There’s an easily observable method to Sarah Silverman’s brand of humor. Silverman certainly enjoys irony and blatant absurdity, but you can generally count on her undermining her natural cuteness by picking the most controversial topic she can think of and approaching it in the most insensitive way she (or anyone else) can imagine. This approach is frequently hilarious, but it inevitably becomes predictable. That’s why her show on Comedy Central is such a boon for her. The Sarah Silverman Program forces her to put her contentious material into some sort of context, surrounds her with a cast of hilarious and otherwise underutilized people who are bizarrely compatible with her skewed sensibilities, and amplifies her silly side in a perverse way.
Due to the 2007-2008 writers’ strike, the second season of The Sarah Silverman Program was split into two parts, thus explaining the designation of the newly released DVD as The Sarah Silverman Program: Season Two: Volume Two. But really, there’s no need to consider the show as dissected in any meaningful way. There’s nothing remotely linear about this show from episode to episode, and frequently, moment to moment within an episode can be decidedly random. So there’s no reason to pick up this DVD at the expense of any other DVD set of The Sarah Silverman Program. The extras are largely disposable, consisting of a few mini-docs and somewhat dull commentary tracks with Silverman, director Rob Schrab and writer Dan Sterling. Nonetheless. this set of episodes contains what the show typically delivers: reliably amusing, often hilarious narrative streams of consciousness.
For starters, Silverman’s sensibilities certainly provide the overriding mood of the show. Typically, the A-story will revolve around Silverman’s thoughtlessness inadvertently directed either at her loved ones or society at large. Season Two: Volume Two finds Silverman, in various episodes, with a bed-wetting problem, pregnant, homeless, repeatedly running over bearded men she suspects are Osama Bin Laden, suing Mongolia, getting engaged to her dog, and singing Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You)” on television with her estranged father. Each situation finds her ignoring the wishes of her friends and family in order to follow her scatterbrained muse.
These plot lines are almost uniformly funny, but the best moments of the show often come from supporting characters. If Brian and Steve (played by Brian Posehn and Steve Agee) were truly a gay couple and had a webcam set up in the apartment, it would probably occupy an unhealthy portion of my life. To some degree, the initial humor of Brian and Steve arises out of the notion that their habits and appearances make the very idea of a romantic relationship between them so ridiculous, but the writers have found increasingly amusing ways to play with their dynamic. The episode where Brian has to rescue Steve from a horrible toilet experience causing both of them to throw their backs out is one of the funniest subplots in the show’s brief history. And Steve’s home videos in the episode “The Mongolian Beef” are just hilarious (the special features inform the viewer that this story line is based on Agee’s actual low-budget video-making hobby). Additionally, I’m just happy that Jay Johnston has a steady outlet for his unique sense of humor, considering that he’s been all but absent from television since Mr. Show (other Mr. Show regulars who stop by in season two include Jill Talley and John Ennis). And let’s face it, Laura Silverman is just adorable.
It’s worth noting that The Sarah Silverman Program: Season Two: Volume Two, though consistently funny, rarely approaches anything revelatory. Ironically, the complete unpredictability of the show eventually becomes formulaic, and you can start to guess which taboo is going to be subjected to a gleeful dismantling within two minutes of each episode. But, though The Sarah Silverman Program is brainier than it wishes to appear, the show is not really about making you think. Ultimately, Sarah Silverman just seems happy to have found a format that lets her love for outrageous and scatological jokes dwell within her Dada-esque sense of narrative, and the clear joy she and her cohorts bring to this show is infectious.