Sarah Silverman On Late Night TV, Free The Nipple & Using Comedy To Send A Message

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Sarah Silverman has always been a comedian who doesn’t shy away from boundary-pushing content that may leave some shocked, but always leaves a memorable mark. We love her because she is unapologetic about her style, and doesn’t feel she has to dumb herself down in any way to be appealing.

While we are used to seeing her do her thing in various stand-up specials and TV shows, she will next be seen in a dark comedy indie feature called ‘I Smile Back’ which promises to show a more somber side of Sarah. In an interview with Time Out New York, the actress and comedian spoke about her forthcoming film project and managed to share her views on a number of other topics which we are very interested in: feminism, planned parenthood, the Free The Nipple campaign and late night TV being devoid of women entirely.

Sarah plays an anxiety-riddled addict in the feature film, which is very much a departure from what we are used to seeing from her. She was asked whether she would ever make another big shift in her career to late night TV, and why there aren’t any women in that space right now.

In her answer, she said that women pretty much run comedy these days, just not the late night arena. However, she doesn’t shy away from admitting it is still very much a boys club.

“I’m a big fighter of women’s causes, obviously. But I do think that you have to pick your battles, and I think that there are several women who’ve been asked and even begged to do late-night shows and have chosen not to. I’m sure Chelsea Handler, if she wanted a late-night television show, she could have one. Same with Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer. So I don’t know that it’s everyone’s cup of tea. But I could be wrong. It could be a big conspiracy against them, but I don’t know. It seems like the kind of position where you have to be groomed for years, like getting to be top of your company,” she said.

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It is interesting that she is of the opinion that perhaps there aren’t as many female comedians wanting to do late night comedy, especially since women like the aforementioned Amy Schumer and Amy Poehler, as well as others such as Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Handler, Issa Rae and many more are killing it in other ways and on other platforms.

“I understand, late night in the ’80s and ’90s absolutely was a boys’ club, where people thought, much like the news, that people trust men with their news and their parody of news and their late-night shows. But I don’t know that we live in that anymore. I think that there might just be less women dying to be talk show hosts,” Sarah continued.

When the conversation moved on to the topic of feminism, Sarah shared her thoughts on how certain aspects of pop culture have helped shape the current feminist movement and further its cause.

“What feminist means to people is so varied. I can’t imagine it’s the same definition for people who are offended by it as [as it is for] people who are feminists,” she said.

She also mentions the Always “Like A Girl” campaign which has been like a force of nature in terms of helping change a gender stereotype with a really powerful advertisement, and how there are some glaringly obvious sexist double standards that are being called out in mainstream society and amongst feminists.

“I think there’s a lot of really cool stuff. I mean, Lena Dunham existing. Everything she does. This ‘Lenny Letter’ she started. Her nudity in ‘Girls’ alone. The whole free-the-nipple campaign is great. I mean, it’s absolutely atrocious that we are shamed. You can oil up my tits and smash them behind suspenders and have, like, a champagne bottle between them, like, exploding with, you know, obvious jizz metaphors, and that can be a billboard. It could be a poster in the mall. But you can’t post a 70-year-old nude woman, you know, like, a piece of art, or like, a woman couldn’t nurse her baby at that mall,” she said. Amen to that!

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It is ridiculously absurd that for women’s bodies to be sexualized by another entity other than themselves, that is seen as normal and acceptable, but the minute a woman starts to take control of her body and even dares to portray it in a remotely sexual manner, she is slut-shamed, shut down and even bullied.

“People say it’s bizarre. Is it because of fear? They’re like, ‘Guys and boys will be jerking off in the streets!’ When it comes to just a human woman’s nipple and areola, what are we protecting our children from? It’s absolutely absurd. Look at Barbie dolls. Barbie dolls have big, fat shiny parts that guys jerk off to, and then who are we protecting by not having the nipple, the life-nourishing part on it?” she asks.

It’s one of the reasons why we think the Free The Nipple campaign is more powerful than what is often stated about it in the media. It has challenged our perception of what kind of space and shape a woman’s body should occupy publicly, because until now we have wholeheartedly swallowed every idea that is force fed down our throats by fashion, advertising, and in some cases politics and religion. The notion that we have the ability to define our bodies our own way is often seen as threatening the “system”.

It’s one of the reasons issues such as reproductive rights and the current debate over Planned Parenthood has become fair game, because we have allowed women’s bodies to be just that for far too long. Thankfully there are women, like Sarah,  speaking out against this and it needs to be a continuum if we are ever going to stop having women’s health issues paraded around in political circles like a punching bag.

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“There’ve been about 600 laws over what women can do with their body in a single year and zero of men since the beginning of time…It’s pretty crazy. I think that when women and what we can do with our own human bodies is starting to be legislated, it’s beyond time to act. And people can call themselves whatever they want. If they don’t like the word feminist, they can throw it out the window. But it’s just about human rights, civil rights,” she said.

While it is very easy to get frustrated and bang out heads against a wall wishing for change, there are often other vehicles aside from politics and activism that can help alter public perception and opinion about serious topics. One of those being comedy.

“I think if you can make it funny, humor can change people’s minds more than anger. Anger doesn’t do anything. I always try to think before I write something: How would I respond if that tone was taken at me? I try to just stick with what I think is funny. It’s just not effective if you put people in a defensive mode,” said Sarah.

“So unless you appeal to them, with a kiss and a hug and a laugh, you’re not changing anyone. You can wail with lots of passion to the people who also agree with you, and that’s nice. That’s what a rally is for. But it doesn’t really create change,” she added.

It certainly is a great way to bring forth an issue in a way that enables people not to feel so intimidated. We hope more male and female comedians use their voice and platforms to change people’s minds. We’ve seen Key and Peele do this on their hilarious Comedy Central show, discussing topics such as slut-shaming and menstruation. Of course Amy Schumer’s show ‘Inside Amy Schumer‘ often delivers hilarious and through-provoking sketches about feminist issues like the wage gap, body image, harassment and much more.

In a time where we are being bombarded with so many political agendas given that we are about to elect the next president of the United States, we could certainly use a little more humor to further the cause of some important topics and help change our minds. Keep it up Sarah, we are listening!

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