|AARDVARK: What do you think of The Realist? Mort Sahl said, ďIt prints
more truth per square inch than any other publication in America today.Ē
SILVERSTEIN: The square inch thing doesnít impress me too much. Iím sure Hefner gets more tail per square inch than other guys do. I think that The Realist is making a real contribution, and so is Paul. Heís a very dedicated guy. I think that he will go over the boundary of what he thinks is using freedom to express something. He will go over the line as if to say, ďLook, Ma, I can say fuck. Look at me, I said it.Ē Heís like a kid in a candy shop. Iím not putting him down for having the candy, but it doesnít mean that Iíve got to like to see a kid wallowing around in melted Hershey bars.
AARDVARK: They are trying to push a bill through the Illinois legislature that would limit the sale of allegedly obscene material to people over eighteen. Are you in favor of this or against it?
SILVERSTEIN: Iím not in favor of stopping anybody from buying any kind of literature at all.
AARDVARK: Do you think that there is any harm in letting, say, a fourteen year old read material that the state thinks is objectionable?
SILVERSTEIN: I think a certain control should be exercised by the parents, who are the only ones who know the mental capacity and limitations and emotional stability of their child. I think that the parents are the only ones who would be qualified, by law, to judge what their child could or could not read.
AARDVARK: When you were on one of the TV discussion shows in Chicago, you were one of the only two people to speak out against the bookburners. It seemed that you didnít have a chance to say everything that you wanted to.
SILVERSTEIN: No, I said exactly what I wanted to. Thereís a great myth about cartoonists, writers and people that are on TV. People are always giving you credit for really wanting to say more than you said. People say, ďBoy, when you were on TV, I bet you really could have said a lot if theyíd have let you,Ē or ďGee, Iíd like to see the cartoons that the magazine doesnít print.Ē This is bullshit. What youíve got to say, you say. Itís always a nice feeling, having people think that you feel things much deeper than youíre allowed to say, but this isnít true. If you want to find out what a writer or a cartoonist really feels, look at his work. Thatís enough. My closest friend, Jean Shepherd, in New York, his medium is talk. Mine is writing and drawing. So, when I talk, what it amounts to is that Iím explaining my work, and I donít believe a man should explain what he does. I believe he should do it and not explain it. Never explain what you do. It speaks for itself. You only muddle it by talking about it.
AARDVARK: Do you think you can explain the philosophy behind it?
SILVERSTEIN: No, you should never explain the philosophy behind anything either. The philosophy behind it isnít important. The question is, if your work is weak and lacking so that it needs explanation, it isnít enough, it isnít clear enough. Make it so good and so clear that it doesnít need any further explanation. After all, you canít run after every person that buys your book and say, ďNow come over and have some coffee and Iíll tell you what I really tried to say in this book,Ē or ďYou donít know what I tried to do in that movie. See, what I was really trying to do, you donít know what I did.Ē They know what you did. They know what you said. You canít run around with every book or every record and explain it to them.
AARDVARK: What do you think about Hefner finally explaining the philosophy behind Playboy?
SILVERSTEIN: I myself do not believe in explaining anything. By the same token, I believe that Hef has a right to explain anything he wants to, because itís his magazine. He owns it. He can say what he wants to. I donít believe in explaining things, but if he wants to explain, let him go ahead. I will not do a Silverstein philosophy.
AARDVARK: What do you think of criticisms that Playboy perpetuates a hollow, false, materialistic image?
SILVERSTEIN: If Playboy does perpetuate a hollow, false, materialistic image, a publisher has the right to be as hollow and as materialistic as he wants to be. Thereís no rule that says that the image that anyone portrays has got to be what you or I think it should be. You wouldnít call an auto magazine greasy or grimy. I donít think Playboy does this, but supposing they do, itís their business.
AARDVARK: Do you believe in complete freedom of expression?
SILVERSTEIN: Yes, complete.
AARDVARK: What about things that are considered taboo even by people who donít have many taboos? Things like physical disabilities. Can you laugh at physical disability?
SILVERSTEIN: I can. I think we all can, but we donít do it around somebody thatís got one leg, at the risk of hurting them, of making them feel a subject of ridicule.
AARDVARK: Can you draw a cartoon and joke about physical disabilities?
SILVERSTEIN: Can I? Sure. I generally donít, but I can. Sure, I would. Iíd do a joke about a blind man if I thought it was really funny. Blind people joke about being blind.
AARDVARK: Are you familiar with the humor of other countries?
AARDVARK: What would you say is the major difference between British and American humor?
SILVERSTEIN: As far as graphic humor goes, I think the British are where we were ten or fifteen years ago. Theyíre dealing with strictly stock, situation-type humor, whereas weíve gone into a more personal, realistic sort of subject matter. Theyíre still concerned with conversations over the breakfast table and women drivers banging up the automobile and things like that. Situation comedy.
AARDVARK: Do you think theyíre more politically conscious over there?
SILVERSTEIN: A little bit, yes.
AARDVARK: What about comedy on the stage?
SILVERSTEIN: I donít know of any English comics. I know that as far as the humor in their songs goes, we donít have it here. We donít have much at all, whereas, from their music halls, they have a good, strong heritage of light and humorous whimsical song. This is something very subtle and very, very good. Also, their humor on the screen is far beyond ours. We donít have it. Britain has a great heritage of humorous actors. The comedy actor has a great place in Britain. We never developed any stage comedians. As a result, when it comes down to filming, the only thing we can do is put a nightclub comedian into a movie, so our greatest comedians, like Jack Benny, when he gets into a movie, is actually nowhere, because heís a club or radio comedian who is suddenly being seen on the screen. George Burns, one of our greatest comedians, and Fred Allen couldnít do it. And Henry Morgan was in a couple of movies. It comes to putting people like that into movies. I donít think Mort Sahl could cut it as a comic actor. These people could all make it as serious actors, I donít know, but theyíre not trained to play comedy. I think Alistair Sim is the greatest comic actor alive. The man is a genius. Terry-Thomas is absolutely fabulous, and Guiness, although heís tending to do more serious roles now, is a master of this situation-type comedy, this desperate, hopeless, bewildered, wonderful comedy. We canít touch that with a thousand-foot pole.
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