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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Sarah Silverman Program: "Ah, Men"

Illustration for article titled The Sarah Silverman Program: "Ah, Men"
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Illustration for article titled The Sarah Silverman Program: "Ah, Men"

(Obligatory substitute teacher warning: Kyle is off today, so I'll be breaking it down for you, and providing your weekly space to bitch about the fact that we're not writing about South Park.)

So this week we get a classic sitcom premise, as Sarah dreads her impending high school reunion–her tenth…*wink*–because her most hated rival will be bringing, as her date, "that guy from Office Space who did The Oh Face." But Sarah has an ace up her sleeve too: Her ex-lover and aspiring boyfriend, God.

Here's the question tonight's show raised: Is fairly routine observational humor about dating and break-ups any funnier if one half of the couple is The Almighty? Initially at least, the answer is yes. It's funny when Sarah sees God on the street in the middle of performing a miracle, and she instinctively puts her hand over her face so He won't see her. It's funny when she comes across Him playing acoustic guitar in the park, and she asks Him out. And it's funny when God plays Taboo with Sarah and Laura and He pretends that the buzzer is an electric razor.

But then that last bit would be funny if I did it. (Hey, it always makes my wife laugh.) And the guitar bit is only funny because we know the person strumming away is God. Ditto the exchange when Sarah asks Him if He has any kids–the answer is no, by the way–or when she answers His frustration over people killing in His name with her own annoyance at pizza flyers jammed in her doorway. Some of the jokes are God-specific, some of them play off the absurdity of a laid-back God in human form, and some are just standard "awkwardness of relationships" stuff, like when God comes on too strong by showing up at Sarah's apartment with 100 boxes of Bugles, or when He struggles to look cool while checking out a Jackson Pollock canvas at a modern art gallery. ("It's so ugly, but it's so important," God stammers.)

This is the way it usually goes with Silverman's sense of humor. I've always found her funny, but never as "edgy" as some insist, because her jokes are ultimately about her adopted persona's way of seeing the world, which is so unlike anyone else's that there's really nothing satirical about it. Even when she dates God, He ends up being just another guy that she can react to in her own inimitable way.

That way works for me, though. It's so old-school showbiz, more like one of those remote, unknowable sitcom character actors from the '50s and '60s than the striving-for-transparency comic actors of today. She's so deeply into her shtick that it's almost hard to imagine her in the writers' room, collaborating on each week's script. But it's also hard not to nod appreciatively at a lot of what comes out of that room, especially when it's a line like this week's episode-ender: "God really is omnipresent, because his balls smell like they've been everywhere."

Grade: B

Stray observations:

- How does anybody watch any Comedy Central show without a DVR of some kind? As I was fast-forwarding through the frequent and lengthy blocks of commercials, I couldn't imagine how this show would flow with someone watching it in real time.

-This week's Brian & Steve B-story: The boys worry that constant pot-smoking has made them gay for each other, and that they'll have to quit the weed to see if they're really gay. This is about as thin a subplot idea as Silverman and company have yet trotted out, but it does contain one funny line: "I enjoy the smell of Cheez Whiz, but only if it's Cheez Whiz."

-Silverman nods to the hubbub over Tucker Smallwood's last appearance on the show as God, saying of their previous clumsy one-night stand, "It was insensitive and controversial."

-When did pizza bagels become a go-to comedy reference?