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Sarah Silverman Takes A Comedic Look At The Events Of 2020

DON GONYEA, HOST:

I know you don't need to hear this from me, but 2020 was quite the year. From a divisive presidential election to a global pandemic, its economic fallout and nationwide protests and reckoning of racial injustice, there's been a lot for Americans to process. To help you cope just a bit, there's a new comedy special out soon on Amazon that takes on some of the stress-inducing events of this year.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY SPECIAL, "YEARLY DEPARTED")

SARAH SILVERMAN: Goodbye to the idea that education is indoctrination.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yes.

SILVERMAN: Goodbye to the fear that at any moment, the nuclear codes could wind up on Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hell yeah.

SILVERMAN: Goodbye to the idea that your opinion is science.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yes.

GONYEA: That's comedian Sarah Silverman. She stars in "Yearly Departed," a comedic look back at many of the events of this year. She's also the host of "The Sarah Silverman Podcast." And she joins us now.

Sarah Silverman, welcome.

SILVERMAN: Hello.

GONYEA: The special "Yearly Departed" is set in a funeral home.

SILVERMAN: (Laughter).

GONYEA: There's a lectern with a mic, chairs for the mourners. The program's host, Phoebe Robinson, brings in an urn with 2020 etched on it. And your fellow comedians and actors, all women, take turns eulogizing the year and everything that happened. It's a funeral, but it's hardly a celebration of a life, as funerals can be. It's more of a good riddance - a sentiment that's not typically spoken aloud at a funeral.

SILVERMAN: Yeah, I feel like it's a kind of a cathartic special where we kick 2020 to the curb and - I was going to say burn it in effigy. Is that right? Did I use that right? Maybe not.

GONYEA: Yeah, there are no pyrotechnics that I recall (laughter), but yeah. I guess I'm wondering, is 2020 almost too easy of a target? People have been dumping on 2020 all year.

SILVERMAN: Well, I think because of that, it's a much harder target because it's - you know, everybody has 2020, has this presidency, has this, you know, past year - has been making fun of it and has had it as a target. And it's been a global inside joke. To not be derivative is quite a challenge, I would think. And I think the writers on this did such a great job, you know, to find fresh takes on it.

GONYEA: So everyone who speaks at this funeral delivers a eulogy and says goodbye to something. And the subjects touch on both - things light and things much more heavy, from abandoning pants this year...

SILVERMAN: Yeah.

GONYEA: ...Living in quarantine, to the difficulties of caring for children who never leave the house. And then there's even a riff on goodbye to the beige-only Band-Aid, which gets into how corporations view Americans of color and race and all that.

SILVERMAN: Yeah.

GONYEA: Just kind of talk about the mix of topics like that.

SILVERMAN: This year was about 10 years long. And there was so much bombardment and so much going on and so much kind of at the same time awakened. As I think half the country is blocking their ears and their eyes and doesn't trust what they see and hear, the other half is really awakening to what they've been blind to for a long time. And it never feels that heavy, but it kind of touches on all of that stuff.

GONYEA: But let me ask - in your segment, you have the part about that phrase, make America great again. You say goodbye to make America great again. Let's listen first to just a piece of that, and then we'll talk about it.

SILVERMAN: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMEDY SPECIAL, "YEARLY DEPARTED")

SILVERMAN: Of course, there have been great things about us - purple mountains majesty, Costco, 24-hour dry cleaning, Dolly Parton...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: She's great.

SILVERMAN: ...Gun ranges next to liquor stores.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: That is a thing.

SILVERMAN: And now we've taken off the red hat, and it's our job to climb out from under the rubble and the wreckage of what's left of our country and just make America good.

GONYEA: What were you hoping to say with your eulogy on that topic?

SILVERMAN: Well, my interpretation is kind of fighting against the nationalism - you know, the nationalistic tendencies that certainly brought about this past president and that also scares Jews (laughter) like me, you know? But, you know, it's - I think that it's not about being No. 1 and saying we're the best. It's not teams. It's not sports. It's humanity, and that really it should just be about being good, you know - kindness perhaps over winning. And what is winning, really? I mean, this is - I'm being very not funny on this, by the way, but - in this interview.

GONYEA: (Laughter).

SILVERMAN: I don't know why. But if I were to, you know, write an essay on this and find some deeper meaning, that's the deeper meaning I would glean.

GONYEA: I want to wrap by just asking you to look ahead. Do you have projects in the coming year that you can talk about that you're finally going to be able to get to - you know, things that maybe were put on hold?

SILVERMAN: Well, of course, I'm doing my podcast, "The Sarah Silverman Podcast," which has been, like, kind of giving me life in terms of being a comic who hasn't gone without stand-up for this long since I was 18, you know? It's really - it's hard for everybody, but it's been quite jarring. You know, I don't know how to live this way, so...

GONYEA: What happens to you? Do things just kind of keep building up, and you've got no place to use them? Or what is it?

SILVERMAN: Well, you know what they say about energy. It's not created nor destroyed, you know? So it's like all this energy that I put into stand-up most nights or many nights a week for the past, I don't know, 30 years or something since I was a teenager - to suddenly stop that, it's just there was no place to put it. And I'm just so grateful to have this outlet to just spew and be able to put that energy somewhere. So it's been - yeah, it's - I've been really grateful for it.

GONYEA: We've been talking to Sarah Silverman. She's one of the featured actors and comedians in the new comedy/funeral special for 2020, "Yearly Departed." It's out December 30 on Amazon.

Sarah Silverman, thank you so much.

SILVERMAN: Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: Do have a happy 2021.

SILVERMAN: Yes, to better days.

(SOUNDBITE OF OTTMAR LIEBERT AND LUNA NEGRA'S "LIKE FIRE TO STRAW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.