“It was so disheartening.”
August 13th, 2019 – Sarah Silverman revealed she recently lost a role in a movie after producers saw a photo of her in blackface from a 2007 sketch. The comedian has addressed the incident, which was part of her Comedy Central series The Sarah Silverman Program, several times saying that she is now horrified by it.
Speaking to GQ last year, the outspoken comic said she’s not surprised to find old material unsettling. In a way, it shows that she was doing her job as a comedian, but that doesn’t mean she can’t take responsibility and apologize.
“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. 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.”
That recognition and growth wasn’t enough for producers of her latest project. Speaking to Bill Simmons on his podcast, the conversation turned to cancel culture and Silverman explained how quickly the acting opportunity slipped away.
“I recently was going to do a movie…a really sweet part and a cool little movie,” she said. “Then at 11 p.m. the night before, they fired me because they saw that picture of me in blackface from that episode. So they hired someone else who’s wonderful but who’s never stuck her neck out.”
The 2007 sketch, which aimed to examine race and religion by comparing who has it harder — black or Jewish people, gained renewed attention after Megyn Kelly lost her gig at The Today Show when she casually talked about blackface being accepted when she was a kid. Conservatives were quick to share photos of liberal-leaning hosts who still kept their job despite donning black makeup in the past.
Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and Sarah Silverman were all called out at the time with Silverman still addressing the decision a year later. During the podcast with Simmons, she said she didn’t fight the movie firing but will continue to fight against the concept of cancel culture.
The blackface sketch has impacted how she has evolved as both a comedian and a person, and she hopes that society can give that space to everyone.
“You have to ask yourself, would I want this person to be changed or do I secretly want them to stay what I deem as wrong so I can point to to them as f—ed up and myself as right?” Silverman said of snap decisions to cancel someone.
While Silverman won’t dwell on the firing too long in the moment, it has spurred on a larger issue. She told Simmons the job loss was disheartening because of all the work she’s done to correct the hurt she caused.
“I’m not saying don’t hold me accountable, I held myself accountable,” she said. “I can’t erase that I did that, but I can only be changed forever and do what I can to make it right for the rest of my life.”
“I knew there was racism, I knew that 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,” she added.
Do you think comedians should lose out on projects due to past, offensive work?