When it comes to communication, few do it better than Sarah Silverman. The prospect of people exchanging ideas, especially beliefs seemingly so disparate that finding middle ground seems impossible, excites the comedian. Hence her new Netflix special, A Speck of Dust, in which Silverman — inspired by her recent health scare and other life-changing events — comically advocates for conversation in a political age characterized by diatribe more than dialogue. Of course, as we found out while attempting to discuss the special, communication is impossible without sufficient means.
“Oh shit. Hello?”
I shouldn’t be laughing, since the monstrous phone delay means Silverman will eventually hear my cackling, but I can’t help myself. The irony is just too good not to acknowledge, even when our second connection attempt results largely in success. “Oh boy. I’m getting your responses four seconds after I finish talking,” she explains. “This should be fun.”
It is, even when I broach the subject of communication with a reference to her 2016 Democratic National Convention appearance in Philadelphia. While sharing the stage with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Silverman responded to the delegation’s enraged Bernie Sanders supporters with a now-famous admonition: “You’re being ridiculous.” At that precise moment, I tell Silverman, Uproxx was at Wells Fargo Center interviewing Sanders delegates.
“I can’t believe there was a Bernie supporter engaging with you in that moment and not screaming at Hillary people. Do you remember what their perspective was?” she asks. “Listen, I wish the nominee was Bernie, but I was there because Bernie asked me to be there. I was there for him, to make sure he had an ally in the office should Clinton get elected. So I wasn’t really sure what their perspectives were at the time, that they felt it necessary to act like that then. And later too, I guess, because there were probably people who loved Bernie but voted for Trump, since he promised jobs and all the things Bernie genuinely supports.”
After almost a year of reflection, however, Silverman relishes any and all opportunities to engage with former Sanders delegates, hardcore Trump fans, and just about anyone else whose beliefs differ significantly from hers. Such is the impetus for her upcoming Hulu series, I Love You, America, as well as many of the bits that comprise A Speck of Dust. “That’s what I believe in now, more than anything,” she tells me. “Screaming at each other has never caused change. Sure, sometimes major protests and rioting in the streets causes change, but when it’s people one-on-one? Having a screaming competition in that setting never changes minds. So we need to try and understand each other.”
Like when she attended a fundraiser for friend and The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead’s Lady Parts Justice organization in Los Angeles. “We did this show and there were protesters outside,” Silverman prompts the audience in the special. “I’m not going to shit on them because I am them.” The comic explains this sentiment with equal parts heart and humor, but as she notes on the phone, it’s more than just a routine.
“If anything, I feel a kind of kinship with those people because we’re the same,” she says. “We’re the products of how we were raised. I just happened to be raised by a couple of bleeding heart liberal Jews. If I was raised by their parents, I’d probably be out there. And until we understand this basic truth, how are we going to understand each other? Of course if you believe that an unborn fetus is life, then you’re going to believe abortion is murder and you should want to prosecute to the fullest extent. Obviously I don’t believe that, but it sure does get muddy. Yet, I think, we’re all ultimately the same.”