Tad Friend in The New Yorker:
Hostility may be the engine of humor, but the broadcast networks dread its snarl. Whenever they air a truly mean sitcom, such as the long-gone “Buffalo Bill” or “Action,” the audience flees, so TV executives have learned to muffle their comedies’ barbs in “Only kidding” smirks and “You’re the greatest” hugs. Even on “Seinfeld,” which forbade hugs and learning, the core foursome reserved their mockery for outsiders, for the close-talkers and re-gifters. They were there for one another—the network made sure that we saw the love beneath.
So “The Sarah Silverman Program,” much the meanest sitcom in years—and one of the funniest—premières this week, perforce, on Comedy Central. Silverman, the telescope-necked comedienne, has had trouble finding the right showcase for the contrary elements of her persona: the post-feminist tomboy who’s sexually cocky and emotionally frigid, the eerily alert counterpuncher who’s totally self-involved. (In her 2005 concert movie, “Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic,” Silverman makes out with her own mirrored image.) She is best known for jarring “The Aristocrats,” the documentary about a legendary joke, with her deadpan claim that “Joe Franklin raped me,” and for dropping the epithet “chinks” into a joke on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Unlike many comedians, Silverman excavates prejudice less by digging into her own background (though in one episode she insincerely promises “full-frontal Jew-dity”) than by strip-mining the turf of other minorities, particularly blacks and gays. Her game is to throw out stereotypes in a little-girl voice and with a winsome look that suggests no offense can legitimately be taken. You might admire Silverman’s boldness, or you might feel that there’s something sneaky in her appropriation of slurs that never wounded her—that it’s the standup equivalent of the person who cuts in line and then can’t believe you object.