Sarah Silverman Explains the Full-Frontal Nudity 'I Love You, America'

The comedian reveals why she had two audience members sit naked during the premiere episode of her Hulu variety show.
Erin Simkin

The debut episode of Sarah Silverman's brand new Hulu variety show I Love You, America features some startling full-frontal nudity. The moment comes during the comedian's opening monologue, in which she tells the crowd that instead of picturing the audience naked, she'd prefer to see some real-life nudity.

The camera quickly turns to two of the show's attendees, Scott and Stella, both seated in their chairs completely naked, prompting a mix of gasps and giggles from the rest of the crowd. With a grin on her face, Silverman greets Scott and instructs the cameraman to pan down to his "pubes," as she puts it. "Great penis, Scott," she explains, before turning her attention to Stella and her privates.

The uncomfortable bit, it turns out, was developed early on in the writers room. "When someone pitched the picture-the-audience-naked concept, I went, 'Ugh, that's so trite. You thought of that because you've seen it before on television,'" Silverman explained to The Hollywood Reporter after the taping. "So we just leaned into that trope and made it into something totally, in my opinion, original." And after all, this is a streaming service, not some broadcast network with strict standards and practices limits. "I wanted to take advantage of the fact that we are on a network where we can see nudity, clinical nudity."

Of course, Silverman had another reason for filming the pair in their birthday suits — she hopes to normalize a certain kind of nudity. "It's totally nonsexual nudity and yet it's so jarring to see because we're not used to it, especially in America. So I just got excited about showing clinical nudity — you know, a flaccid penis and balls and pubes and a vagina and just human, fleshy, beautiful bodies," she said. "All it takes is exposure to be used to things."

Exposure is what the host hopes to give viewers with I Love You, America. "So much of closed-mindedness, hatred, intolerance is just a lack of exposure." she continues, noting that oftentimes people who are more progressive tend to move to the coasts (i.e. Los Angeles or New York.) "And that leaves all the places we come from — New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska — left without being exposed to different people."

Over the course of the show's 10 episodes, Silverman aims to open up viewers' eyes to new words, people and ways of thinking. She'll do so each week with a mix of field pieces and in-studio segments. At Tuesday's first episode taping, the former was a trip to Louisiana to have dinner with a conservative family who'd never met a Jew before, and the latter was a sit-down interview with Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. She plans to follow a similar structure in future episodes.

Silverman has also recruited some of her friends to tape eclectic field pieces. Upcoming episodes will feature comedians Aparna Nancherla going to a motorcycle convention in Sturgis, Tig Notaro traveling south to learn how to be an auctioneer, Ravi Patel retracing the steps of his dad's immigration and Steve Hernandez examining Mexican gang culture in East LA.. and their love of Morrissey (yes, really.) In addition, Silverman will go on plenty of adventures of her own, including a hitchhiking trip and being a substitute teacher for a day.

Leading up to the debut, Silverman had a hard time explaining what the series was going to be. "I wasn't really sure how to nutshell it, other than it's like controlled chaos," she said, expressing relief that the show is finally out there for viewers to get a sense for themselves. "More than anything, I just want it to be funny and silly and serve any of this kind of heady shit in a big, bready sandwich of aggressively dumb, which is my favorite kind of comedy."