Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Sarah Silverman just wants to make things right

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In the Washington Post Geoff Edgers has an engaging profile of Sarah Silverman (including a couple of videos). It begins:

One morning not so long ago, Sarah Silverman needed some weed. So she drove to Santa Monica and pulled into a parking space outside a dispensary.

That’s when the trouble started. A man in an Escalade got out of the car and started screaming.

“What’s wrong with you? You hit my car, you b—-.”

Whoa. Silverman was sure that she hadn’t so much as smudged his bumper. But, even if she had, did this man’s response match the crime? Standing there, Silverman had a choice: shout back or try one of her social experiments. Could kindness convert this negative energy into something positive?

“I’m so sorry,” Silverman said without a tinge of sarcasm. “Show me where the scratch is? I’ll pay for it.”

That’s all it took. The man was disarmed. He told her to forget about it; life would move on.

Except that Sarah Silverman knew the story was perfect material — not necessarily comedy gold, but funny enough and with a deeper message. She told her sister, Laura, about it in a Zoom, mentioned it to her producer, Raj Desai, and then recounted it on “The Sarah Silverman Podcast” a few days later.

The interaction is about human behavior and our ability to reshape even the ugliest confrontations by trying just a bit harder. It also highlights Silverman’s special superpower, the ability to use her glow and an awwcomeonbuddy nudge to convert all sorts of nasty mojo.

She would be delivering this story onstage now, except that there’s a pandemic and, therefore, no gigs. Or she might be telling it on TV, except that Hulu canceled her “I Love You, America” series in 2019 and HBO passed on her latest pilot last year. Then again, it makes cosmic sense that this is being told on her podcast, because it’s hard to imagine Silverman’s pot-fueled parable getting space to breathe on those other platforms. The HBO bigwigs would have told her to tighten up the anecdote. The rules of standup would have required the setup to be met by a punchline.

Which is why “The Sarah Silverman Podcast,” launched by the longtime comedian a few months ago with little fanfare and a sense of resignation, may be one of the sneakiest successes of the pandemic.

“I mean, yeah, I came to it because my hands were bound,” Silverman says in a recent Zoom interview from her apartment in Los Angeles. “I couldn’t do standup and I had no place to put stuff. But now I realize this was really what I needed to do. I just can’t believe the freedom and the messiness and the looseness. It’s maybe something I didn’t realize I was missing.”

Everybody has a podcast, she’d grumble when the subject would come up in the past. “And I get it,” says director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Anchorman”), a longtime friend and one of those nudging her. “You want to do a TV show. It certainly seems bigger and cooler, but that’s changing. I honestly don’t know anyone out there right now with the reach that Joe Rogan has.”

Rogan, the former “Fear Factor” host and second-tier standup before he launched “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2009, chums around with Elon Musk and signed a $100 million deal with Spotify last year. Rogan says the podcast has 190 million downloads each month. Marc Maron reinvented himself with “WTF,” with then-President Barack Obama showing up at his garage in Los Angeles. Conan O’Brien, with his ever-shrinking late-night show, expanded with “Conan Needs a Friend” and his Team Coco company producing other podcasts. (Silverman considered an offer from O’Brien’s company, but chose Kast Media because she thought Team Coco wanted too big of a revenue share.)

Still, Silverman had other plans for 2020.

Her big project was “The Bedwetter,” a musical adaptation of her best-selling 2010 memoir. It was set to open off-Broadway in May at the Atlantic Theater Company with a cast that included Linda Lavin and Stephanie J. Block.

In early March, Silverman was in New York with playwright Joshua Harmon, who co-wrote the book, and Adam Schlesinger, the Fountains of Wayne founder and Emmy winner, who wrote the music.

Schlesinger, years earlier, had been the one who pitched the idea of a musical after reading the memoir, a freewheeling, origin story of the anxious young girl — she struggled with enuresis, or bed-wetting, until she was 16 — who became a comic star.

In mid-March, after the NBA shutdown, the Atlantic closed its doors and postponed the show. “And two or three days later, Adam texts: ‘You won’t believe this, I think I have this thing. I have a super high fever and a cough,’ ” Silverman says. “And then, April 1, he was dead. Dead.”

By then, HBO had already passed on “Silvershow.”

Over the past decade, Silverman’s penchant for shocking, potty-mouthed material has evolved to embrace more of what she calls social politics. She’s still not above discussing, in detail, her Internet porn search words. But she also addressed the Democratic National Convention. Her philosophy, onstage and off, is that not everybody is stupid, not only her views are right, and if we listen to those we disagree with instead of rolling our eyes, we might get somewhere. Imagine being as clever as John Oliver without the snark.

“I Love You, America,” which ran from 2017 to 2019, embraced that evolution. In one early segment, Silverman traveled to Louisiana to visit a family of rabid Donald Trump supporters. During the visit, she led a discussion about health insurance, and it became clear that the family, which had been mercilessly bashing Obama, was covered by “Obamacare.”

[the article includes the dinner portion of this video:

Start at 3:45 to see that portion. – LG]

“That moment was the crystallizing moment for me,” says Amy Zvi, Silverman’s longtime manager and an executive producer on the show. “Rather than say, ‘You realize that you’re wrong and I’m right,’ Sarah didn’t correct them.”

“I don’t want to make people look dumb,” Silverman says. “Those aren’t the people I care to show up. I think people can be changed, but they’re never going to be changed by feeling judged.”

“I Love You, America” lasted two seasons, earning Emmy nominations each year and allowing Silverman to boldly confront even her most uncomfortable experiences.  . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The concluding paragraphs:

Then there was the angry Escalade man. The incident did not end when she killed him with kindness. No, Silverman insisted, “I want to make this right.”

Then she asked what he smoked.

“I like a full-bodied high,” he told her.

With that, Silverman, Emmy-winning standup, TV host and now podcaster, walked into the dispensary and acquired a spliff of Indica for her antagonist. He smiled at the olive branch, but they were already at peace. While she was inside, he had paid her parking meter.

“I haven’t shaken someone’s hand in a year, but I gave him a big handshake,” Silverman says. “And I go, ‘Look at us. We were arch enemies and now we’re best friends.’ ”

Written by LeisureGuy

4 February 2021 at 10:08 am

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