Sarah Silverman said she had a movie role taken away from her because of a sketch she did in blackface in 2007.
What We Know:
- In 2007, Silverman released an episode of her Comedy Central show The Sarah Silverman Program in which she was in blackface as her character compares if it’s more difficult to be Jewish or black. Silverman has since admitted that she regrets the sketch; “I’m horrified by it, and I can’t erase it. I can only be changed by it and move on,” Silverman said in a GQ interview last year. Though she now faces backlash for it, Silverman said at the time she was praised for the “liberal-bubble” comedic value of facing racism with racism.
- Last week, Silverman told Bill Simmons on his podcast that she recently lost a film role because of this blackface episode, which was disheartening given the work she has done since this episode. The role has been recast by someone Silverman hasn’t similarly “stuck her neck out” to fight cultural problems with her comedy.
- She explained to Simmons how much she has learned about racism in America that would change the way she tackled it comedically; “I knew there was racism, I knew there was and I wanted to illuminate that in some way in comedy. But I didn’t know that cops were killing black people and unarmed black teenagers on the regular, and that changed me forever,” Silverman said.
- Though Silverman didn’t fight the film’s decision to remove her from her role, she did criticize what she calls “cancel culture,” or the trend of punishing public figures for mistakes they’ve made, frequently deep in the past. What this really is, she says, is lazy promotion of self-righteousness. The problem in this trend is that her jokes lose their context when they are circulated as if they are evergreen; doing public blackface in 2007 is a different decision than doing it today, she said.
- This is not the first time Silverman has caught heat for old material. In 2009, Silverman tweeted an offensive joke about child molestation that was resurfaced and criticized last year. Silverman emphasized it was a joke, not an actual threat, and that her comedy has always been known for its edgy absurdity.
Hey, is it considered molestation if the child makes the first move? I'm gonna need a quick answer on this.
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) July 7, 2009
Silverman is a very politically active celebrity, known for her public opposition to President Donald Trump and supporter of nominee Bernie Sanders.