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Sarah Silverman complains that Hollywood has a 'Jewface' problem

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Comedian and actress Sarah Silverman said recently that she'd like to see more Jewish entertainers play Jewish characters and noted that Hollywood has a problem with "Jewface" — a practice she defines as non-Jewish characters portraying Jewish parts.

Silverman, 50 years old, also added that the problem of "Jewface" is especially damaging toward Jewish women.

What are the details?

According to a Monday report from Page Six, the comedian said that "importance of representation" is "so essential" right now.

"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," Silverman said during a Thursday broadcast of her Apple podcast, "The Sarah Silverman Podcast."

Actress and comedian Kathryn Hahn, she said, is a recent perfect example. Hahn, 48, has been tapped to portray late broadcasting icon Joan Rivers, who was Jewish. Silverman complained that Hahn was raised Catholic.

"One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called 'Jewface,'" Silverman added.

"It's defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection," she continued. "And 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?"

The "Wreck-It Ralph" actress added that the tropes that "Jews run Hollywood" — or that Jews are notoriously rich and powerful — are anti-Semitic, which in turn "renders people very righteously unsympathetic toward Jews."

"I wish they would realize that that is by design," she ominously added.

What else?

Other historical examples of "Jewface," she added, included actress Felicity Jones' portrayal of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2018 blockbuster "On the Basis of Sex", Rachel Brosnahan's portrayal of fictional TV character Miriam Maisel in Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," and more.

The very idea, she added, is "f***ed up."

"Right now, representation f***ing matters," the comedian demanded. "It has to also finally matter for Jews as well. Especially Jewish women."

A preview for the podcast states, "Off of news of Kathryn Hahn being cast to play Joan Rivers in a limited series, Sarah elaborates on the lack of Jewish actors portraying Jews in art. She discusses the prevalence of 'Jewface' and how Jews don't count in the push for representation in Hollywood."

You can listen to Silverman's remarks in the podcast below.

Content warning: rough language

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