Sarah Silverman is a comedic genius. Let me say that again — Sarah Silverman is a certified goddamned comedic genius. I will go to my grave believing that I was lucky enough to be an über-mega-hardcore fan of hers. Her show on Comedy Central, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” was one of the most consistently hilarious and subversive shows on TV for three stellar seasons. Her stand-up specials should be required viewing. I. Fucking. Love. Sarah. Silverman.
But she fucked-up last night when she told the angry, and admittedly unruly “Bernie or Bust” protesters in the audience at the Democratic National Convention that they were “being ridiculous”, in my opinion. It’s not that she’s wrong — they were being ridiculous. But this election cycle is the epitome of ridiculousness, and sometimes you have to respond to ridiculous with ridiculous.
I should should say at the outset that I hate criticizing comedians, ever. It’s sort of a personal thing as a comedian I’ve tried really hard not to do. And I should also say that Sarah is a comedian on a level that I will never sniff, let alone ascend to. I’m not going to tell you anything she said last night makes her a shill, a sellout, a terrible human being, or even a hypocrite. I just think from a purely political and optics standpoint, she did the effort to bring people like me into the fold to unify behind Hillary Clinton a bit of a disservice in how she went about trying to silence the protesters.
A comedian’s first instinct when faced with unruly people talking over them is to shut the loud and unruly people up. We call them “hecklers” but you might also know them by their less technical term, “loud-mouthed assholes who ruin the show by trying to become part of it.” It was obvious as shit to me that Sarah was treating the protesters like hecklers. Which makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels. Silverman cut her public speaking teeth so to speak on stand-up comedy, an art form that demands if someone is taking away from your performance that you bludgeon them in whatever way possible so they shut-up and you can keep making with the Ha-Has.
But the problem for Sarah is that she wasn’t in a club last night. She was at a political convention. The rules of comedy club respect do not apply at a political convention, especially not when so many are feeling some pretty righteous indignation. I know it was not her intent, but basically Silverman was telling all those who were angry last night to just put out of their minds the fact that WikiLeaks confirmed what many of them had assumed but hoped wasn’t true — that the DNC didn’t play remotely fair with Sanders. That is just plain dismissive, and again if we were discussing what happened on a stage during a comedy show, I’d have Sarah’s back eight ways from Sunday on this, but the fact remains that the loud and dare I say obnoxious protesters were exercising their First Amendment rights, and to me Sarah came off as a shushing school marm, and not someone who had up until very, very recently been pushing extremely hard for Bernie Sanders.
My question to any speaker who was surprised by last night’s cantankerous display from Bernie or Busters would be, “What did you expect?” When people are given direct evidence that their candidate was given the short end of the stick, do you think they’re going to sit quietly? Of course they won’t. And as much as even I was hoping they’d settle down so the more positive aspects of the speakers’ words could be heard, the ire they felt was real, genuine, and frankly valid.
I wonder if Sarah would turn to a screaming and albeit hysterical mother watching her child drown and tell her to stop yelling to get the attention of the lifeguards. Essentially, that’s what the protesters were doing. Agree with them or not, the fact is that they believe in their minds they are watching their party drown in a sea of capitulation and team sports politics and they were trying to tell all the lifeguards — the people on the stage with money and power enough to do something about it — to help them save the drowning boy in the ocean. Maybe they could have protested in another venue or another, quieter, way, but something tells me everyone is forgetting how angry and bitter things got during the first Continental Congress and Constitutional convention.
The stakes are incredibly high in this election, and everyone knows it. Silverman knows it, and that’s why for nearly a year she openly campaigned for the guy she thought was best suited to help us fix what’s broken and make sure the high-stakes game we’re playing is won by the side of equality for all. So I have to imagine that Sarah knows at least a little how those people she chastised last night feel, right? I think she reacted to that situation like a comedian would, and not how someone trying to help mend fences and build a political coalition should have.
It would have been really simple for her to say to them, “Hey man, I get it. I’m disappointed too. But if we get behind Sanders’ platform, we can carry this revolution we started together into the future!”
That argument, which was made by a more than one speaker last night, actually has this Bernie or Bust guy seriously reconsidering his stance on Hillary. I will never agree she was the better candidate this year, and I will always feel like she’s willing to sell out everyone and everything to keep her political legacy as clean as she thinks it is, but I am seriously mulling what it means to help push a progressive platform for a party…a party I really can’t stand at the moment, but you get my drift.
People have a right to their anger over this primary season. It was dirty as fuck and we have the emails to prove it.