Sarah Silverman had assumed Hillary Clinton would trounce Donald Trump to become the first female president of the United States last year. But as the results poured in on Nov. 9, Silverman realized Clinton would lose.
“The night of the election I understood survivalists because I actually thought, I need a gun to protect myself from the government when the government comes,” she told BuzzFeed News at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “It was like, Oh! That's how all these people have been feeling with the Obama administration, which, to me is progress, but to other people that progress meant fear and terror. Whether that fear is founded or unfounded, I suddenly understood it.”
It was a pivotal moment for Silverman, who used that realization to fuel her new show, I Love You, America, which Hulu describes as “a weekly, topical series.” Both Hulu and Silverman are wary of positioning I Love You, America as a late-night show in the vein of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, Late Night With Seth Meyers, The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, or John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, political lightning rods that Silverman considers appointment television. But, as Silverman points out, those programs are doing a lot of preaching to the choir. “I'd like to connect with un-like-minded people,” she said.
Reaching across the proverbial aisle is a tall order for anyone, but for someone as polarizing as Silverman — particularly with the "un-like-minded people" she hopes to reach — the task is infinitely tougher. “The country's too divided and I just want to be a part of something,” she said. “It's ironic because I think I'm a wildly divisive presence; I acknowledge that I'm not everybody's cup of tea, to the 10th power, but this show isn't the me on Twitter.”
The format of I Love You, America may feature some hallmarks of late night — like a monologue, or a guest interview — but the bulk of the show will be prepackaged segments that have Silverman getting to know the Americans who don’t share her outlook on the world. For example, she'll have dinner with a family in Louisiana who have never met a Jew before. “I'm not going to lie, I get nervous and I get a little anxious, but the one thing I try to remember is to be open,” Silverman said. “Because if I'm braced and defensive, I can't expect them to be open. So even though I'm going into their homes, I have to be a host, a caretaker. I go into these and I just remind myself to be brave and be open. And sometimes being brave is just existing through it.”
Silverman was quick to stress that there won’t be any Daily Show–esque bait and switches that turn the subjects into the objects of ridicule. “There's no, to use a Sarah Palin phrase, 'gotcha' comedy,” she said. “It will be funny, it will be silly, and there will be people who are not like-minded, but what I'm hoping to expose is that we are much more the same than we think we are — we're just listening to two different sets of lies as our news.”
And while I Love You, America isn’t designed to be political, Silverman understands why it will be interpreted as such. “This show is proof that everything is political right now — a naked poop joke is gonna be political,” she said. “We live in a time where there isn't any piece of art you can put out that isn't shaded by politics. There was a time where people could say, ‘I'm not political,’ but this just isn't that time. If you're not political in 2017, you're complicit.”
Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.
Contact Jarett Wieselman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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