Sarah Silverman Strikes Back
Telling the truth at the Paramount about Rick Perry and the n-word
By Richard Whittaker, 11:25AM, Fri. Oct. 28, 2011
Sarah Silverman knows how to make a shocking statement. But when Gov. Rick Perry gets to throw Birtherism around and Texas politicians back Confederate flag license plates, that's truly shocking. What's even worse is that Perry could just walk away from real questions of character like the N-head scandal.
On Nov. 1, the Comedy Central star and a host of her peers will be turning the spotlight on Governor Goodhair with Live from N*****head, Stripping The Paint Off Of Good Ol’ Fashioned Racism, a special fundraiser for the NAACP at Austin's Paramount. With the show only five days away, we talked to Silverman about Perry, the Great Schlep of 2008, and how politicians play games with racism.
Austin Chronicle: We've known how bad Rick Perry is for years down here: When did he get on your radar?
Sarah Silverman: I was late to the game. It was at the very beginning of October when I saw a tweet David Alan Grier sent out that said, "So Republican pres candidate Gov. Rick Perry's daddy owned a hunting lodge named "Niggerhead"? This is to good to b true! Thank u God." It struck me for a bunch of reasons. First, of course, the fact itself. But second – David’s tweet – the spirit of it. He’s a friend and I just connected to the sentiment—that in this moment racism was more than just a gas in the air. That finally he could point to it and say, “there it is – see???" That’s what I inferred anyway. And it inspired me. I mean, the fact that a governor and presidential candidate for years enjoyed a family retreat called N*****Head is disgusting; but that it barely made news – I think that’s dangerous. And it scared me. And it motivated me.
AC: You've been politically active in the past, like the Great Schlep in 2008, but bringing the show right to Texas is a major step. Why put this show together here?
SS: I think it wouldn’t be brave to do it in some liberal haven like NYC or LA. It just felt like the right thing to do. I love Texas and I don’t believe that Gov Perry represents its heart or spirit.
AC: Over the past few days, Perry's been playing fast and loose with birtherism, and that comes after the whole N*****head debacle: How are you going to keep up with the flurry of Tea Party-rousing, far-right dog whistles he's been blowing on the campaign trail?
SS: I don’t know but I will say that as mind-blowing as it is – that he would have the balls to start up with this birtherism after the exposure of N-Head – it is so representative of, to me, why the Right is so successful – they have NERVE. Straight up nerve. And they are out to win. More than anything else. I want to shake them and with love say, "This isn’t sports! It’s people’s lives, Papi!"
AC: Richard Nixon and his cabal introduced the Southern Strategy, playing on the fears of white racist Democrats to push them to voting Republican. Is it worse that for the GOP to be racists, or to just play at being racists for votes?
SS: I think they’re both terrible. It’s inverse of my Rabbi sister’s charity analogy: Does it matter more if you give because you want to give, or because it’s tax deductible, or if you very reluctantly give? Nope – it feeds people any of those ways. With this it’s shitty and racist either way.
AC: A bunch of conservatives, including the Texas Land Commissioner, were backing a plan to sell license plates with the Confederate battle flag on it, and actually compared rebel troops to Buffalo Soldiers. As a reporter, that kind of thing just boggles the mind, especially since so many voters seem to buy the argument. Is it going to be easier for comedians to highlight that level of ridiculousness?
SS: I guess so. The truth is I’m sure we’ll be talking about it, some of us more than others, but we’re still gonna just do a comedy show with an abundance of dick jokes and stuff just to make you laugh. Plus, some of this stuff is just too easy. It’s hard to find a funny angle on something that’s already so horrifically silly. Though I’m sure one of us will find a way
AC: Perry came out against the Confederate license plates today: Are you convinced that he really opposes it?
SS: Nope. Though I don’t think saying whatever he needs to get votes is exclusive to Perry. That wouldn’t be fair to say. If politicians said what they truly felt and thought – even at the expense of unpopularity – they’d be comics.
Sarah Silverman and Friends present Live From N*****Head Stripping the Paint Off Of Good 'Ol Fashioned Racism. Tues., Nov. 1, 7pm. Tickets $45 via austintheatre.org and LiveNation.com. Paramount, 713 Congress austintheatre.org