There's a long tradition of edgy comedians sanding down their edges as they try to make themselves generically likable enough to score network sitcoms.
Sarah Silverman is not part of that tradition.
With NBC already expected to air her new show, the "Sarah Silverman Program" star made an abortion joke that struck some as too flippant — and quickly caught the attention of the conservative Drudge Report, which made the remark one of its main stories.
Silverman posted two photos Twitter last week. The first, making fun of sappy pregnancy photos, featured her with a round stomach soon after eating. "It's a burrito!" she wrote.
The second photo showed her with her typically flat stomach. Silverman also made an abortion joke that some people found too flippant: "Got a quickie aborsh in case R v W gets overturned," she wrote, referencing Roe v. Wade.
Casually shocking humor has always been part of Silverman's act, and the latest joke, despite the attention paid to it by Drudge, isn't really a joke about terminating a pregnancy: The only thing getting aborted is a burrito.
Which hasn't stopped some from conflating into something more. London's Daily Mail said Silverman had "joined America's current War on Women… after she tweeted a hoax before-and-after abortion photo." It also said her aborted burrito joke was "reigniting the women's rights movement via Twitter." Not exactly.
Drudge linked to the story with the headline, "Sarah Silverman tweets 'before-and-after abortion' photos, failing to note that, in fact, no abortion had occurred.
But try explaining that to anyone who sees even the possibility of a Silverman show on NBC as more evidence that a monolithic media has a left-wing, anti-family agenda.
The pilot has a very strong chance of becoming a series when NBC makes its pilots decision this spring. It already has a put-pilot committment, which means NBC would have to pay a hefty penalty if it doesn't air it.
The currently titled "Susan 313" is produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, among others, and Jeff Goldblum has reportedly signed on to guest star. NBC and Silverman's representatives did not immedately respond to requests for comment for this story.
NBC must know what it's getting into with Silverman. Picking up the show will be a signal that the network is willing to deal with at least the possibility that she'll say or do something controversial, on or off the air.
On the "Sarah Silverman Program," which aired for three seasons on Comedy Central, her character often espoused ethnic and sexual stereotypes. It was an attempt to mock the ignorance of racists, sexists, and homophobes, but some viewers took Silverman's character at her word, assuming she was just ignorant herself. Or willing to offend people for the sake of shock.
In 2001, Silverman joked on NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" that she got out of jury duty by writing "I love chinks" on a selection form. The joke, again, was the shock value, and her supposed racial cluelessness. The Media Action Network for Asian-
Silverman is standing by the aborted burrito joke, too. As of Monday, it remains on her Twitter feed.