Sarah Silverman’s Curious Takedown Of The ‘Righteousness Porn’ Fueling ‘Cancel Culture’
Emily Jashinsky
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Stoned or not, Sarah Silverman used her turn down the Emmys red carpet on Sunday to skewer Hollywood’s recent anti-comedy tack. Silverman unloaded in not one but two interviews ahead of the broadcast, raising some questions about her commitment to championing a newer, gentler comedy.

Following the Oscars lead—a move precipitated by the left’s takedown of Kevin Hart—the Emmys went without a host this year. In an interview with E!, Silverman said nobody would want to take the job anyway. “They cut us off at the knees. There isn’t even a host anymore in these shows. They don’t like comedians to talk,” she asserted.

“Nobody wants to do it, either. I mean, it’s thankless,” added the comedian, asked whether she offered to “step in.”

In another interview Sunday night, this time with Kelly Osbourne, Silverman made the same case, claiming, “I think comics are too scared to [host], but they aren’t even asked to.”

“As a standup, it’s really odd,” Silverman mused. “To talk about what’s really going on, or to talk about the world as we decide to see it, or to push and see where the line is or go past it, is so oddly unacceptable.”

Silverman further contended that “cancel culture” was driven by what she described cleverly as “righteousness porn.”

“There’s definitely pressure. There’s a kind of righteousness porn going on in this cancel culture. There’s nuance to it. There’s good and there’s bad. As a stand-up, it’s really odd,” said the “I Love You, America” host, before apparently being censored for saying “p-ssy.”

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, Silverman’s claim that comedians don’t want hosting gigs anymore carries some weight coming from her. Second, Silverman has earnestly and famously revamped her brand as a politically incorrect shock comic to meet the left’s new standards of acceptable speech. She has defended that transformation passionately.

“I do think it’s important, as a comedian, as a human, to change with the times. To change with new information… I think it’s a sign of being old when you’re put off by that,” Silverman told Vanity Fair in 2015. At this point in her career, Silverman may actually be known best for moderating her act.

To be fair, what she said on Sunday is not necessarily mutually exclusive with her earlier remarks on political correctness, although depending on how she would flesh those new thoughts out, it certainly could be. And while I don’t think her PC-shift was ever driven by the kind of insufferable self-righteousness we’ve seen from other comics, it’s probably true that her position inadvertently fueled some of the “righteousness porn” culture by validating comedy’s critics.

Either way, this feels a lot like an attitude shift, and a significant one. Silverman sounded much more like Bill Burr than herself circa 2015.

We might know why. Last month, the comedian grabbed headlines after revealing she recently lost a role in a movie over her satirical use of blackface in 2007. She broached the idea of “righteousness porn” then as well. I made an argument at the time that Silverman too quickly conceded to critics and would have been better off standing by the bit’s genuinely anti-racist intent.

Her red carpet commentary is enough to raise the question of whether she’s reconsidering that entire course change. From one of the most high-profile adapters of the approach, a reversal from Silverman (if that’s indeed in the cards) would change the conversation.

Emily Jashinsky is culture editor at The Federalist. You can follow her on Twitter @emilyjashinsky .

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