chops” has sabotaged her own career by working blue:
Comics often impress each other with that kind of bawdy fare (see The Aristocrats), but Silverman frequently seems to be playing more toward those peers and a loyal cadre of fans than a broader audience that’s apt to be turned off by the questionable stuff, which feels more about shock value than cleverness. And if she really think saying “c–t” repeatedly is a form of artistic expression, more power to her, but in commercial terms, indulging those impulses comes at a price.
The rebuttals to Lowry were swift and manifold, focusing especially on his contention that Silverman has “limited herself by appearing determined to prove she can be as dirty and distasteful as the boys.” I’ll be honest: As a critic, I flinch whenever a review, even one so flagrantly wrong-headed, gets attacked en masse, but it’s hard to muster too much sympathy in this particular instance, not when Lowry’s review is filled with so many baked-in assumptions about women and comedy.
But there’s no need for me to mansplain. Take it away, ladies.
Beejoli Shah, Gawker:
Articles like this are infuriating for a number of reasons — primarily the suggestion that female comedians can’t be as raunchy as their male counteraprts. 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. Lowry never once rails against raunchy comedy in general — and let’s be honest, this sort of article would never be written about a male comedian.
Elise Czajkowski, Splitsider:
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. 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. If the folks at Variety intend to review standup, they need to keep up.
Sarah Silverman has built up a solid career while remaining true to her voice and what she thinks is funny. That isn’t a bad career move. She is the comedian she is, and she has found a large and loyal following, without the aid of “mainstream success.” (And please, define “mainstream” to me in the age when almost all of the good comedy is coming from cable, podcasts, and internet shows.) She’s a woman working in a field still predominately defined by men, both as creators and as consumers, and dealing with outdated ideas like “pretty women can’t tell dirty jokes.” The problem isn’t with Silverman. The problem though might be with Lowry.
Amanda Marcotte, Slate:
It’s easy to be mad at Lowry for his condescending nonsense, but I’m actually in awe of his ability to hit nearly every major trope of the misogynist blowhard in a mere 500-word piece.
Bob Powers*, Happy Place:
Here’s the bottom line, Brian Lowry: you are a TV critic, not a comedy critic. I have no idea if you know anything about TV, but I am certain you know nothing about comedy. That’s evident by the fact that you have to Xerox old reviews any time you write up something new from a female comedian. The fact that you don’t know “proving she can be just as filthy as the boys” is an outdated, ridiculously condescending cliche proves you should let other people write about comedy.
(* not a lady.)
If there’s any doubt that Silverman is “working dirty,” the below clip should clear that up nicely, but there’s little to support that idea that Silverman’s potty mouth is the cause of any career troubles she might or might not have. Although she’s taken a few stabs at having her own sitcom, she’s clearly not interested in playing within the confines of the form. (For that matter, neither is Louis C.K., whose garbage mouth doesn’t seem to have held him back unduly.) It’s true that in the olden days, the saltier female comics tended to be those who couldn’t get by on looks alone — your Fanny Brices and Mae Wests and so forth. (In real life, Carole Lombard swore like a sailor, but you never saw that on screen.) But times have changed, and now women with dirty minds are acceptable and, let’s be honest, kinda hot. If anyone thinks a TV star can’t be attractive and foul-mouthed, I have a four-letter word for them: Veep.