Sarah Silverman on Her 'Brilliant,' 'Stupid,' 'Political' Hulu Show 'I Love You, America'

In her new half-hour Hulu show, I Love You, America, the comic Sarah Silverman attempts, via a cross-country road trip, to transcend partisanship. The once-ardent Bernie Sanders presidential campaigner meets with the people she railed against just a year ago to understand what happened in the last election. The encounters—sometimes awkward, occasionally heated but mostly endearing—are Silverman's way of having a conversation with people whose opinions are different, possibly even offensive. The overall intention is to engender empathy in the strangest political era of our lifetimes. Mostly, though, "it's aggressively dumb," says Silverman, who talked to Newsweek about the show and, naturally, Donald Trump: "It's like a guy from Howard Stern's wack pack becoming president."

To watch your show, I'm going to need your Hulu password.

Does anybody subscribe to these services? Don't they just steal their mom's password? Anyway, I just figured I'd ask.
I literally just—I can't say who—I just got a text from the star of a TV show on a pay network to say, "You changed your password. What is it now? I can't watch my show." You're the star of the show! I'm sure they'll give you a password.

That's kind of fucked up of you to change your password without telling him.
I didn't even change it. He's just forgetting he has my Showtime password, not the other one. It's like getting mad at someone who has Wi-Fi you're stealing for not paying the bill.

Sarah Silverman at the premiere for "Battle of the Sexes" in Los Angeles on September 16. Her Hulu series "I Love You, America" premieres October 12. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Let's talk about this show of yours. You've billed it as an opportunity to help people to listen to each other, as opposed to change anyone's mind.
More than anything, the show is silly, aggressively dumb—my favorite type of humor—and occasionally earnest. It's social politics, with anything smart to say wrapped in a big, doughy, dumb sandwich. It's eclectic, but to me, very cohesive. I was trying to second-guess what reviews might be, which I don't usually do. There are people who will say, "It doesn't know what it is." But I know exactly what it is. It may feel like controlled chaos, but good or bad is subjective. I can tell you that it's well thought-out. It's exactly the kind of show I wanted to make, but I'm not everybody.

Do you hope that it brings people together or that we start talking to each other? Or do you hope that it simply entertains in a different way?
We try to lean into things, into the awkwardness, to articulate stuff we don't usually talk about, even if it's silly stuff like taboos. In a field piece in the first episode, I have a family dinner with a bunch of Trump voters who are very different from myself, and we had a great time. I think when you're one-on-one, there's an opportunity to let your porcupine needles come down. Political arguments rarely end in understanding if your defenses are up. There's revolution, which is necessary, and then there's one-on-one, where you want to be talking and seeing each other as human beings. We've spent 60 years trying to understand Hitler because we so want to understand that kind of evil. But why not try to understand each other before something like the Holocaust happens?

Do you want people to understand each other and then maybe bridge this huge political divide?
Look, it's just a dumb comedy show on Hulu that's a half-hour. Comedy can bring people together. It's a political show by virtue of it being made during this moment in time. To me, it's more social politics, about humanity, through very silly comedy. I'm not setting out to change the world. I can only say it's my cup of tea, and I hope it's yours. It's going to be wildly subjective. It's going to be garbage. It's going to be brilliant. It's going to be stupid. It's going to have something to say. It's going to have nothing to say.

I think a lot of people, on both sides, want the tenor of this dialogue to change. So to the extent that your show might do that, that's what I'm asking. Will we be nicer to each other after we watch your show?
I don't know, doll. I just don't know. I wish I knew, because I'm a people pleaser, and I want to give you answers.

That's fine. I get it.
Agh. I really want to answer the question better. I will send you the doodle page I'm working on, which is starting to have a lot of squares on it.

Sarah Silverman's phone interview doodle. Winston Ross

Let me ask you this: In the interviews you've done so far, has anybody that wasn't already aligned with your political perspective changed your mind about anything? When you had dinner with Trump supporters, is there anything that made you think, You know, I should re-examine this issue.
No. But I did understand things differently. It's very easy to see things as black-and-white and right-and-wrong, and of course, it isn't always that way. I mean, listen: I'm very opinionated. I'm not going into things without my opinion. But, for example, with the family in Louisiana, there were moments when I couldn't help myself, after we'd gotten more intimate. I'm like, "Brandy, come on!" and there's no love lost.

Can you give me an example?
There's a moment where Brandy says, "Obama just gave money to everybody. They don't work hard." I asked her, "Where do you get your insurance from?" She said, "I don't know. I get it from the government, the state," which I'm guessing is Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act. But I didn't go into Trump's wanting to take that kind of insurance away. I trust the audience to make their own conclusions. I just let it sit there because I didn't go into their home to spew facts at them. But it exposed some things—not only potential ignorances but also that these are people who were marginalized in the Obama era.

I'm a Democrat. I love being a Democrat, but until the party can look inward, we can't expect the insanity on the right to change either. When globalization took hold, the working class was left in a precarious position. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working class, just like the Labor Party is supposed to be the party of the working class in Britain, and it hasn't been that for a while. We need to look at that. On election night, we got our smug smiles wiped right off our fucking faces. Leading up to that, [the Democrats] were saying, "Oh, the Republican Party is going to have a real identity crisis. They're going to have to figure out who they are." It was revealed that we were looking right in the fucking mirror. If we ignore our own accountability, it's very hard—even obnoxious—to be expecting other people to do that.

Do you think the soul-searching that's been going on among Democrats since the election has to do with progressives understanding that they weren't listening to the working class? Or do you think it's because they lost and need to figure out how not to lose again?
I think it's probably the latter, but hopefully the former is, at the very least, accidentally attended to. If there's any kind of silver lining with Trump, it's people going, "I could run." I do think a lot more people are leaning in and becoming a part of the process. You may not see much evidence of all the things we're talking about on the show, which is about vulnerability and being human and hopefully having empathy. But mostly it's silly and dumb.

My boyfriend [actor Michael Sheen] just walked in, and I'm very excited to see him. I'm really gonna try with this last question.

Is there an argument to be made that Trump did a better job of listening to the white working class than progressives did?
No! The job he did was snowing those people. He knows his base, and his base includes a lot of white nationalists, but also a lot of white working class who felt disenfranchised and not listened to. Bernie Sanders is the actual version of that. The good people that voted for Trump were looking for change, and they were deciding to believe him when he said stuff. Now, we know he says whatever the company he's in wants to hear, and he lies, and he's in the pocket of certain people, and he's whatever—we can examine Trump forever; he's a fascinating pathology, and it's terrifying. When he was in New York, he was just some loon. It's like a guy from Howard Stern's wack pack becoming president.

So Bernie in 2020?
I don't know if he's going to run, and maybe it should be someone else. But I do love him, I believed him, and I think a lot of people really fucked with this election in awful ways, and we may never know certain answers. We live in a time where truth has no currency, where my truth and your truth are different. All these arguments we're having, it's just entropy. We aren't basing our arguments on the same set of facts. It's devolution.