Sarah Silverman went on “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell” on Thursday to hash out … well, a lot of stuff.
First, there were Bell’s problems: eight years ago when Silverman’s comedy/documentary “Jesus Is Magic” came out, Bell wrote an impassioned blog post (on MySpace, which is what we did back then) about how he thought some of her jokes were racist. Now when you Google his name, that post comes up rather highly. But Sarah Silverman had no hard feelings, I guess, because she wanted to work with Bell a couple years ago. All should be well and good, right? Well, no. Silverman recently appeared at the Comedy Central roast of James Franco, where she cracked a bunch of gay jokes. One of the “Totally Biased” comedians responded to her with some (frankly dumb) jokes about how old she looks. Forty-two is practically dead. So W. Kamau Bell played that dumb clip for her while Silverman was his guest on the show and what resulted was a really refreshing conversation about sexism.
Although it’s hard to tell whether she was being serious or not, Silverman said that “Totally Biased” joke about her looking old “cut me to the core.” But she wishes it didn’t, she continued, because “I don’t want young girls to see me hurt by jokes about age because I feel like it’s not a good example.”
Sarah Silverman could have left it at that, but instead she continued with a larger critique of the way supposedly progressive communities — like, oh, a liberal comedy show hosted by a black man with a racially and sexually diverse cast — continue to let sexist behavior flourish. Particularly as a female comedian, she noted, there’s the same pressure on her as there is in less progressive communities to just shut up. ”It touched on something, just like [the racist jokes] in “Jesus Is Magic” touched upon you, because it’s personal,” Silverman said. “It’s so woman-based. … As soon as a woman gets to an age where she’s got opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock. And this is by progressive pop culture people. It’s really odd. I feel bad that it cut me, because I should be like this about it [brushes off her shoulder]. Your joke is that I’m still alive. My crime is not dying.”
She continued, “To so many women, especially when I watch ‘Real Housewives,’ which I watch, which I did and I do, is that your heartbreaking attempts to look younger is the reason your daughter doesn’t dream about her future. It’s more of a sad joke.”
W. Kamau Bell apologized for the ageist joke (well, he said “I’m sorry if you were offended”) on his show and explained that he assumed it wouldn’t have affected Silverman because of the type of vicious roasting humor she’s generally comfortable with. And I give Bell credit for playing the clip and giving Silverman the opportunity to sound off on it on his program, even though it makes his cast and by association him look bad. She graciously accepted his apology and added, “I’m hurt all the time, but I’d die defending people’s right to say anything.” She then gifted Bell with a T-shirt that says “FEMINIST.”
It’s a cool little conversation — but I really would have liked Silverman to have addressed the stuff in “Jesus Is Magic” that Bell thinks/used to think was racist. It seems fair that if she gets to talk about her beef with him, he should reciprocate. But he did gift her with a tee shirt that says “MOSTLY NOT RACIST,” so I guess that’s something.
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