Sarah Silverman’s comedy runs the gamut of poop jokes to political commentary. She’s made her mark as a good comic who can make people laugh by highlighting what’s seemingly taboo in society and making it, well, un-taboo.
She’s also very politically active and concerned by the direction the country is going in — and has been since the 2012 election. She was a big supporter of Bernie Sanders, but not so enthralled with the purity of ideology that she couldn’t throw support to Hillary Clinton during the general election — and call out Bernie or Bust people as being ridiculous at the DNC convention in 2016:
When she’s not being “Sarah Silverman” the comedian/actor and becomes Sarah Silverman the earnest person who really wants to get along with people from all walks of life, the results aren’t always effective.
And so it goes with her show “I Love You, America” that’s on Hulu. She really wants us to unite around what we have in common rather than the tribes we’ve become. So she uses a number of techniques to get people out of their silos to see each other as the whole human beings. She does this by stripping down two average looking people in the studio audience and showing them sitting there in all their nakedness. Yes, we get to see what a grown man’s penis looks like when he’s sitting in a chair. Just as we get to see an average looking middle-aged woman with her breasts and vagina in full view for the world to see. It’s nudity that’s desexualized, but it also stands as a metaphor for breaking down barriers we’ve erected to segment us into warring tribes.
Does it work? Not quite. It’s a stunt loaded with shock value and a kind of preachiness that’s too heavy-handed. Where she does succeed is when she ventures down to Louisiana to visit a family of Trump supporters and self-described conservatives. At first, one can see where this is going, but Silverman does have a great trick up her sleeve: poop. Before things get bogged down in the mud of political opposition, she asks a very simple question: have you ever shit your pants? At first, no one is saying anything, then it turns out that most everyone in the family either has or knows someone who had. They were laughing about it, and then Silverman felt like she could talk to them about their politics. While most were still supporting Trump, they were losing love for the guy who was supposed to make their lives better right away. These folks rely on the very programs the current President and GOP congress want to phase out. One is government-run healthcare. Almost everyone in the family Silverman visited is on Medicaid, but there was still a streak of “The government needs to leave me alone” vibe that some expressed. Silverman, to her credit, didn’t lecture them on their hypocrisy. Rather, she let them speak for themselves so the viewer to see how disjointed their views were when squared with their lives.
The show also tries to be too self-aware with the use of a “White guy talk show host” (Mather Zickel). Mather is supposed to represent a comfort zone we go to when things get too heated, weird, or preachy. Maybe it part casting, or maybe the concept is flawed, but the execution of the ongoing bit is not that funny.
Still, with any TV show, it takes time to find a groove and run with it. The first show had moments that did work, but they were few and far between. I’ve watched the first three episodes and the show maintains a certain level of entertainment, but not so much that it rises from mediocre to completely great.
But, given time, Silverman may surprise us yet.