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Obama’s Sarah Silverman Problem

The comic’s political videos are actually the worst representation of the president’s subtlety and values

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine, original photo Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images and YouTube)

Last week, an Orthodox rabbi named Yaakov Rosenblatt took to the pages of the Jewish Press and published an open letter to Sarah Silverman, criticizing the comedienne for her recent slew of politically themed, left-leaning videos. As could be expected from any beef pitting a purveyor of kosher meats against the author of such comedic songs as “Will We Eat Each Other’s Doodies” and “Baby Penis in Your Mind,” things soon got raw. Bloggers made sport of Rosenblatt’s choicest bits, like the one about a permanent relationship being “the most basic desire of the feminine soul,” and Silverman’s father himself joined in on the fun, writing a particularly sharp response and proving that liberal application of four-letter words was a hereditary condition.

In large part, Rosenblatt had it coming. Anyone who argues, as the rabbi had, that “the most basic of tenets” Judaism has given the world holds that “the monogamous relationship is the most meaningful one and that a happy marriage is the key to wholesomeness” betrays a very frail understanding of the religion’s core and an even shakier grasp of humanity and its elected affinities. In nearly every sentence of his letter, Rosenblatt displayed the nescience and scorn that so often guide the minds and the pens of benighted zealots.

Alas, though, this does not necessarily mean that he’s entirely wrong. Dissecting Silverman’s style, Rosenblatt observed that the comic has “made a career making public that which is private, making crude that which is intimate, making sensual that which is spiritual. You have experienced what traditional Judaism taught long ago: When you make sex a public thing, it loses its potency; when the whisper is replaced with a shout there is no magic to speak about.” He goes on to argue that herein lies the explanation to Silverman’s relationship woes, making his observation noxious as a morsel of rabbinic advice but rather astute as an analysis of Silverman’s style.

With the lesser lights of any given craft, Silverman shares a dogged adherence to a rigid formula. Hers is a painting-by-numbers approach to comedy in which the precise outline of each joke is clearly visible from the outset and the coloring is little more than busywork. Consider the following: “I dated a guy who was half-black, but he totally dumped me because I’m such a loser,” goes one Silverman joke, lightly paraphrased here. “Wow! I just heard myself say that. I am such a pessimist. He’s actually half-white.” If you know Silverman’s persona—the cute, clueless, racist young woman—you can see the punch line coming from the very first.

This makes not only for poor comedy, but for poor morality as well. The two are intertwined: Those who get what comedy is about know that it’s not just about being funny but about being fiery as well, a license to talk about our most crushing shortcomings that the truly great use only sporadically and only toward greater and worthy goals. Lenny Bruce, to give the most obvious example, used that license well. When he commented, in one famous instance, that obscenity was defined as something prurient designed to arouse and that if you were the sort of fellow that found the word “motherfucker” sexually stimulating you were in a lot of trouble, he was being not only funny but righteous. To return to Rosenblatt’s formulation, Bruce was making intimate that which was crude, spiritual that which was sensual, and private that which was public. He restored the magic to language by again endowing it with its powers of incantation and by scrubbing off the sterility and vulgarity of public parlance.

Silverman is doing the opposite. She, as the rabbi rightly noted, is moved mainly by her appetite for destruction. Her comedic universe is dense with ignorance and excrement and bile, and the thin conceit on which it all rests—that it’s just a big joke, a self-conscious take, a mirror in the face of real ignorance and excrement and bile—hardly makes it any more inhabitable. It’s a universe designed only for one, and all of its energy is invested in revering its mistress.

This attitude not only falls short of capturing the generous and complex spirit of Judaism, but it also fails to represent an important part of Barack Obama’s ethos. The president’s appeal—and this is as true today as it was four years ago—owes much to his genuine, sometimes maddening, refusal to reduce his ideas to talking points or his opponents to caricatures. Obama speaks in complete sentences, and he knows that great leaders, like great comics, have more of an impact in the long run if they resist the easy punch line and opt instead to say not only what is pleasing but what is true.

The president, then, could have asked for no worse endorsement than Silverman’s. Her exhortation to megadonor Sheldon Adelson to exchange party loyalty in return for sexual favors has much more in common with the shrill trills of the GOP’s most loony defenders. Much like that other famous Sarah haunting American politics, Silverman, too, has turned the electoral process into a spotlight with which to illuminate her own oversized and cartoonish personality for fun and profit. A president who seems categorically incapable of answering even a simple question in a televised debate without pondering specificities and complexities deserves someone with a better ear, a kinder heart, and a more astute mind in his corner.

Someone like Tig Notaro. Earlier this year, Notaro, herself a stand-up comic and, as it happens, Silverman’s friend, took the stage in a club in L.A. “Good evening, hello,” she started her set. “I have cancer. How are you?” What followed is difficult to describe. It involved Notaro being candid about her diagnosis, about losing her mother, and about how little sense her silly comedy routines seemed to make now that they were shadowed by the dark matter of life.  It was also profoundly funny, not in the way that a dumb joke is funny in the moment and is then immediately forgotten but funny like that feeling that you get when someone you love has died and you grieve but then, days or weeks or months later, you remember a hilarious moment you shared with that person and you laugh and you realize that the point of life is not to curse at its tragedies but to crack up at all of its splendid jokes. Louis CK, another comic who understands the form’s devastating power, was so impressed with Notaro’s act that he took the unusual step of offering it for sale on his own website. You should buy it. And so should Obama.


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Treesrock says:

You got to be joking. SS jokes are like a knot that fold upon themselves and your analysis has only half unfolded them. The last unfold is her irony, which makes you look in the mirror at your own views. Many people are insulted by that glance in the mirror, others are able to laugh at it. To laugh at it is to recognize our own imperfection and that is what Sarah Silverman brings home when the knot is fully untangled.

    mbsocol says:

    “Her comedic universe is dense with ignorance and excrement and bile, and the thin conceit on which it all rests—that it’s just a big joke, a self-conscious take, a mirror in the face of real ignorance and excrement and bile—hardly makes it any more inhabitable. It’s a universe designed only for one, and all of its energy is invested in revering its mistress.”

      Treesrock says:

      Based on her youtube hits she has many, many fans, so its energy is not just revering her mistress. If you choose to label all those fans ignorant, that is the depth of her comedy, her self contrived ignorance evokes responses that creates the very ignorance she is expressing. I understand that her comedy is not everyone’s cup of tea or appropriate for children, but that does not mean others cannot enjoy a laugh at our own ignorance and that of others.

    holdmewhileimnaked says:

    & the rest of us know that the mirror she holds up has nothing to do with us whatsoever. you need to stuff that in yr knot.


    aloha….. i LOVE sarah…… one of the best comediennes…..

julis123 says:

I could care less about her politics. She just isn’t funny.

Anyone, particularly a Jew, who tells jokes about the Holocaust, is not worth our time.

Thanks. Relieved to know my dislike for her “humor isn’t just that I’m an old square.

ajweberman says:

she played me when she went through Monk’s trash. She is a sick comedian in the mold of Lenny Bruce. She is also into infantilism with her doody jokes.

Scorebear says:

IS there anything more tedious than reading about comedy? Either you think it’s funny or you don’t. Me, I thought the “half-black” joke was funny and decent social commentary as wel. .

I concur. Why give her any respect.

LOL Leibovitz, you just got trolled, son. It says a lot more about you when you take Silverman seriously than it supposedly does about Obama–at least his supporters aren’t racist!

PS Louis CK is a misogynist hack as well.

holdmewhileimnaked says:

this is a great article, especially the third paragraph.
what’s great about the third paragraph is it can be immediately turned into a universal, as it describes precisely the difference in the culture from now to then.

does ‘self-hating Jew’ ring any bells? She is not worthy of bieng in the same sentence with Lenny Bruce.

Wow..I wonder if anyone under forty thinks Tablet is for real?

This was my response in the Jewish Press to the ” Rabbi”.


When you are so out of touch with reality…and place women behind “curtain number one”…don’t you wonder why young people are abandoning our heritage?

I am a 70 something member of a “Traditional Shul”…meaning I’m a goy to you.I sit next to my wife and hear her beautiful voice in prayer….”oy vey is meir…a shonda”.

I LOVE Sarah and what she represents…free speech and freedom to be a person of her own choosing…a free Jewish woman.

Come on out of the middle ages and smell the fresh air.”

And let me too, Liel.

LL’s response to SS’s persona and to her comedy is inevitable. As another Jewish male, I can appreciate his discomfort and the scolding tone that possesses him as he attempts to maintain a cool, scholarly distance from her messy, embarrassing — and in my experience — hilarious material. Sarah toils in deep and primal soil. She releases ungovernable, anarchic energies that I find invigorating and salutary. I wonder if the greater ease L has in appreciating Louie CK and Tig Notaro — two other heirs to Lenny Bruce’s fierce truth-telling — has anything to do with the fact that neither of them is Jewish (at least as far as I know).

    from wikipedia:
    C.K.’s paternal grandfather, a Jewish Hungarian, had emigrated to Mexico, where he met C.K.’s paternal grandmother, who was a Catholic Mexican of Spanish and Mexican Indianancestry.[8]

    Fatuous ageist garbage. It’s Sarah Silverman who gives off a moldy, bad smell.

    Martin Cohen says:

    Corey, just to let you know – Tig isn’t Jewish, Louie CK isn’t, but his grandfather on his father’s side was Jewish.

    Martin Cohen says:

    Corey, just to let you know – Tig isn’t Jewish, Louie CK isn’t, but his grandfather on his father’s side was Jewish.

Judy Gruen says:

“The president’s appeal . . . owes much to his genuine, sometimes maddening,
refusal to reduce his ideas to talking points or his opponents to
caricatures. Obama speaks in complete sentences . . . ”

He speaks in complete sentences only when he’s on teleprompter. Otherwise he stutters and stumbles, says “uhm” a lot, and yes, I’m sure it’s maddening for liberals that he is incapable of doing better. He’s an empty suit who speaks in empty platitudes. No wonder the equally empty Sarah Silverman finds him appealing.

    Pam Green says:

    Yes, he speaks in empty platitudes. Exactly. And the empty-headed bimbo Sarah is just his speed. Liel is wrong that she is a problem for Obama! She’s a Jew-ess (as she likes to point out) and so she undermines people’s awareness of Obama’s anti-Semitism. Every prominent Jew who supports Obama confuses the issue of his Israel-hating, Jew-hating agenda.

    The Left today is not the Left of the hippie era. The Left today equates to fascism. It’s a matter of messing with the language, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Don’t we all remember when George Bush Senior changed the definition of “wetlands” to include rain puddles? It was in that way that he was able to limit protected habitat!

    Obama is unfortunately not just an empty suit; he is dangerous. Consider all the ‘executive orders’ he passed, including the NDAA, which gives him dictatorial powers, not just in war time but at any time he chooses! I know it sounds preposterous, but it really does say this! Look it up, everyone! Even leftist commentators wrote about it extensively last year, until the election cycle heated up. This is no conspiracy theory – read Glenn Greenwald, of all people. The NDAA actually allows Obama to confiscate private property and businesses, and to force people to work at what the government thinks is important, without pay! In other words, slavery! You think it’s ludicrous, but if so, why is it on the books now? And can we expect that Obama will enforce this executive order in his second term? Do you really want to find out?

      NIKHILANANDA says:

      romney is the anti-semite!!!… obama has the BEST policy in the middle east of ANY president since israel’s founding…. i was there in ’77 – ’78 and somehow israel has gotten out of control…. President Obama has stated OVER AND OVER again, that the U.S. will support israel and her right to exist… and defend her…. but we also need to be honest; many of israel’s policies are extremist and wrong!!

Elliot Ratzman says:

“The Great Schlep
helped Obama win Florida” claimed an impressive presentation I once saw by its
organizers. Silverman is an engaged comedienne and should be saluted for instigating,
agitating and insulting us on these issues of race, politics and Jewish
conservativism; anyone who can annoy the Orthodox, Republicans, and the smug gatekeepers
of Jewish culture is a friend in my book. While not all of her bits land well,
like Sacha Baron Cohen, Silverman’s brand of shock is a valuable addition to
the tradition of Jewish anti-racist comedy. Like Baron Cohen, she takes on the
persona, as LL has it “cute, clueless, racist” – poking fun at uncritical
Jewish righteousness and feigned innocence as well as naïve chauvinism in many
forms. Jokes about the Holocaust, God, Martin Luther King, Jewish anxiety over anti-Semitism
and black-Jewish relations, etc. are smart, welcomed illuminations of the
boundary issues that vex the Jewish community. The scatological humor is South
Park-puerile, sure; that’s the point! Three cheers for Sarah Silverman – the history
of comedy will devote an important footnote to her in the chapter on changing
mores around race and religion.

    She is a self-absorbed, empty-headed bad joke. And, she’s not funny in the least. Liebovitz thouhtfully skewers her trivial and louche pursuits.


    ALOHA & MAHALO ELLIOT… you got it about perfect…. RV is totally incorrect…. i LOVE sarah…….

Vote Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party. Dr. Stein is on the ballot here in Florida.

meqmac says:

I hate to say this, but I liked Sarah Silverman for about ten minutes a few years ago, then I found her boring and stopped liking her. I can’t help it, that’s an honest assessment. Of course, I’m not an American, I’m not Jewish,and I’m no longer 19 years old. Or 59. She comes on as if she’s witty, and in a way she is, but after a few sets she’s samey. And she’s not so funny either. Lenny Bruce was funny because he touched on people’s edges and he had real issue to talk about. I’m not sure which of Sarah Silverman’s issues have that unsettling quality, but maybe it helps to be an America. Comedy is cultural (I challenge any of you to laugh at Mrs Brown’s Boys, if you ever get to see it). At the same time, a lot of very funny comedy is international, and I don’t think SS’s belongs to that category.

herbcaen says:

She is crude and of little talented, like Andrew Dice Clay. Would like Sarah to do some comedy for the Mullahs in iran

Net result of this analysis: Silverman and Obama deserve each other. Agreed.


    bobschwalbaum says:

    The best and most succinct observation herein
    I’ve NEVER seen nor heard this ugly broad.. never will.. know her only by clips of her her vile diatribes.
    TABLET is materially demeaned by using this article.
    Silverman and Obama deserve each other.

Why do so many Tablet writers sound like they have a lemon popsicle up their ass? Silverman is a national and Jewish treasure!

emes l'am says:

Excellent article.

Benjamin_Isaac says:

I find Sarah Silverman less interesting than the hubbub surrounding the Rabbi’s comments. Has political correctness gone so far that such statements are now considered zealotry? The feminine soul statement is essentially a rendering in poetic terms of an empirical fact confirmed by evolutionary psychology. The monogamy statement is more arguable, but certainly consistent with normative Judaism, the longevity of which most certainly speaks to Judaism’s “grasp of humanity and its elected affinities.”

    Pam Green says:

    I think the hubbub has less to do with Rabbi Rosenblatt’s comments than it does with Jews insulting a rabbi. Sarah Silverman’s father kicked it off by calling the rabbi an idiot, insulting the Torah, insulting traditional Judaism, and calling “your God” both false and cruel. And hundreds of people praised him for it! It liberated them from political correctness; it was their excuse to attack the Orthodox as everything from unhygienic to misogynist to throwbacks to the Middle Ages.

    The rabbi had very clearly explained that he was criticizing Sarah for using biblical language in her act. He explicitly stated that she had the right to be as vulgar as she wished but not to drag Judaism into it. And he was absolutely correct, IMO. She gets a lot of mileage out of flaunting her Jewish background. Even in her Sheldon Adelson video, she says that she won’t actually have sex with him because she’s a nice Jewish girl.
    Personally, I think that Sarah is more retro than the rabbi. Even the stereotypes she’s mocking are old. Nice Jewish girl? And her Jewish mannerisms make me feel nostalgic for my childhood.

    As for the rabbi’s views of marriage and motherhood, he may have misdiagnosed Sarah’s condition because he wasn’t aware of her sick relationship to her father. (Nor it seems are Donald’s newfound fans aware of what Sarah’s said about her father in interviews available on utube.) For instance, (a) Sarah’s father has total control of all the money she’s ever made. Even though he’s no financial expert, she trusts him to handle the money for her because he’s her dad. She doesn’t even keep track of what she has, what she pays in taxes, or anything else. And (b) Donald is the reason that Sarah’s comic style is so crude and puerile. According to Sarah, her father taught her obscenities when she was three, and encouraged her to say them to strangers in public places. Their shocked laughter, which she interpreted as approval, is what she’s been “chasing ever since’.

SS is brilliant and fiery. I am not a follower, but just collected this wonderful indictment of the Voter ID movement. . There are a few dirty words, but nothing new. The sentiments expressed, however, are worthy of Jeremiah, in my opinion.

    Pam Green says:

    Jeremiah? Are you kidding?

    First of all, it’s a lie. As I said above, Obama is disenfranchising the military, preventing the military from voting. That’s a fact. Yet, does Sarah’s ad cover that? No, of course not, because she’s only interested in bashing Romney and the Republicans. She doesn’t want to be fair, nor, it seems does the Jewish Education organization that funded the video.
    Secondly, it’s very easy to get an i.d. card at the DMV. It’s instantaneous. You don’t have to drive. You can have a revoked license and still get a photo i.d.
    Thirdly, she actually comes out and slanders the Republicans. She accuses them of a crime. Is that what you consider “nothing new”, Sandy?
    Fourthly, she does all this under the auspices of being a Jew. She introduces herself at the opening of the video as “Hi, this is your Jewish friend, Sarah”. She never misses a chance to underscore that she’s Jewish, really underscoring for all those non-Jews out there that Jewish=profane+vulgar+lying+slandering+scum

joetarzan says:

No one here is getting the great irony. Rosenblatt praised her comedic skills (which are very good when she is on) but asked her to personally reassess her relationship to Hashem. That is what Rabbis do. They let people see what is behind traditional values and if people didn’t benefit from that there wouldn’t be any religion let alone the Jewish one.
LL engages in the discourse in the opposite way. Cool is cool and because cool is cool Sarah shouldn’t have a moment of introspection.
By the way he then castigates her as a comedian as if she was doing something like emergency surgery. Funny part of the time is fine. Comedy and the arts are not vital in the way medicine, firefighting, etc. are. We can accept imperfection.
Of course LL hates the “racist” humor. Silverman is very good at poking fun at liberals and their self-importance. Her humor is about when is something real racism and when is it just stupidity. She is good at demonstrating when it is stupidity and a lack of politeness and manners in general. LL must be the good Jewish liberal and condemn, condemn, condemn. This way he can act publicly important. I’m glad he took the bait. I enjoy the irony.
Finally he has to turn Obama into something he is not. A great man. Obama gets smaller by the minute and the kind of supporters O has Silverman is the least of his problems. At least she has accomplished something and is not a professional activist or knee-jerk ideologue.
So to sum up the liberal takes what is not important and assigns it importance. He implies a “soft” censorship should be in place. He destroys the private side of individuals while holding the public side of people to a ridiculous and unfair standard (the easier to humiliate then as being without talent while he pretends to defend them).
Rosenblatt writes a letter stating what he and others believes are the purpose and benefits of traditional marriage and leaves it for an individual to take it or leave it.
Then liberal Jews wonder why there is a backlash against them.

Many dozens more could have enjoyed this diatribe had you spend a few less weeks searching your thesaurus! I’m dazzled, but far from convinced!

People will not decide to vote for Obama — or not — based on Sarah Silverman’s videos. She makes the right wingers bat shit crazy, and they use her as proof that the End of Times are coming, but don’t try to suggest that they would vote for her anyway. She motivates the base, who would vote for Obama anyway, to get out and vote. How could that be bad?

She is more in the tradition of Joan Rivers — who also pisses people off — than Lenny Bruce. I don’t especially like her humor, but then again I don’t like stand up, period.
As someone else pointed out, enjoying humor is completely subjective. But male comedians do not get criticized for their marital — or child-bearing — status. And that’s an objective fact.

seamus says:

Silverman’s video about voter suppression funded by the likes of Adelson and his creepy ilk is a serious attempt to get young people, minorities and older people who don’t drive to get angry about their intended disenfranchisement. If her language is an affront to the privileged, the smug, and the self satisfied that’s tough. It wasn’t meant for you in the first place.
Calm down.

    Pam Green says:

    You seem terribly misinformed. What about the military vote disenfranchised by Obama? Something like 250 military bases overseas will not be sending in military ballots – that’s enough to skew the election. And why? Because our troops despise Obama and his policies with such intensity that Obama had to cancel all his pre-election speeches to military audiences, for fear that their negative reactions would be caught on tape and publicized (as they should have been).

    Do you know that Obama has now called in United Nations troops to monitor the U.S. elections? Oh yes, foreign troops from Bosnia and Khazakstan and other famously Muslim regions will be at our polling places across America to supervise! Without Congressional approval, without state approval, these foreign monitors are coming at the invitation of Democratic lobbying groups! And thousands of other Obama volunteers will also be at the polling places to inspect for Republican fraud. Do you think that this might incite violence, which in turn might disrupt the election?

    And the UN monitors are not even properly U.N.; they are mere affiliates of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Where I have heard that name before? Oh! Yes, the OSCE is holding its annual human rights conference, and guess what? Obama has sent a radical Islamist, Salam al-Marayati, as the delegate from the United States, with full diplomatic status.

    Al-Marayati is the founder of MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, and aggressively lobbies the U.S. in favor of Hamas and Hezbollah! MPAC has also repeatedly blamed Israel for 9/11. Isn’t that nice? That’s who Obama chooses to send to the very organization he calls in to supervise our election! And when questioned about this, Obama’s State Department said that Al-Marayati reflects the diversity of the American population!

    Moreover, MPAC also rejects the definition of human rights commonly agreed upon since 1948. Instead, MPAC defines human rights according to the “Cairo Declaration”, which upholds the Sharia definition that men and woman are not equal and that only those who submit to Allah deserve to live dignified lives!
    This is creating quite an outcry in Europe. Human rights activists are shocked that Obama would send a Muslim Brotherhood delegate to promote Sharia at this major human rights event.

    This is where Obama stands! This is what he’s about! This is what Sarah Silverman and her hordes of fans are encouraging! Of course, she can always fall back on her excuse that she is just a Jewish American Princess who didn’t know better! Will that be your excuse too? Unfortunately, that won’t fly, because this is not really about knowing the facts, as much as it is about basic decency. So, go on, continue to poke fun at Jews who ‘can’t take a joke’ about fascism and anti-Semitism, who refuse to ridicule the Orthodox, who refuse to ‘move on’ from the Holocaust. I’m sure Sarah will have a new rash of jokes about Israel being pushed into the sea, and you can all laugh yourselves silly.

Arnold Woods says:

Sarah Silverman isn’t just bad for Obama, she’s bad for Jews and Judaism, no matter the persuasion. I am tempted to include society, but society, in general, has become so morally unglued, that there’s a possibility she could fit very comfortably in society’s moronic bargain basement. Beside, Obama doesn’t need help from Silverman, he’ll do and say anything to win.

Author: “The president’s appeal—and this is as true today as it was four years ago—owes much to his genuine, sometimes maddening, refusal to reduce his ideas to talking points or his opponents to caricatures [sic] ”

Obama Campaign Spring 2012: “We shall kill Romney”

Has this author been sentient about the Obama campaign’s self-described approach to civility and public discourse?

Genady Vargassnicht says:

Yet another example of Tablet’s irrelevance and its reliance on young farts.

It’s a little late to cast Silverman has some sort of delicate little flower. She is obnoxious, not that funny.


    aloha….. sarah silverman is one of the most WONDERFUL comediennes…. along with kathy griffin…..

Liel this isn’t one of your better articles. It’s tedious and self-righteous. Sarah Silverman is gross but sometimes she’s funny. Lenny Bruce might have been funny at one time. I guess. He isn’t now. You, are not funny.

Excellent, Liel!

Wow. I couldn’t possibly disagree more. It’s hard to find a line of thought here I could endorse—and that includes the admiration for Tig Notaro’s performance.

Notaro’s situation that night was rife with tragedy, but the people who paid to be in the audience and looked forward to a relaxing evening were effectively roped into an intense emotional experience they probably would not have chosen in advance. Notaro understandably felt the need to commune with a group of strangers, but the urgency of that need did not make her act any less selfish. She used those people as (much-needed) personal therapy—and they paid for it.

Having said that, I hardly recognize either the Silverman or the Obama Leibovitz describes here. In fact, I wish Obama would find a “formula” through which he could make his confused and ineffectual policy ideas intelligible and appealing to his supporters. How much nuance do we need in devising a single-payer health insurance system? Or ending indefinite detention? Or moving a small slice of the defense budget to cover college tuition for kids in need? Or ending predatory foreclosures? Or temporarily nationalizing the big banks (better yet: yanking their corporate charters)? Professor Obama (full disclosure: I graduated from the University of Chicago while he was on the faculty there, and I’m a professor myself) won’t even consider proposing such “simplistic” initiatives. Good thing there are public figures willing and able to call him to account for it—and make it fun, too.

    Pam Green says:

    Which public figures have called Obama to account for the failures you mention? I’m not hearing any of those issues raised this election season. I wish I did. I wish I heard more complaints about his protection of the banksters who committed fraud, gutted the savings of the middle class for generations to come, and sent middle-class families to homeless shelters which Obama then promptly de-funded. I’m not hearing about his refusal to prosecute even one of the banksters responsible for the economic downturn, or his refusal to declare a moratorium on foreclosures even after the robo-signing scandal. Or about the obvious flaw in Obamacare – fewer doctors willing to treat Medicare patients. And why would you as a professor at U of C elevate Obama to the status of full professor, which he never attained?

D Chack says:

The after-the-fact endorsement of Lenny Bruce by Leibovitz seems disingenuous to me. At the time, Bruce was criticized by many in the mainstream, such as Milton Berle. Bruce had to fight for his right to say what he said and paved the way for comics who combine parody, social and political issues, and shock language, with great timing and comic misdirection. Woody Allen, George Carlin, Mort Sahl, Joan Rivers and others continued from Bruce and now we have Sarah Silverman, Lewis Black and Jon Stewart. My guess is Leibovitz would have had similar disdain for Lenny Bruce at the time.

Mitchell Sternbach says:

This is embarrassing nonsense. The rabbi, writer, and now Tablet are not worthy of being taken seriously. And that’s NOT FUNNY.

Martin Cohen says:

Wow, from the article to the various responses, Tablet seems to show what I suspected: the American Jewish population is filled with “young fogies” while it is the older Jews who seem to get it. What a strange generation gap. This publication is becoming as edgy as the Jewish Reader’s Digest. We were once a “stiff-necked people.” The image of docile, meek people going to the gas chambers is a fiction of the Holocaust that we have come to accept despite a whole other part to the story. But the irony is that we American Jews are becoming those people, meekly looking down and saying “Shush! Don’t cause trouble with the goyim! Don’t make a shonda!” I was embarrassed by “The Nanny” years ago on TV because of the poorly presented media stereotype (to which I admit, Fran Drescher did with some bit of dignity). You’re embarrassed by Sarah Silverman? I’m embarrassed by Dr. Laura, but you find a problem with Sarah Silverman? If you want to be ashamed of a Jewish woman, read today’s blog by Debbie Schlussel about Geoge McGovern. Pick a real target, next time. The thing about cutting edge comedy is that it is, well, cutting edge. Tablet Magazine? Not so much.

The president’s appeal—and this
is as true today as it was four years ago—owes much to his genuine, sometimes maddening, refusal to reduce his ideas to talking points or
his opponents to caricatures.

This may be the most unintentionally hilarious
sentence ever to appear on Tablet. This would
be the same President who just engaged in 12 year old name calling “Romnesia”
and portrays Romney as a caricature of a Plutocrat resembling the guy on the
monopoly money, spent a week campaigning on his opponent killing Big Bird, has
advanced a “War on Women” talking point.
Dude, you don’t want to see that Obama is a politician, just like any
other, who engages in the same caricatures and talking points.

As for Silverman, there is literally not one
person, Jewish or otherwise, who her admittedly sometimes amusing shtick politically
influences, so she doesn’t present any problem for Obama whatsoever.

ajweberman says:

her greatest accomplishment was popularizing the phrase douche nozzle

vildechaye says:

I thought Silverman’s video was to the point and extremely funny. She’s a gifted comedienne, so what if she’s raunchy? This review, like the rabbi’s, is puritanism wrapped up in faux intellectualism.

I love Sarah. She makes me laugh. Sorry your undies got all in a bunch.

Many good points Leibovitz. – except for ur slap down of the Rabbi and his defense of traditional family model. – Having spent the past 2 weeks in the land of the oldest continuing culture on the Planet, and having oft reflected on our own 3500 year old Jewish culture I am always struck by the commonality. – the core of these 2 cultures – the basic building blocks? Was it thousands of self absorbed egos? And overly “tole rant” “multi-culturalism”? No. The building block of civilization was and is the traditional family unit. All other forms end up in history’s dustbin.


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