Sarah Silverman on the political left: ‘It’s almost like there’s a mutated McCarthy era’

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Sarah Silverman is up for an Emmy for her (now canceled) series I Love You, America. I’ve never watched it because A) I don’t like Silverman and B) I find the premise to be… cloying, I guess. The premise of the show was that Silverman travels around and talks to people who are generally terrible, and she tries to understand where they’re coming from. She also interviewed people who were not terrible too. The idea is to embrace the diversity of opinions and beliefs and intolerance in all of America. Even though the show was canceled, Sarah still spoke to the LA Times about her Emmy nomination and what’s happening in comedy these days. Her comments are already being widely panned. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

On connecting with people she disagrees with: “I just think this is a time to connect with people. I feel so cocky talking about it, it’s just a stupid show, but the whole point of this administration is to divide us. I also think it’s interesting what’s happened on the left. It’s almost like there’s a mutated McCarthy era, where any comic better watch anything they say. If you have a special and someone doesn’t agree with every single thing you say on that special … you know, [Dave] Chappelle says it at the beginning of his special [“Sticks and Stones,” on Netflix], and he still gets so much … for it. I loved it. There were things in it that I did not like. But has there been a special you love and agree with across the board? That’s comedy: You overstep. You say things you might not even believe by the time it comes out. You’re always changing. It’s art. It’s not politics.

On cancel culture: “I’ve said it before, there’s this kind of “righteousness p0rn” going on with canceling people over their past, a thing they said or a moment they had, with no earnest hope that they may be changed. We see Megan Phelps-Roper, who grew up in the [anti-gay] Westboro Baptist Church, and we love her because she’s changed. But if we met her seven years ago, would she just have to be someone we had no hope for? She changed because people on social media talked to her warmly. Christian Picciolini was on the show, who was a neo-Nazi skinhead and was changed because someone gave him compassion even though he didn’t deserve it, in his words. So I always [ask myself], “Is this a ‘before’ Christian Picciolini?” It’s not very Jesus-like to just cancel people.”

On wanting to be right: “I have to ask myself sometimes too, “Would I want this person to be changed or do I secretly want them to stay wrong so I can point to them as wrong and myself as right?” And that’s dark. And I see it. I see it in people I love or agree with on lots of things. So many hard lines — things need to be black and white and you need to know the answer. It can’t be ambiguous. And I think that’s a mistake. And that’s why, when you see transcripts of, like, a comic’s joke, or two different people who said the same thing — in one case it could be OK and in one case it could be … up. Why? Because the intent matters, and what the person’s soul is.”

[From The LA Times]

I’m going to be generous for a moment and say that I don’t have an issue with people trying to connect and understand each other on a personal level. But that presupposes that both people are honest brokers and are willing to meet halfway to have an honest conversation, and both are open to learning and listening. And my concern – if I was in Silverman’s position, trying to do this as entertainment – is that instead of a promotion of learning, listening and understanding, you’re instead giving a platform for hate speech, and you’re promoting the worst “bad actors” in society. At some point, I don’t really give a sh-t if a neo-Nazi is just some dude in pain. He’s still a f–king neo-Nazi, you know?

As for what she says about “righteousness p0rn” and cancel culture… whenever people complain about how comedians can’t get a fair shake or so-and-so didn’t deserve to be “canceled,” I just think about all of the people who were genuinely hurt, or how stupid it is to be an aggreived white man who thinks “comedy” is punching down and/or abusing women. Some people deserve to be f–king canceled.

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44 Responses to “Sarah Silverman on the political left: ‘It’s almost like there’s a mutated McCarthy era’”

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  1. damejudi says:

    IMO, she’s always trying to be the Cool Girl (see the glorious definition in the book Gone Girl).

    • MD says:

      Thanks for referencing this….I hadn’t read that definition and I just found a great article which explains it and quotes from the book:

    • Chaine says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth

    • carol says:

      I think she is just stating her opinion. If she wanted to be the “cool” girl, she wouldn’t have gotten into comedy. I also think she has a point. The cancel culture has gotten completely out of hand, especially online. Thank god I know people who actually want to make a difference by volunteering with planned parenthood or helping the homeless rather than shaming or bullying people online or canceling this one or that one because they don’t agree with their politics or whatever. Otherwise, I would just think the left has completely gone nuts.

  2. Tiff says:

    People confuse consequences with “cancel culture” which is something that doesn’t exist (except in the case of Daniel Caesar… that’s the only time I’ve actually seen it happen in real life!) Sarah Silverman should know cancel culture doesn’t exist because she did blackface a few years back at the big age of 37 and yet here she is, up for an Emmy.

    She should check out the Desus and Mero clip where they talk about self censorship, doing things purely for shock value, and comedy adapting to changing culture. It would probably blow her mind since apparently she and a lot of other comedians believe the only way to be funny is to be blatantly racist and sexist… without jokes?

    • Oy vey says:

      I have seen several of her standup sets. I did not find her racist or sexist. I’ve watched her silly tv show and it was a silly giggle. She has a funny song that my 80 year old mom laughed at: in the video she is entertaining some very old people in a assisted living facility and she sings “you’re gonna die soon, you’re gonna die soon, you’re not cold you’re just dying” It could be seen as cruel or just silly and funny. I find most things funny, but racial and sexist comedy is NOT funny.

  3. tealily says:

    I do kind of agree with her about cancel culture. I think you should give people the opportunity to change and convey that they are truly sorry. Otherwise, what’s the point? However, if they don’t do that, don’t show any interest in doing that… cancel that sh-t.

    • Marty says:

      Yeah, but how many “canceled” people have truly put in the time and effort to show change and remorse?

      • Oy vey says:

        Some people will never change. Should we cancel or ignore the ignorant? I’m old enough to be ignorant about many things but with a willingness to be sensitive and change. For some, we will, I fear, simply have to wait for them to die off. Many here will object, but I believe part of tolerance and inclusion means simply shaking your head when an old person doesn’t get it. Some who don’t change, for me, will not be cancelled but merely tolerated but clearly MANY will be cancelled

      • S says:

        Everyone’s done that well-they’re-old thing, I’ve done it. I’m not saying you need to get into an argument with Granny when she calls people “Oriental,” but politely pointing out that’s an insulting, offensive and grossly outdated term wouldn’t hurt, and might actually make a difference.

        But there’s also a huge gap between rolling your eyes and holding your tongue when Uncle Dufus starts raging about immigrants at Thanksgiving, and excusing, and thus implicitly endorsing, folks’ cruelty and ignorance when they have an enormous platform from which to spew it.

        “Why aren’t you more tolerant of my abusive behavior?” is a truly awful argument.

        There is NO “cancel culture.” Losing a job because of your own bad, offensive and/or reckless behavior happens every day, to people on all sides of the political divide. And none of the so-called “canceled” comedians have actually even pushed from their career of choice. A jerk lost a job on SNL. A sexual assaulter (Louis C.K.) lost a TV show. C.K. still sells out shows, and will sadly almost certainly be back on TV before we know it. And this SNL hack will make a fortune performing at various right-wing events, making hi-larious jabs about liberal tears, etc.

        Sarah Silverman wore mf’ing black face in 2007 (!!) and, yet, here she still is, throwing around her two cents in a major newspaper with millions of subscribers, and millions more reading online.

        Brett Kavanaugh is on the goddamn Supreme Court, FFS.

        When does all the cancelling begin again?

        None of these people are truly sorry for what they did. None have been reflective, or sincerely apologetic. The only thing they’re sorry about is that they got called out. The SNL guy (whose name I can’t, and don’t want to, recall) said he’d apologize to anyone “who was truly outraged.” It takes a lot to make people absolutely know you were making the jerk-off motion via a written apology, but he really pulled it off.

    • Yes Doubtful says:

      I agree, give people a chance to learn and change. Some genuinely don’t know that something they say or do is offensive. I learn new things every day. I am a liberal, but the far left has gotten to be just as bad as the far right when it comes to judgement and nit picking.

  4. BlueSky says:

    Exhibit A of women who internalize misogyny. She consistently capes for problematic men. SS is one of those who badly wants to be a part of the boys club to the detriment of other women and other marginalized individuals.

    Another thing, being a comedian does not absolve you of accountability. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

  5. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Female comedians are a perfect example of internalized misogyny in real time. This is a woman who defended Louis CK.
    And as for her wanting to connect with the “other side”. Sure thing hun. Have at it. But I have zero f*cking obligation to “connect” with people who think I am inferior or less tan or should have less rights than they do because of the color of my skin. Periodt.

  6. Marty says:

    Who really gets canceled though? Think about all the horrible things people in Hollywood have done (mostly men) and their careers still go on.

    Plus, is it not up to the individual who they spend their time and money on?

  7. Annaloo. says:

    Sorry Sarah, your blackface was never funny. If it makes me “cancel culture” then so be it. I also don’t go for racial slurs.

  8. Pixie says:

    If cancel culture is so real, WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE, SARAH?

  9. HK9 says:

    You know, I think every comedian needs to hear this. It’s not about watching everything you say-it’s about actually being funny. Some things are actually not funny and in bad taste and I know it’s hard to hear but it’s true. Just because you’re a comedian doesn’t mean you get to do anything you want, and if you do, some people aren’t going to like it.

  10. Kk2 says:

    People don’t really get cancelled because the majority of people, even liberals, don’t want it. But there is a vocal minority of people who spend an inordinate amount of time online competing in the outrage Olympics. They aren’t the majority though, they ate just very visible on the internet.

    I mostly agree with her. I also agree with those who said there shouldn’t be freedom from consequences or criticism and entertainers whining about being criticized need to get over themselves. But I don’t think She was saying people shouldn’t criticized- and I read the whole interview not just the excerpts.

    There is actually an excellent article on the Atlantic (I think?) This week by a guy talking about liberal politics in the context of picking schools for his kids in NYC. It is fascinating.

    Also Tiffany haddish has a great series on Netflix right now featuring 6 or so comedians- mostly women of color. It’s very funny and if you are looking for fresh voices in comedy, give those women your views.

  11. Lady says:

    I have been struggling with comedy lately. I feel like the men who have been doing it for so long aren’t willing to change. Did anyone watch Bill Burr’s Paper Tiger? In the beginning he makes a joke about a woman getting raped in the dirt by her uncle and the theater exploded with laughter. If comics can’t see how their misogyny encourages more misogyny, even if it’s just jokes, then I don’t need to see them anymore.
    As for cancel culture, stop making bad jokes and maybe try not to assault people. Why is this too much to ask?

    • Anon33 says:

      Bull Burr has always been trash.

    • Beth says:

      I’ve never heard of him and I’ll be sure not to look into it. But check out Ryan Hamilton if you haven’t! He redeemed standup comedy for me.

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      “how their misogyny encourages more misogyny” — this is what bothers me about Silverman’s attitude. If we do NOT hold racist, misogynistic, bigots to consequences, it does encourage others who think they should be allowed to behave the same way without consequences. Balanced against that harm is, what, two individual examples she gave of terrible people who finally changed? And while we are waiting for those handful of people to finally change, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many others are being encouraged to act the same way. The harm caused by people like her vastly outweighs any “good” that maybe, eventually, could come from it.

  12. S says:

    “Cancel culture” is a term right-wingers who like to play victim made up for what we used to all agree was called “consequences.”

    Calling someone racist epithets or making fun of facial features, accents, sexuality or physical disabilities isn’t “edgy” or humor; It’s being an a$$hole and a bully. It’s the laziest possible response, and if it’s all you’ve got, you deserve to be “canceled” by a society that is learning to be better than the lowest common denominator.

    Let us not forget (as I know one commenter above already mentioned) that Silverman also defended Louis C.K., saying she liked it when he masturbated in front of her, and found it funny. Note that C.K. was also not “canceled,” as he’s been back to performing regularly for quite some now.

    Sis could also use a history lesson, since that ex-SNL douchebag has been all over social media, and regular media, with his I-was-fired-just-because-I’m-a-terrible-human-being sob story.

    He lost a job, not his ability to speak out and be hired by some right-wing hack, which he most certainly will be. In the McCarthy era, those accused of being Communists were blacklisted and never able to work again. NEVER. As in, never, ever—not even in the lowliest positions, as even friends were terrified to associate with them, let alone hire, for fear their own careers would also come to an abrupt end.

    • Sunnydaze says:

      All of this. I remember a few years ago some show of hers where she repeatedly used the “r” word. As someone who both worked with individuals who had intellectual and physical disabilities and had an aunt with Down Syndrome I saw the harm that word caused. I weighed the context with my experience and decided the context of her “jokes” did not outweigh the potential harm. Furthermore, I felt no connection to her other material even before that, but wanted to give her a fair chance based on the fandom of some friends. All in all, a worthy “cancel”.

      I think, for me, it has to do with a few things: What emotion is being solicited/what is the comic’s intent, are they clever about it, are they making me laugh or think. I love Ali Wong talking about her miscarriage because I can personally relate. Someone else might be offended. I didn’t laugh so much as I chuckled tearfully, but I didn’t feel there was ill-intent. With Silverman I can’t relate to anything, I don’t find her clever, and supposed jokes in poor taste are just the tipping point. “Cancel culture” to me is more people weighing what speaks to them on a human level and will they “vote their wallet” on it. It’s not being hypersensitive or too PC or whatever, it’s about saying this is someone who I don’t think has best intentions, and isn’t even clever about it so no thanks to all of that. Silverman is still making bank, so are tons of others. There are plenty of people keeping them afloat and truthfully, I doubt the money she’s making doing these kinds of shows are changing anyone’s mind. I’ll save the money and time I’d put to her to do something meaningful. My son loves wreck it ralph but trust me it wasn’t hard to find a new movie to buy and watch repeatedly. He loves pets 2 and I feel better about not supporting something Louis CK did.

    • damejudi says:

      S: you’ve had some of the best, most insightful and intelligent responses on this thread today, so thank you!

      It’s one thing if SS is amused when LCK masturbates in front of her; does SS understand that many, many women (and men) find that behavior out-of-line, offensive, harassment?

      Very few “canceled” entertainers/politicians are suffering from the menace of the “left.” How’s Christine Blasey Ford doing? Is she thriving and making bank from a public platform?

  13. Fluffy Princess says:

    I asked this question yesterday: So what is the LINE for comedians? Do they all think they can literally say anything, no matter how repulsive and “get away with it” because it’s supposed to be a joke? And if anyone says, “Whoa–that was sexist, racist, etc.”, then according to comedians that’s on US? WE are the problem? WE are too sensitive? WE just don’t get it? There should never be any consequences to egregious behavior or material because it’s under the guise of “jokes?” REALLY? Because that is what I am hearing from comedians “busted” for bad behavior and shitty asshole jokes–that it’s not THEM — WE (the audience) are the assholes for not “getting it.”


  14. Wilma says:

    I do not owe people my money. I do not have to buy what Chappelle is selling. Honestly, I am so done with these people who don’t understand that when people have choices they can spend their money on whomever they want.
    I’m also done with these people who say that they’re liberal, but proceed to attack liberals almost exclusively. There’s a madman in the White House and a party of sycophants allowing him to lock up children and hunt down POC. Go rail against them first.

    • Call_me_al says:

      Right? Basically, when you act like an asshole, people don’t like you anymore and don’t want to support your “art”. Consequences.

  15. Beth says:

    I would argue that comics who can’t be funny without being deplorable just aren’t that funny. It’s not about McCarthyism, it’s about being good at your job. Take Ryan Hamilton for example – that dude is funny as hell and unless you’re a particularly sensitive balloonist, he’s not offensive or nasty at all. I tried to watch Sarah Silverman’s special with my 18 year old daughter and we had to turn it off because she was talking about someone ejaculating on her boobs. She is not funny. At all. Cancel culture or not – comics should be funny.

    • softtoothbrush says:

      100000000 points for “comics who can’t be funny without being deplorable just aren’t that funny”

  16. Lori says:

    I don’t particularly care for Silverman as a comedian but I agree with her to some degree. I get what Silverman is saying about when you close yourself off completely and cancel anyone who acts like an a-hole forever. You end up not much different than the person you disagree with.

    • ChillyWilly says:

      Nope. Me not tolerating Nazi’s does not make me as bad as them. It makes me better than them and Nazis, sexist pigs and homophobic aholes can all go die in a fire for all I care. They are not the victims!

      • S says:

        Yup. Utterly nonsensical talking point. Your not sitting quietly and listening to someone’s racist/sexist/xenophobic/homophobic/etc screeds does not make you “just as bad,” as the person you’re calling out. It makes you anti-racist, anti-sexist, etc. These people need to be called out in order to change society. Just because the powerful people have been allowed to spew their hate for so long unquestioned is THE PROBLEM. Stopping societal expectation of immunity for the powerful is THE SOLUTION.

  17. Boodiba says:

    I dunno – I kind of get what she’s saying. I didn’t pay attention to her Louis CK comments, which is one reason I can read the excerpt separate from that, but… Since our reality TV era of government commenced in 2016 everything is so POLARIZED, on both sides.

    Disclaimer: this does not at ALL indicate I side with the orange turn on his “some very good people” comments, after Nazis killed an American in the USA in 2017, I think it was.

    I guess I think of cancel culture like the death sentence. Sure, some people deserve to be cancelled and some people are a waste of taxpayer money to keep alive & imprisoned. It also is probably true that very few people reform in adulthood, whether they’re pedo-s or abusers or just total jerkoffs. The problem is, there ARE those cases of the wrongly convicted (Damien Echols for example) and the truly repentant / reformed.

    • S says:

      Except … No one is talking about banishment, or lifetime imprisonment. (Dramatic much?) They’re talking about not getting, or losing, a job because of someone’s own actions. If you get drunk at the company Christmas party and call the boss bad names, odds are you’re not going to have a job on Monday. That’s on you. It doesn’t mean you’ve been “unjustly canceled,” even if that’s the only time in your entire life you’ve ever done such a thing. You can be truly sorry and move on to the next job. Maybe that job is a little harder to get, or pays a little less, because you were (justly) fired from your last one, but, again, that’s a CONSEQUENCE of your own behavior, not something done to you by others. And if you grow up and learn something from the err of your ways, that’s great. That’s how it’s supposed to work and, just like with small children, IT’S WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES ARE FOR.

      Harvey Weinstein has been credibly accused of rape by a multitude of women. So far, his sole “punishment” for decades of bad, criminal behavior has been not being able to produce movies and TV shows. He’s still incredibly wealthy. And most self-proclaimed “cancel culture victims” have suffered even less. Bryan Singer, Louis C.K., etc.

      Heck, at the age of 37 Sarah Silverman appeared in black face and then boo-hooed when it (she claims) lost her a movie role. Let’s check in how that “cancellation” panned out for her. In the past two years she’s appeared on five TV series, one ongoing, and three movies, including a major Disney blockbuster, and is the lead in another in pre-production. Plus countless comedy appearances, interviews, etc. Poor thing, to have suffered so greatly for her behavior.

      Spare me the #MeToo-has-gone-too-far right wing talking points. We can talk about if something has “gone too far” when at least ONE victim has received justice in a court of law. When ONE women gets the career that was denied her because she refused to acquiesce to the casting couch. When ONE predator is actually blacklisted, or bankrupted, because of their malfeasance.

      If we spent half as much energy worrying about the survivors, as the high-powered, wealthy perpetrators, the world would be a much better place.

      Coincidentally excellent Twitter thread from someone who has done actual academic research into the idea that rape allegations “ruin men’s lives”

  18. Tiffany :) says:

    There’s a big difference when someone owns their past mistakes and admits that they were WRONG. It is different with people, like the SNL guy, who don’t own up to the fact that they were wrong and instead try to paint themselves as the victim.

    The examples she uses here (westboro and nazi) were people who admitted that what they did was wrong. That isn’t the case for a lot of “cancelled” people.

  19. VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

    Does she even know what McCarthyism means? The people accused by the HUAC were blacklisted for DECADES. That’s nost just one or two or five years.

    As someone said on the upthread, she definitely strikes me as a “Cool Girl”.

    • Mrs.Krabapple says:

      Not just blacklisted, some faced criminal trials. Totally different from the “consequences” she’s complaining about.

      Also, there are over 7.5 billion people in the world. Why on earth would I spend ANY amount of my time or sympathy on racist, misogynistic, bigots when there are so many other people to care about (like the *victims* of the racists, misogynistic, bigots). I agree she is trying too hard to be the “cool girl” by placating the white patriarchy and turning the conversation to how we can help and care about them.

  20. Case says:

    John Mulaney is hilarious without ever being offensive. If you have to hurt people in order to be “funny,” you’re not that funny.

  21. Heave Ho says:

    I connect her to louis ck, like he’s the subtext of everything she’s saying, and girl, no. No, no, no, no, no. All day long. Don’t defend predatory behavior as if it’s a mistake, when it’s a key trait in his entire being.