As Framing Britney Spears remains continues to encourage conversation around how the media and society at large have treated child stars and starlets, many people are now reevaluating their own behavior. One of those people is comedian Sarah Silverman, who recently reckoned with a joke she made about Spears during a roast in 2007. In a recent episode of her podcast, The Sarah Silverman Podcast, Silverman apologized for an "ugly" joke she made about The Simple Life star Paris Hilton the same year.
Hilton was set to serve jail time due to driving violations following her arrest for a suspected DUI and attended the MTV Movie Awards the day before entering the facility. "I heard that to make her feel comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises," Silverman joked during the ceremony. "I just worry that she's gonna break her teeth on those things." Hilton addressed the situation on her This is Paris podcast, explaining how she felt in the moment to her sister, Nicky, who called the joke "disgusting, vile, perverted" and posited that it wouldn't have been made by "today's standards." Paris explained that in the moment she was "trying to be brave" but that on the inside she was "wanting to die."
"I literally wanted to run out of the entire room, but I just was trying to be strong and sit there as the whole audience is laughing," Paris claimed. "It was so painful, especially with what I was going through in my life, to then have people be so mean about it. It was really hard."
Silverman addressed the situation on her podcast. "The crowd went bananas, and while I was thrilled at the success of my monologue, I remember spotting her in the audience, I really do, and I remember seeing that look on her face and my heart sank," Silverman explained. "There was a person under there. A couple days later I wrote her a letter apologizing, felt awful and I never heard back, I certainly wouldn't expect to anyways."
"I regretted the jokes not years later, but kind of immediately," Silverman continued. "I wrote to let her know, but I know now that the letter didn't get to her. So, here I am, 14 years later, telling you, Paris, that I am really sorry. I was then and I am, much more completely and with far more understanding, I think, now."
"I felt it the second I saw your face that night. It feels terrible to know you have hurt someone and it's important to make it right. So, I hope this does that," Silverman said later in the episode. Silverman also agreed with Nicky that the joke would not receive the same reaction if told now. "I can't imagine what you were going through at the time," Silverman said. "My understanding of humanity through the lens of my work as a comedian had not yet merged and I'm sorry I hurt you. Comedy is not evergreen. We can't change the past, so what's crucial is that we change with the times. I'm super down with reflecting on the past and my part in perpetuating real ugly s---."
Ultimately, Silverman has tried to grow as a person over the last few years, and that has informed her comedy. "I've actually dedicated the past several years trying to do comedy that attempts to marry hard-hitting jokes with actual heart," she explained. "Back then, the consensus seemed to be that was not possible and I fully accepted that." Silverman explained that comedy in the '00s tended "to make fun of pop culture" and "roasting the biggest celebrities." According to Silverman, "nobody was bigger than Paris Hilton." Hilton has yet to respond publicly to Silverman's apology.