So a certain recently fired Maclean’s writer interviewed me once, and by the way, was so annoying that even after the interview was officially over, he kept poking at me on email until I had to complain to his boss.
And I had tried to explain the history of offensive comedy to him, and that, on my blog and Twitter, my one-liners about “frogs” or whatever nationality had a pretty long history, wouldn’t have sounded terribly out of place at a Friar’s roast on inside a nightclub, and that, via the internet, I was a sort of “sit-down comic.” Get it?
No, he didn’t get it at all.
Or pretended not to, in that annoying “I can’t even”/”stupid or liar” way liberals have.
Ten years ago, Silverman had her own half-hour show on Comedy Central titled The Sarah Silverman Program. The sitcom showcased her “daring” and “edgy” humor. There was a season 3 episode called “Wowschwitz,” in which Silverman’s character (she basically played an exaggerated version of herself) creates a purposely offensive Holocaust “remembrance” exhibit that includes a clown, a dunk tank, a llama, and—as its centerpiece—a giant sculpture of a Jewish hooked nose dripping with snot (“It’s what Jews are best known for,” quips Silverman). The episode ends as cast members sing the Sesame Street “mahna mahna” song, replacing the chorus with “the Holocaust.”
The jokes in the episode are not typical “setup/punchline” gags. They’re offensive for the sake of being offensive, and the desired response is either (from fans) “Dayum, I can’t believe they went there; that is harsh!” or (from squares) “This is hateful, disgusting filth, and Comedy Central should be ashamed of itself.” For Silverman, either response is fine; if she can’t get laughs, she’s content to just push buttons.
Well, here’s the thing—the trolls who torment her with anti-Jewish tweets are looking for the exact same responses. Either they want to be cheered for their outrageousness or condemned for their insensitivity. But guess what? The trolls who elicit a response from Silverman in full view of her 10.1 million Twitter followers are reaching a larger audience than Silverman did with her “Wowschwitz” episode (by season 3, Sarah Silverman Program episodes were pulling in well under a million viewers each week). Trolls are essentially doing Sarah Silverman’s routine to Sarah Silverman, in the presence of more viewers than she had on Comedy Central.
Through social media, you can be a sitcom star in your own living room. The Sarah Silvermans of the world lose relevance when anyone can do the same shtick on their mobile phone, and get exposure to an audience that dwarfs that of a typical basic-cable program. Plus, there’s additional fun in the fact that it’s real life. You’re not writing a sitcom; you’re in the sitcom. In her show, Silverman played a character who annoyed her friends by pushing the envelope of offensive humor, and now you have the opportunity to annoy Silverman in the same manner, in the real-life TV show that social media allows us to star in every day.