Silverman remembered sending Hilton a note of apology a couple of days after it happened, but she never heard back. She wouldn’t expect to, she said, but it bothered her that Hilton didn’t seem to know she had reached out.
“I regretted the jokes not years later, but kind of immediately,” Silverman said Thursday on The Sarah Silverman Podcast. “And I wrote her to let her know, but I now know that 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 can’t imagine what you were going through at that time. 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, you know, is not evergreen.”
The zingers were about the fact that Hilton, one of the biggest celebrities around in that era, was about to serve jail time for an alcohol-related driving offense. What Silverman didn’t know when she planned her monologue is that Hilton would be in the audience.
“I didn’t know also that she would be going directly from the event to jail that night. I said some very hardcore jokes about her, and she was there,” Silverman said, recalling the crowd loved them. “And while I was, you know, 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. Because there was a person under there.”
Silverman brought up the incident after Hilton called her out on her own podcast, This Is Paris, on Monday.
“I was so shocked and surprised because I had actually met her a few years before at an event and she was sweet,” Hilton said.
The DJ recalled putting on a brave face, but said Silverman’s jabs at her were “so mean, so cruel.”
“I was sitting there, wanting to die, I was holding back tears, I had tears in my eyes,” Hilton said. “I literally wanted to run out of the entire room. The whole audience was laughing and she would not stop.”
Silverman agreed with Hilton’s assessment that her jokes would be different in 2021.
“You know, as she said herself on the podcast, this would never happen today, and she’s right. I would never do those jokes today,” Silverman said. “I’ve actually dedicated the past several years to trying to do comedy that attempts to marry hard-hitting jokes with, you know, actual heart. Back then, the consensus seemed to be that that was not possible. And I fully accepted that. I came up in a time when talk show hosts and comedians hired to make fun of pop culture were roasting the biggest celebrities and pop culture icons at the time. And nobody was bigger than Paris Hilton.”
In response, Hilton said in a podcast update that she was “shocked” and “pleasantly surprised” by Silverman’s comments: “I could tell that she really did mean what she said when she said that she was apologizing.
“Thank you. I really, really appreciate you doing that,” Hilton said. “I know it’s difficult for anyone, you know, to apologize, and for someone to do that really means a lot.”
She said she was glad Silverman’s comedy had grown, and that the comedian realized the effect of her words. Hilton “got a little teary-eyed” when Silverman talked about seeing the look on the reality star’s face.
“We’ve all said things in our past that, you know, we felt bad about, we later regretted,” Hilton said. “And, just, I don’t know, I think everyone is guilty of doing that.”
She said she never received Silverman’s letter, but she would’ve loved to read it, because that night has “haunted” her.
“Apologies are never late, so it’s OK,” Hilton said. “But, yeah, I do wish that whoever you gave it to did give it to me, because that would’ve just, I don’t know, meant a lot back then, especially back then when I was going through so much.”
Just last month, Silverman apologized to Britney Spears for jokes she made the same night as the ones about Hilton.
Silverman said she is glad to be part of an awakened world.
“It’s how we grow. It’s how we change,” she said. I’m super down with reflecting on the past and my part in perpetuating real ugly s***.”
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