I Love You, Sarah
Sarah Silverman and I have been together for a very long time. I grew up watching her comedy, I was an avid fan of The Sarah Silverman Program as a college student, I’ve seen many of the movies she’s been in, and I’ve written about her before. To put it eloquently, using words that someone like Winston Churchill might use, she’s my ride-or-die bitch. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know who Sarah Silverman was, and for that, I’m grateful.
Do I know Silverman personally, you ask? Calm down, Barbara Walters. Last time I checked I hadn’t opened up the floor to questions.
No, I don’t know her personally, but Silverman has been an important influence in my life. She’s significantly shaped my love of and taste for comedy, and has been an ever-present role model of a strong, brash, funny Jewish woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
In this particular political moment, Silverman’s latest project, her show on Hulu called I Love You, America, is exactly what I need.
Many episodes of the show open with Silverman sitting casually, looking right into the camera and addressing the audience directly about an important issue. These segments, called “Sarah’s Quickies,” are kind of like FDR’s fireside chats, but with a few more f-bombs. (But only a few more. We all know that FDR had a huge potty mouth.) I’ll probably never forget the segment she did right after Brett Kavanaugh had been accused of sexual assault, in which she commented that these accusations had brought the confirmation hearings to a “screeching normal pace,” and that “in a time when we should be thoroughly vetting Kavanaugh, we’re vetting [Doctor Ford].” While these segments usually have a few jokes peppered in, I don’t believe they’re meant to be comedic overall. They’re meant to grab the audience’s attention, and engage them in some “real talk” about a timely, pressing issue.
In one “Sarah’s Quickie” segment, Silverman refers to herself as a “commie, pinko, lefty bitch with legs for days,” and yes, her show, like many other comedic political shows, largely caters to a liberal audience, and “preaches to the choir,” so to speak. However, Silverman also doesn’t shy away from saying and doing things that even the choir would find dissonant. See what I did there? Not to brag, but I minored in Music in college.
In one episode, Silverman has a matchmaker set her up on a date with a Republican. The date features her asking him questions like, “So, on the first date who pays for the abortion?” While it’s clear that the two don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues, they’re able to break bread together and have a conversation. This segment, and others like it, seem to be possible for two reasons: first, Silverman approaches these situations with an open mind and with a concerted effort to go in without preconceived notions, and two, she has empathy for the people she speaks with. While I’ve never once seen her compromise her own values for the sake of “getting along,” she maintains an open mind and open heart, and that’s what allows her to have real conversations with people who are so fundamentally different from herself. At the same time, these segments highlight the fact that belonging to a particular category, like “Republican,” or “Democrat,” doesn’t automatically pre-subscribe you to a uniform set of beliefs, and I think that’s an important reminder for all of us.
Silverman also doesn’t shy away from turning the spotlight on her liberal audience, and discussing the work that we need to do. There’s a concept in community organizing called, “getting your people,” which basically means working within communities of privilege to address problematic behaviors and blind spots. Perhaps the most quintessential example of this involves “white feminism,” in other words, a particular brand of feminism that fails to acknowledge the unique experiences of women of color, and sometimes even actively contributes to the oppression of women of color and other marginalized groups.
In an opening monologue, Silverman “gets her people” by taking on white feminism—acknowledging her own blind spots, and challenging her white viewers to seriously consider their own actions and ideologies. She says, “If someone points out you have a huge chive in your teeth, your reaction shouldn’t be, ‘No I don’t!’ They’re trying to help you. White feminism is a chive between your teeth. Go look at yourself, and fucking fix it.”
By saying this, Silverman acknowledges how difficult it is for people who think they’re so “woke” and progressive to acknowledge that they still have work to do. Even so, it’s essential work. I’d take what she said one step further, and say that we’re always at risk of having a huge chive in our teeth; it’s not a one-time thing! There’s always more we can do to be more radically inclusive, and we should constantly be looking inward and assessing our own biases. By the way, can we talk about my hubris for a hot sec? Look at me, taking things “one step further” than Sarah Silverman—who the hell do I think I am?
For me, and for many others, Silverman isn’t simply a comedian and talk show host, but also an important thought leader when it comes to so many hot button issues. Her analysis of today’s world isn’t just interesting and engaging, it’s necessary. We need her voice, and others like it, to help us navigate what we need to pay attention to, to tell us how we’re falling short and what we can do to be better, and to help us facilitate difficult conversations about topics that we don’t always want to talk about.
I’m grateful to be in a long-term, committed relationship with Sarah Silverman. She doesn’t know who I am, but, we’re practically dating. I don’t anticipate the political climate becoming any less crazy anytime soon, but knowing that Silverman is there to help me navigate it makes me feel just a little bit better. Goodnight Sarah, I lerv you.
How to cite this page
Klebe, Larisa. "I Love You, Sarah." 20 December 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 25, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/i-love-you-sarah>.