“I love you, America“ is something I haven’t thought in a while, and definitely haven’t said aloud. The world has deflated more than ever this week, and Sarah Silverman is here to blow it back up with a fresh premise for her weekly, half-hour show: put people in conversation who think differently from one another.
To best describe Silverman’s I Love You, America, here’s what it’s not: another Daily Show, the news, a liberal fest, Trevor Noah screaming at the Right, a joke parade, Trump’s latest disaster, or stand-up.
What it is: an effort to reach everyone.
“Facts don’t change people’s minds, they just don’t. Feeling do, emotions do.” Silverman told Rotten Tomatoes for an interview released on the show’s premiere date.
She’s so right. I mean she’s not, she’s vocally quite left. But she’s so correct.
She kicks the show’s door open in self-aware song. The lyrics address things like her own white privilege and the shortsightedness of asking a person of color, “how do I be a good ally?!” Spoiler: it’s not her job to teach you. Silverman dances through the song, constantly rechecking her own assumptions – and nailing the punch line. She isn’t perfect, she knows her tendencies. The song ends with a self-directed dig at her own condescending nature.
The structure is the only thing talk-showy. There is an opening monologue, a taped segment, then a guest interview. But other than that, don’t call it a talk show. It’s aspirations are too high.
Speaking of the opening monologue: I fell for her trick. She came out wearing plaid capris and a striped orange turtleneck. I stayed on her clothing for a moment too long and boom …
The cameras to pan to the audience where two people are naked in the front row. Smiling, even. Before I know what’s happening I have seen Scott’s penis twice and the camera is on it’s way to Stella’s vagina. Why do I know their names? Name tags, of course, they’re only wearing nametags–adhered directly to their skin.
This is how she addresses discomfort and promises more to come.
The antidote she offers us is a fixture of familiarity: a white man, sitting behind a desk, with cue cards, a tie, and a coffee mug. He does a bit in talk-show-intonations, his hand motions wave the cue cards like every generation of TV-watcher expects. Nailed it again.
The first segment is taped, and it follows Silverman to a dinner party in Louisiana. They sit on the living room sectional and hold Styrofoam bowls. They talk about gay marriage and why they voted for Trump. They agree that love is love, and that they wanted to see the country change for the better. They disagree on where Obama was born and who is eligible to raise children. We leave the dinner feeling like a connection was cracked open.
The last segment is an interview and the guest is always “someone who’s experienced change.” The first guest is a doozy. Mrs. Megan Phelps-Roper. The granddaughter of Fred Phelps, who founded Westboro Baptist Church. Don’t recoil. She is powerfully standing as symbol of positive engagement with those who disagree with you. Because she married her Twitter troll.
Today, I got in a fight with my girlfriend and we decided that rules are fine–until emotions get too big. I hope Sarah Silverman’s emotional, tender approach to the fragile people in our country starts to erase the rules defining liberal and conservative. I think it already has.