Susan Sarandon, Sarah Silverman Ignite DNC Celebrity Bern

Star power proves an unpredictable force for both the Democrats and Republicans.

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There's no doubt the Democrats trounced the Republicans in one contest: the Day One convention celebrity lineup. Scott Baio, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson proved no match for the wattage of Demi Lovato, Eva Longoria, Paul Simon and Sarah Silverman.

What's less clear is whether controversy sparked by some of the entertainment-world guests did their respective parties more harm than good.

Donald Trump supporter Baio got called out during an interview with MSNBC for retweeting a vile post slurring Hillary Clinton. Former underwear model Sabato absurdly insisted in an interview with ABC that – despite all evidence to the contrary – his fellow Christian President Obama is a Muslim.

On Monday night, Democratic schisms played out, in part, through the stars. While Simon's poignant croak of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" sought to heal, comments fired from the convention stage by Sarah Silverman and eye-daggers shot from the crowd by Susan Sarandon threatened to irritate an open wound.

While the duo couldn't overshadow the night's biggest star – First Lady Michelle Obama – the attention Silverman and Sarandon grabbed underscored not only the growing role of celebrities in high-stakes political races, but the unpredictability they bring.

The GOP learned as much in 2012, via Clint Eastwood's bizarre improvised comedy act with an empty chair.

Silverman, a Bernie Sanders fan who is now supporting Clinton, offered a far funnier (including a racy crack about getting a cream for her “Bern”) and nuanced performance. She extolled Sanders and made a case for Clinton, without slamming Trump – normally an easy target for a caustic, left-leaning comedian.

Still, her comic instincts kicked in amid booing by from Sanders diehards, prompting her to react as if she were putting hecklers in their place. "To the Bernie-or-bust people: You're being ridiculous," she said with comedian-turned-senator Al Franken at her side.

While her words likely rang true to many Democrats, they starkly highlighted a lack of the kind of unity party leaders had hoped to project on a night when even pleas on Clinton's behalf from Sanders and his fellow liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren couldn't ground the boo-birds.

Sarandon, meanwhile, gave voice to the split without uttering a syllable. The Sanders supporter, who told TYT Politics last month that Clinton “in a way” is “more dangerous” than Trump, became an Internet meme after journalist Ian McKenna tweeted a gif of her looking miserable in the Philadelphia arena.  

“Susan Sarandon is having literally the worst time at the #DemConvention,” McKenna noted. Sarandon retweeted the observation, and added: "Accurate."

Her short, if not sweet, tweet likely won't be the final word from a celebrity during a divisive president election cycle in which both parties got humbling reminders that reaching out to the stars brings a risk of feeling the burn.

Jere Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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