Sarah Silverman wants you to be uncomfortable.
The comedian’s new late-night show, I Love You, America, airs Thursday nights on Hulu — the online streaming site’s first venture into comedy talk shows. Two episodes in, she’s making a bold statement about the country’s need to expose itself to uncomfortable topics.
Case in point: Within the first 10 minutes of the pilot, the camera cuts to two audience members, a man and a woman, both completely naked. Viewers are shown zoomed-in shots of genitals before even reaching the first commercial break.
“I guess Hulu is allowed to show that?” you’ll wonder to yourself. It’s jarring, regardless of the “mature” rating displayed at the beginning of the episode.
And that’s exactly the show’s point: Naked audience members, though crude and certainly less informative than the interviews making up the rest of the show, aren’t necessarily bad.
I Love You, America is a simultaneous address to the Trump administration’s polarizing viewpoints and the late-night TV hosts who were criticized for giving him a platform (*cough* Jimmy Fallon *cough* Saturday Night Live). Silverman aims to visit often-overlooked Republican states: Louisiana in the first episode, Texas in the second. Later on, she interviews guests who have experienced a big change in perspective — so far, former Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
The ultimate goal, between Silverman’s typical raunchy-yet-sweet-style of comedy, is to facilitate conversations that the average American isn’t seeking out right now. An outwardly liberal Jewish actor from New England such as Silverman wouldn’t typically pursue the opinions of a low-income family from the rural south.
But watching these very different people share a meal together while trying to find a common ground is pretty remarkable. It’s also a great reminder that it needs to be happening more.
The show as a whole is extremely conscious that it’s asking much more of its viewers than a typical late-night comedy, which is usually designed to poke fun at newsworthy events and joke around with a handful of actors who have upcoming projects they’re trying to promote.
To combat that, it’s created its own “typical late-night host” to help Silverman out when she veers too far into uncomfortable territory — like, say, when a shot cuts to the aforementioned naked man’s genitals.
“If things get a little bit too obscure, we’ve got — um — can we cut over to the white guy at the desk?” Silverman asks during her opening monologue as the shot cuts to a man who looks suspiciously like most of TV’s prominent late-night hosts.
“This is Mather,” she says, “and whenever things veer off the beaten path, all we have to do is just cut over to Mather and he will bring us back to the relatable comfort of familiarity.”
While Mather the white, male TV host is largely a joke, he’s also a nice way to give the audience some credit for sticking around. Watching the awkwardness of two people disagreeing on hot-button topics such as gay marriage or universal health care is not easy. But it is important.
Maybe the show won’t convince you to suddenly strike up a conversation with someone who holds vastly different political views. At the very least, though, it will expose you to real-life proof those conversations can happen.
I Love You, America wants you to know that common ground still exists despite the idea that the country is more polarized than ever.