Few things are more compelling to me than a heated debate over What Constitutes Art. A recent controversy surrounding Sarah Silverman also offers a quandary about ethics.
Ms. Silverman was invited to speak at the prestigious TED conference this year. Her “presentation” was so offensive to the man who curates the event (Chris Anderson) that he tweeted an apology for her “godawful” material and has since elected not to post her presentation online. Co-founder of AOL Steve Chase also tweeted that Silverman was an inappropriate choice for TED. Silverman came back with some tweeted insults of her own.
At issue, apparently, is Ms. Silverman’s repeated use of the word “retarded.” However, according to reports, she also sang a song about penises.
If only we could see a video of the actual performance! But since we can’t, we are left with some hypothetical questions.
First, I must admit that I fucking hate Sarah Silverman. Hate as in HATE. I don’t think it’s because she’s shocking. I think it’s her delivery, along with her face and mannerisms. I have laughed my head off to Larry David‘s comedic take on incest, racism, and the Holocaust. He has made fun of every disability I can think of, and I laughed because he’s so funny. Therefore, I can’t pretend that some subjects are sacrosanct.
Should Chris Anderson apologize to Ms. Silverman for publicly denouncing her performance? Should he post it online even if he finds it offensive? Does TED have an obligation to post it if it posts other speakers who appeared at the conference?
Should Ms. Silverman take into consideration the type of audience she is addressing, i.e. people who are gathered to hear about ideas? Or should she be applauded for daring to shock them? Is something Art because it is shocking? Is it always laudable to challenge taboos? If not, why not?
You can go here to watch Ms Silverman defend herself to Bill Maher.
I don’t know why anyone wants to hear Ms. Silverman say penis, vagina, and asshole with the smugness of a six year old who has just learned the power of swearing. If you think she’s a comic genius, you are certainly in good company. To my ears, she is nails on a chalkboard.
Here’s another question I just thought of: Would Silverman be funny if she couldn’t rely on “bad” words for effect?
Jump right in!