Sarah Silverman: The Kong of Comedy
It’s a jungle out there, but comedy’s funniest bombshell has finally made it to the top of the Hollywood spire with The Sarah Silverman Program.
Did you take it personally when Jerry Lewis said female comics aren’t funny?
It’s pathetic that anyone would make a big deal out of that. The guy is a thousand years old.
But do you have to act like one of the guys to fit into the comedy world?
The boys’ club is only something I’m aware of when I’m asked about it. In the beginning, you have to prove you’re for real—like anybody else. Nobody assumes you’re funny. I played a lot of basketball in N.Y.C., and I felt the boys’ club more then. I knew I had to make every basket and not screw up. I’m so queer.
Are you trying to offend as many people as possible on The Sarah Silverman Program?
The misconception is that I’m making fun of people, while it’s my character who’s clearly the ignoramus. You can call Archie Bunker a racist, but you wouldn’t call All in the Family racist. Not that I’m comparing my show to All in the Family—my show is much better. Did you see the episode where I crap my pants? Very cerebral. My point is, if you don’t look at the show as a whole, you may get offended. But that’s true for everything. In so many ways—politically, socially—we sell ourselves short by not looking at the whole picture. If you look too closely at the TV, all you see are dots.
How do you distinguish between a joke about racism and a joke that’s racist?
By not being retarded?
Is a Jew incapable of being anti–Semitic?
Please. No one hates Jews more than Jews.
Do you really think rape is funny? It’s only funny to me because it’s fucking awful.
Did your parents encourage your comedy?
Definitely. My family gave me big laughs. As soon as I could talk, my dad taught me a bunch of dirty words. I saw at an early age that I could get positive attention when I said things that were dirty or unexpected.
Is that why you opt for offensive humor?
I’m going for the laugh, wherever it comes from. Beyond that I’m not calculating. I’m not trying to offend people—I’m trying to surprise them. I can watch perfectly written jokes all day and go, “That’s funny.” But it’s the stuff that makes me giggle that I like best.
When do you know you’ve gone too far?
I use a combination of my own opinion and what I think will get a laugh. By the way, I keep picturing these serious answers juxtaposed with slutty pictures of me…
They’re not slutty—they’re awesome! So has Comedy Central ever censored your show?
In the AIDS episode, the doctor says, “You do have…no AIDS!” And after that he was going to say to the other guy, “You do have…AIDS!” Comedy Central said, “You can’t have someone get AIDS in a joke.” As much as I loved how the cadences matched but had severely different outcomes, I couldn’t argue with that one.
Did your sense of humor develop as a defense mechanism during childhood?
I grew up in blonde, L.L. Bean New Hampshire. I was dark and hairy, and the kids called me Ape Arms. I was also a bedwetter into my teens, so there was a lot of humiliation. When I was 13 to 16, I went through a dark depression. But I wouldn’t trade the pain of my childhood, because it’s made me who I am—not just to be funny but to be compassionate. I don’t think I could take the pain of watching a child go through that. I can say pretty confidently I won’t be having kids of my own. Maybe I’ll adopt when I get sick of this freedom.
Why were you so depressed?
I remember the day it started. I was coming home from a camping trip—torture because of the bedwetting—and my mother was there to pick me up. As I walked toward her, a cloud inside me covered the sun. When I tried to explain it, I said, “It feels like homesickness even though I’m home.” I also remember the moment the cloud lifted. I was a sophomore, and all of a sudden the sun in my brain or heart came out again, as suddenly as it disappeared three years earlier. Weird.
Did you rebel as a teenager?
There was nothing to rebel against. I was never punished and always did my homework. I was a good girl; I wanted to be liked. Still do to a pathetic degree.
Anything in your personal life that’s off–limits?
I tend to hide the real stuff inside absurd circumstances or pull lies out of my ass. I try not to air my parents’ dirty laundry. The last thing I’d want to do is hurt them. Maybe not the last thing, but it’s in the bottom eight.
Anyone who could use a little making fun of?
Any advice for the young girls in Hollywood?
Have you ever entertained the troops in Iraq?
No, because I’m a huge .
Besides our questions, what pisses you off?
I get a serious visceral reaction to snapping gum. It causes full–blown panic.
When it’s all said and done, how much of your stage persona is the real Sarah Silverman? In real life I’m Catholic. And Mexican. Other than that, what you see is what you get.
Who are your favorite comedians today?
Paul F. Tompkins, Todd Glass, Tig Notaro, and my balls.
Check out her Maxim photo gallery!