Sarah Silverman has a new show on Hulu called I Love You America. It’s a half hour weekly series produced by Funny or Die – you know, the funny video people. It’s kind of like a talk show, but not really and it’s kind of topical, but not really – the first episode had nary a mention of Harvey Weinstein or Donald Trump’s latest horror. It is definitely different though. Or more of the usual Sarah Silverman shtick. The big difference I guess is that she’s less sanctimonious, more even handed, more reaching out to the other side – which in this day and age is kind of refreshing. Don’t get me wrong – the show has a segment that has an uncomfortable amount of full frontal nudity and the term “cunty” was used at least once – but still. Sarah reaches out in her first taped episode she goes off to Louisiana and hangs out with a family of admitted Trump voters, most of whom have never met a Jew before, and it was heartwarming! Watch it below:
But what’s particularly Jewlicious about this first episode is that her first guest is none other than Megan Phelps Roper, the granddaughter of Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. You know, the “Jews Killed Jesus / God Hates Fags” people that picketed our Jewlicious Festival and harassed and then befriended our editor ck – who eventually prevailed and convinced her to leave the Church. Honestly, if this is the first you have ever heard of this, I don’t know what you’re doing here. Stop everything and read the New Yorker article right now, or wait for the upcoming book or movie based on the book produced by Reese Witherspoon.
Sarah’s chat with Megan had our erudite hostess trying to understand what it is that drives people to hate. Megan explained that
“I think one thing that’s really important for people to understand is that I think extremists generally are not psychopaths, They’re psychologically normal people who have been persuaded by bad ideas. And we can’t expect to, like, isolate these people and hope that those ideas will just fade into oblivion. We have to actually engage those ideas and find ways of, one, understanding the mind-sets of the people that we’re dealing with and then effectively constructing arguments and evidence and presenting those things. And it’s not just for the sake of these extremists . . . because they impact the rest of society.”
In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Silverman had the following to say about her first guest:
You know, I had my dream guest when we taped last night for our first episode, which comes out tomorrow, which is Megan Phelps-Roper. She really, to me, embodies everything I want this show to be in terms of interviews: with someone who experienced change. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her, but she grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Her grandfather started the Westboro Baptist Church… She celebrated 9/11, all that stuff that the Westboro Baptist Church does. There are a million pictures of her with “God hates f-gs” posters and protesting soldiers’ funerals. And in her 20s, she got put in charge of social media because the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to reach out and get more members. And through social media, she was exposed to the rest of the world, and a few key people, two particular key people engaged with her, not just vitriol, like engaged with her and had conversation with her and went back and forth and came towards her with warmth and opened up her world and she left [the church]. And she’s done a TED Talk since and is totally brilliant, And to be able to talk to someone who has lived both experiences of that, of extremism, and just believed it — when she was there, she just believed the tenets of the Westboro Baptist Church with all her heart because it was all she knew and everything she loved. So it was totally fascinating talking to her. To have someone go through that change and then be able to articulate it so well. It was really eye-opening: to understand people who are drawn into extremism and to be able to really be able to kind of explain it to a layman like myself is a great opportunity, so I hope the audience appreciates it too… And it’s sandwiched between just the dumbest, silly sh-t, too. It’s a very eclectic show, but it’s by design. All I can say is whatever people think, it’s exactly the show I’ve been wanting to make, and I’m very happy with it. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s mine.
During the interview, Megan outlined the four steps that were used by the people who engaged her effectively (as outlined in her wildly popular Ted Talk) – engage people as human beings, ask questions, stay calm and make your argument. Now the question is do people that generally disagree with Sarah Silverman have Hulu subscriptions? Will they even bother to watch her show – and if they don’t, will Silverman’s echo chamber viewers learn to develop empathy for people that they loathe? I guess we’ll see!
Props go out to Stella and Steve who appeared fully naked in the audience and remained super cool despite multiple crotch close-ups. Props too to Rabbi Yonah Bookstein who was mentioned on the show in relation to Megan’s “Your Rabbi is a Whore” sign. But above and beyond everything, we’re super proud of David Abitbol and his role in this media extravaganza – his calm Canadian demeanor and dedication to doing the right thing seems to have inspired a lot of good, much needed stuff like kindness and empathy.