Sorry. The hardest word. Especially when sometimes we’re just not sorry. Like Piers Morgan.
He couldn’t say sorry to Meghan Markle because he wasn’t sorry. An apology would have sounded off and we would have known he didn’t mean his words. Like reading a lawyer’s statement, void of true personal reflection. You know when someone is really sorry. You can hear it, sense it, believe the sincerity of the regret.
Sarah Silverman’s recent apology to Paris Hilton was one such moment of remorse. Forteen years after humiliating the former It Girl at the 2007 MTV Music Awards with a crude sex joke, comedian Silverman used her podcast to say sorry to Hilton who had used her podcast to call her out.
This is how we thrash out issues these days. Podcasts.
There’s endless time and space to get to the nitty gritty. This was a multi-faceted apology too. Hilton did not get off lightly. “We both played mean characters that had our real names,” Silverman says at one point.
Straight after that ceremony in 2007, Hilton was off to jail for breaking her parole on driving offences. What she was even doing at an awards ceremony, you’d wonder. One last hurrah perhaps. She was certainly setting herself up for a lashing considering celebrity roastings were the comedy routine of the day.
Nobody was spared that night. But the joke went too far, for sure. It was an ugly joke:
“I heard that to make her feel comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises,” Silverman quipped. “I just worry that she’s gonna break her teeth on those things.” She got her laughs but then saw Hilton’s face in the crowd and felt instant remorse.
Apparently Silverman wrote the heiress a letter of apology afterwards that never reached the reality TV star. In those intervening years, there’s been intense collective introspection on how we treat each other.
Poor little rich girls have feelings too and have their own burdens, as we’ve come to learn.
Hilton who is now 40, told her listeners, she “literally wanted to run out of the entire room, but I was trying to be strong and sit there as the whole audience was laughing”.
Silvermans admits she would never do those jokes today:
“I have actually dedicated the past several years to trying to do comedy that attempts to marry hard hitting jokes, with, you know, actual heart”.Sarah Silverman Podcast
So where does this leave us? Should comedians and commentators mock bad behaviour from public figures? Ricky Gervais would certainly say we should. I can’t imagine he’ll ever apologise to Mel Gibson for ridiculing his alcoholic meltdowns at the 2016 Golden Globes. It was uncomfortable viewing. Harvey Weinstein was shocked, sitting in the audience of luvvies.
Post the Meghan Markle, Prince Harry interview, we’re watching our words more. We’re taking mental health seriously. This is a time of reckoning. Not all hurt feelings deserve an apology though. It’s hard ball out there in the public eye. Sarah Silverman’s joke all those years ago was too crude, off the mark but that’s not to say Paris Hilton was not deserving of a roasting for her part in the circus. As Silverman says, “I can imagine that Paris is now also reflecting and apologizing for stuff and I say good on her for that”. Sorry. It takes courage on both sides to reflect honestly.