Sarah Silverman has never shied away from employing racial slurs in her comedy, but she’s always maintained that—like any good comedian—she’s making a larger point about racism when she uses racist language, rather than exploiting offensive terms merely for the sake of shock value.
Last night Silverman put her money where her mouth is with a new show, “Live at Niggerhead: Stripping the Paint Off Of Good Ol’ Fashioned Racism,” which served as a fundraiser for the NAACP. Comedians Tig Notaro, Ian Edwards, Suli McCullough, and Jamie Kilstein also were in effect for the show, which was held at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas. “Live at Niggerhead” was inspired by the controversy last month surrounding Rick Perry and the revelation about the name of the Republican presidential candidate’s hunting camp, and that the controversy has frustratingly dissipated as news outlets moved onto to fresher material, like Kate Middleton’s scar and Kim Kardashian’s divorce.
“I think any time racism shows itself in a tangible way, and it’s not just a gas in the air, it’s important to take the opportunity to point at it,” Silverman has said about Perry. “It’s dangerous when it just kind of goes away. And here’s a guy who is a governor and running for president, and it has not injured him in any way, really. I mean, that’s bizarre, right?”
“The mood of the show was utter joy. All of the comics killed,” Kilstein tells Laughspin. “The audience was sort of the best of both words— Silverman fans, which means they love edgy comedy, but also people who fucking hate Rick Perry. So, they were super progressive and not cheering on executions of black men.”
For Silverman, the point of the fundraiser was to truly put a spotlight on hypocrisy and subvert it, not just use it for cheap laughs. “I remember the Bush/Kerry election and the Bush/Gore election and it wipes the condescending smile off my face,” Silverman told the press days before the show. “I think it has to be taken seriously that there’s a chance that people like this are popular.”
“We raised a ton of money for a great cause, and reminded people that you can’t be a racist piece of shit without being held accountable,” Kilstein adds. “In our heads we were pretending the show is why Rick Perry showed up looking drunk at that press confrence. It was glorious.”