Kathyrn Hahn is going to play the legendary comedian Joan Rivers in an upcoming biopic series. Sarah Silverman is not happy about it and compared the casting to the infamous and racist practice of blackface. Here’s what’s going on.
Sarah Silverman Rips Joan Rivers Biopic
Rivers was a pioneer of stand-up comedy and is one of the most important female comics to ever live. She’s also an important figure in the long history of Jewish comedians, and she was proud of it. She’d joke about Judaism, and made a point of donating money to Jewish charities. You cannot tell the full story of Rivers without talking about her Jewish heritage.
WandaVision star Hahn is not Jewish. She went to Catholic school before pursuing acting. Whether or not this matters is a touchy question. Hahn is undoubtedly a talented actress who’s been nominated for a fleet of awards and is a hot commodity in Hollywood to boot. She’s set to star in Knives Out 2, so landing her for this bio-series is a coup unto itself.
Silverman Calls Casting ‘Jewface’
Silverman was not happy about the casting. Like Rivers, Silverman is a successful Jewish comedian. On The Sarah Silverman Podcast, she unloaded on the casting. “There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being.”
“One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.,” Silverman said. This references the racist practice of blackface, something Silverman knows all too well for she’s been slammed for using it. The Star Trek: Voyager star added that “in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”
Her ire isn’t just toward Hahn. Silverman specifically called out Felicity Jones, Margo Artindale, Tracey Ullman, and Rachel Brosnahan for playing Jewish characters. The last one is significant, for Brosnahan’s starring role on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is all about the Jewish experience in New York, and it’s netted her some Emmy Wards.
TV’s ‘Monk’ Chooses A Side
Brosnahan’s Maisel co-star Tony Shalhoub has come to her defense. He said actors are paid to do just that: act. He said, “If we start to go down that road, I don’t know where it ends. Are people who are members of the Mafia, are they going to be upset that people who haven’t actually committed those types of crimes are playing those roles?”
If you had a celebrity feud between Shalhoub and Silverman on your 2021 bingo, then congratulations. Hahn has yet to comment, but she’s still set to star as of now.