Sarah Silverman has made a name for herself as an outspoken comic, but admitted in a new profile for GQ that she regrets a particular scene from a 2007 episode of The Sarah Silverman Program in which she sports blackface.
“Comedy by nature is not at all evergreen. So if you’re doing it right, you look back at your old stuff and you’re horrified,” she says. “I don’t stand by the blackface sketch. I’m horrified by it, and I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on.”
Silverman said that even though she knew the sketch was wrong at the time, much of her fame is due to that character. “I was praised for it! It made me famous! It was like, I’m playing a character, and I know this is wrong, so I can say it. I’m clearly liberal,” she said. “That was such liberal-bubble stuff, where I actually thought it was dealing with racism by using racism. I don’t get joy in that anymore. It makes me feel yucky. All I can say is that I’m not that person anymore.”
Silverman also admitted that the political climate has not only changed her as a person, but also as a comic. “I’m just fundamentally different. You have to take a chance and go with where you are and what is funny to you now,” she said. “When comics really establish a thing and they get famous for it, a lot of them are really terrified to change. Then they become caricatures of themselves.”
During the interview, Silverman also discussed her friendship with Louis C.K., who was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in a New York Times exposé last fall.
After admitting that she has kept in touch with C.K., Silverman said, “Life is complicated. Love is even more complicated. But you can’t not do it. I don’t have some definitive sound bite or nutshell of how I feel about it, even to myself. But I’m also okay with that.
“I think that there are people who were caught and there were people who were not caught, but the important thing is that they are forever changed. And if that’s the case, I don’t see any reason why they can’t continue being artists. Now, whether they’re popular artists or not is up to the audience,” Silverman said about the potential of C.K. making a comedy comeback. “I have compassion. There are people that just deny everything they’re accused of and they continue to be the politicians or the filmmakers that they are. And there are people that come and say, I’m guilty of these things, and I’m wrong, and I want to be changed from this. And yet those are the ones that kind of are excommunicated forever. He’s my brother, so it’s hard. I may not have a very clear perspective on it, but I’m trying to.”
She concluded, “People are very sure about what is right and wrong until it comes to their front door.”
Aziz Ansari, another man called out during the #MeToo movement in a controversial story, also remains a friend of Silverman’s. After learning about the allegations against him, she said, “I was just like, Gross, I don’t wanna know that about Aziz! Hopefully he’s dealing with things, looking inward, and will blossom from it.”
Silverman also discussed her friend Al Franken. “He and [his wife] Franni are devastated. I understand that I may have cognitive distortion, because I love him so much. But all I can say is, and he may not be excited about this, but he has no sexuality,” she said. “I believe in my heart of heart of hearts he never copped a feel. The sketch, the whole Leeann Tweeden sketch, is online. You can see it for yourself. It’s not funny, but it’s innocuous. He may have touched some sideboob by accident, or a tush by accident, but I’m telling you, Franni is his best friend and constant companion, and he has eyes for no one else.
“I’ve worked with him for years. I’m so sad that he got bullied into resigning, because all he loved in this world was being a senator and representing the people of Minnesota. I’ve never met a more pure person. On the show [Silverman’s Hulu series I Love You, America], you saw him kiss me on the lips. There is nothing sexual about it,” she added. “He’s a Jewish grandpa. He gives you big, Jewish, wet-lipped kisses. This is a guy whose passion was serving people and making the world a better place.”