Thursday, January 16, 2014

TV Review - Bill Cosby, Sarah Silverman and Trevor Noah

On November 23, 2013, not one but two comedy specials with two different stand-up comics premiered on cable television. The first was Bill Cosby: Far From Finished on Comedy Central. The second was Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles on HBO. It had passed me by when it played on Showtime, but I did catch another comedy special on DVD that I'll include in my comments here called Trevor Noah: African American. These three comedy specials could not be more different, despite all three essentially being one person on stage talking directly to an audience.

What I decided was to live-tweet Bill Cosby's special. It was the first comedy special that the 76-year-old star from Philadelphia did in years. It was a return to form for the beloved comic and actor. My tweets started as a bit snark-filled, but by the end I came to love it. Here is the selection of tweets on my Twitter page that give you an idea of my thoughts.


Cosby first commented on the fact that he doesn't curse. He also doesn't use foul or vulgar language. He's quite the conservative man. The majority of his act was about marriage. He also goes into parenting and the type of tough love, never spanking or corporal punishment, but the kind of serious and frank approach to parenting that most have come to know from watching The Cosby Show back in the 1980s.

The first hour I found to be lackadaisical. Instead of standing up for the whole hour like other, younger comics do, Cosby sits for his entire performance here. This is most likely due to the fact that the man is a near octugenarian, and perhaps doesn't have the strength and stamina he once did, but that lack of energy comes through, but Cosby somehow uses it to great effect.

Cosby turns things around when he does a fantastic bit about his phone call to the house alarm company. He really nails it when he comes up with a very clever bit of himself in a fencing duel with his wife. Cosby proves that he's still a very brilliant mind and great comedian.

I also started live-tweeting Sarah Silverman's special, but it didn't go for too long. Mostly, it was because Silverman's special was shorter than Cosby's, but it was also because I wasn't moved to do so. I was first introduced to Silverman years ago in her comedy special, which actually played in movie theaters called Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (2005).

I loved Jesus is Magic because it was irreverant and bold and crazy. It stands as the best thing she's ever done. Everything in We Are Miracles feels derivative, hitting on the same things or themes in Jesus is Magic, although the novelty is gone, so all of it feels stale. The only thing that works is a very clever rape joke. Even though she didn't get to swear or be vulgar like coming up with a new way to say "pussy," Silverman was better in her short-lived TV series as well as in Wreck-It Ralph (2012).

However, just as I discovered Silverman in Jesus is Magic, I'm also discovering the comedian named Trevor Noah in this Showtime special. Besides Aziz Ansari or Anthony Jeselnik, Noah might just be the best young comic I've seen all year.

Noah spends the first half of his act explaining who and what he is because despite the title Trevor Noah: African American, Noah isn't African-American in the traditional sense. First off, he's not American. He wasn't born in the United States. The first clue to that is his accent. He sounds like he has a British tone. Yet, he wasn't born in the United Kingdom either, so watching and hearing him explain his origins and explain the misperceptions of him by others is an interesting and great discovery.

The rest of his act is that of a foreigner coming to America and commenting on a culture, particularly black culture, that is in a way a million times better than the way Key & Peele does. It's great because Noah comes from the point-of-view of not simply mocking the culture but also loving and appreciating black culture. Yet, he's puzzled by it. He's mostly just trying to understand it. He also has some pretty hilarious, Asian jokes.

Trevor Noah: African American
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV- MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 9 mins.
Available on Showtime on Demand and on DVD.

Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-MA-L.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Available on HBO on Demand.

Bill Cosby: Far From Finished
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.
Available on Comedy Central.

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