Bintel Brief: Catie Lazarus Has the Last Laugh

Dear Catie,

Sarah Silverman and Sacha Baron Cohen are two of my favorite comedians. Unfortunately, while I enjoy their comedy, I also feel conflicted, because they both can be quite cruel.

Earlier this month, MTV Video Music Awards host Sarah Silverman showed no mercy toward Britney Spears after the pop star’s embarrassing performance on the broadcast. Silverman said of Britney: “She’s 25 years old and she’s already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life.” And then, as if piling on after an already-humiliating episode weren’t bad enough, Silverman took aim at Britney’s innocent children: “Have you seen Britney’s kids? Oh, my God, they are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see!”

Sacha Baron Cohen can be even worse, as he often targets normal, everyday people. Sure, he sometimes finds deserving targets, such as racists, antisemites and anti-gay bigots. But almost as frequently, his targets are people whose only crime was to show kindness and hospitality to a seemingly clueless Kazakh reporter. I’m thinking of the scene in the “Borat” movie in which Baron Cohen mocks the appearance of a woman who has agreed to participate in a discussion of feminism. Or the time when Borat was welcomed into an unsuspecting home and mocked the hostess’s appearance. These people, of course, wound up as objects of ridicule in a major motion picture.

I confess, I find Silverman and Baron Cohen to be hilarious, even — and sometimes especially — when they’re being mean. They make me laugh. But is laughter the highest value? Does it trump decency, kindness and consideration? Does getting a laugh justify being hurtful toward innocent people? Should I feel guilty for enjoying these two comedians?


Catie Lazarus replies:

Catie Lazarus is a New York-based writer and comedian. She hosts the popular variety show, “Fresh Meat with Catie Lazarus,” and has written for Time Out New York, Gawker, the New York Post and the Forward.

Send a letter to the Bintel Brief at To read other installments of the Bintel Brief, click here.

Recommend this article

Bintel Brief: Catie Lazarus Has the Last Laugh

Thank you!

This article has been sent!