1 stand by the jokes I’ve said. But I'd take back the thing about Britney's kids, only because I feel it overshadowed a good set.’
SARAH SILVERMAN TALKS TO KATE FILLION ABOUT MTV GIGS, ANTIDEPRESSANTS, AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RACIST AND FUNNY
Q: We're doing this by email, which is a first for me. Do you prefer email interviews?
A: I do, because I can think for a second. I can craft a sentence. I still power through them and pull stuff out of my ass—but I have a chance to really think, should I want or need to. Plus I like to do these interviews naked.
Q: In your stand-up act, you’ve joked about 9/n, rape, the Holocaust, and just about every bodily function. Is there anything you wouldn’t joke about?
A: As long as it’s funnier than it is upsetting—in my opinion, anyway—then, no.
Q: Is Canada funny?
Q: A few weeks ago when you hosted the MTV Video Music Awards, you called Britney Spears’ kids “adorable mistakes.” Why do you think you’ve taken heat for that remark and not for, say, your joke about her genitals?
A: I have no idea. I can’t believe the jokes that didn’t cause a stir—and that that joke was the one that was such a big deal. To me that was just a lead-in to the vagina joke, which is just a silly vagina joke. It’s typical: make the Jew the scapegoat. Why don’t they blame me for rain while they’re at it.
Q: A few months ago, you were criticized for making a similarly off-colour joke about Paris Hilton at another awards ceremony. But Britney and Paris are both widely viewed as ridiculous. Why do you think your jokes
make people feel protective of them?
A: I don’t know. I don’t typically make fun of specific people. I make fun of “a people”— and ultimately myself. The only time I make fun of specific people is on roasts, where you’re skewering people you know and love. This is a different animal, these MTV gigs. I embraced it, but it’s not my comfort zone. (Don’t get me wrong, I was great...) I’m the silly jester, and if Britney had killed like she was supposed to, I would have been. I didn’t say anything harder than what any late-night talk show host would subsequently say. I just said it first. Same for Paris. She can take a joke. What I said wasn’t what upset her; it was the full minute of cheering by the audience when I set up the joke with the fact that she was going to jail [later that evening]. That was the bummer, the sheer joy the audience showed when I said she was about to go to prison.
Q: You once said, “It’s stupid to defend your comedy,” but you’re called on to do it quite frequently. If you could take back one joke you’ve made, what would it be?
A: I stand by the jokes I’ve said. But I’d probably take back the thing about Britney’s kids being “adorable mistakes,” only because I feel it overshadowed a really good set.
Q: Do you ever find people are a fraid of you? I mean, afraid you’ll make a joke about them?
A: Yeah! It’s so weird, because I only wish to be funny and don’t mean to scare anybody. P. Diddy came up to me at the VMAs and was like, “I saw you look at me and I
was so scared!” I couldn’t believe it.
Q: The character you play on The Sarah Silverman Program is arrogant, ignorant, and politically incorrect, to put it mildly. When people don’t get the joke, and think you are actually racist, does it bother you?
A: It doesn’t bother me. I would rather have someone upset at thinking I’m racist than thinking I’m really racist and not being upset.
Q: So much of your humour is about stirprise, saying the unsayable or unpredictable thing. Do you ever worry about running out of surprises?
A: Sure. I try not to think that way, though. I never consciously decided to be the way I am or do the material I do—it’s not a game plan—so I figure if I grow and change and continue to do stuff that makes me giggle, I should be good.
Q: Isn’t there a limit to the number of jokes you can tell about vaginas, farts and testicles?
A: You would think!
Q: You’ve said your dad taughtyou to swear when you were two or three years old, and you swear a lot when you do stand-up. Do you ever censor yourself ?
A: I actually do not swear much at all when I do stand-up. That is a misconception generated and perpetuated by articles with titles calling me a “potty mouth,” which is very not clever. I may speak clinically, but there are very few “f-ks” and swears, nothing gratuitous unless the joke is its gratuitousness. Is that a word?
Q: You’ve been dating talk show hostJimmy Kimmelfor a long time. What do his kids think when you tell jokes about his private parts?
A: They are fairly jaded by now, despite Jimmy’s best attempts at shielding them from the adult world. They are 14 and 16, so they are more savvy than us. They are my demographic, I need to bounce stuff off them—not stand-up wise, but Sarah Silverman Programwise, for sure!
Q: Do they see you as the coolest almost-stepmom in the world, or totally embarrassing?
A: I can’t say, but I think they like me. At the very least they have the manners to pretend they do! They are very cool kids.
Q: Do you care what people think of you? A: I wish I could say no, but I’d be lying. Q: Do bad reviews get to you?
A: I’m super-sensitive. I mean, some criticism tickles me. But when it’s criticism I agree with deep down, it’s tough. I’ll always have things about my show that I’ll look at and think, “I should have done this or I should have done that,” and should a critic hit the nail on that head—that’s when it cuts deep.
Q: How do you cope in such a public profession, where some amount of criticism is inevitable?
A: I don’t look. Or if I do, I just try to get a little perspective: I’ve worked hard and have it good. I have people around me that I adore, a great family, and I get to make this thing, this show that I like and that makes me laugh. And making the show, each part of it, is both satisfying and really fun. I like to laugh and I get to do that a lot.
Q: Whose praise means the most to you?
A: Jimmy’s and my mother’s. Because they both are brutally honest, and compliments from them are very real.
Q: You’ve talked openly about wetting your bed well into your teens, and being “the dark, hairy one” in a WASPy town in New Hattipshire. Do you know any comedians who had a happy childhood?
A Jimmy actually did. He has the fondest memories of childhood and his best friends are the people he grew up with since he was nine. It’s charming and disarming. And it rhymes.
Q: I read somewhere that you started taking antidepressants when you were a teen and have never stopped. How do you knowyou still need them?
A: I take a very low dose, but I need that dose. All it does is strengthen the bridge of serotonin to the brain; my brain doesn’t generate enough serotonin on its own to reach the part of my brain it needs to. This medication just reinforces that bridge. It saved my life. I don’t think it’s for everyone,
and I do think that antidepressants are overly and too-easily prescribed, but it’s right for me. If someone has diabetes and needs insulin, you don’t question that or wonder why they don’t stop taking their insulin in time, right?
Q: You’ve been working for years doing standup, TV and movies. Why did it take so long to hit it big?
A: That’s the way to do it, I think. It’s been this long steady road and I hope it never stops. I’ve been having fun the whole time. I’ve always been best in the periphery.
Q: This year you were on the cover of Maxim’s 100 hottest women issue, Rolling Stone called you “the funniest woman in America,” and The Sarah Silverman Program is one of the highest rated shows on Comedy Central. Do you ever worry that you’ve gone mainstream?
A: No. That’s very low down on my list of things to worry about!
Q: Do you find mainstream sitcoms funny?
A: Some. Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld, Arrested Development—was that mainstream? Most TV I watch is the one-hour dramas—24, Lost, Heroes, Dexter, Law and Order SVU— and reality: America’s Next Top Model, Top Chef, Project Runway. I’m not proud, but it’s the truth.
Q: Why are you so often cast as the bitchy friend in movies?
A: Because I’m funny and because I’m Jewish and because I’ve done it before so uncreative people can picture it. But I’m done. I’d rather work the road for the rest of my life than play the friend in charge of the exposition of the main girl, filling in the audience on stuff about her that the lazy writer couldn’t figure out how to convey artfully.
Q: Do you think you’ll ever be given parts that aren’t in some way an extension of your comic persona?
A: Yes, I think so. I might as well think so, anyway. I want to do things that don’t meet the audience’s expectations of me, though I’m not ashamed to bring parts of me into anything I play. I don’t think that limits someone. Jack Nicholson is unquestionably Jack Nicholson in every movie he’s in, though he is believably and brilliantly convincing as each different character he is playing. Does that make sense?
Q: To me, anyway. What kinds of parts would you want to play?
A: I’d be interested in playing someone who is layered, who has good and bad parts, who has contradictions, who is earnest but human. I don’t know. When did I get so unfunny?
Q: Is there a part in a recent movie that you wish you'd been given?
A: This is stupid but I always wanted to
play Lois Lane. Dumb, I know.
Q: Your second season of The Sarah Silverman Program starts this week. Is it true that Angelina Jolie is going to put in an appearance?
A: No, not necessarily. I suppose there’s a chance, if she wants to.
Q: How did that come about?
A: We all met her on the lot one day and she intimated that she’d be open to it. But I don’t want to go around saying that she will, because who knows? She could be saving an African country while we’re shooting, and that should probably take priority.
Q: Funny or not: Ellen DeGeneres?
Q: Kathy Griffin?
1 All fundamentalists from any group or religion scare me. And nationalism scares Jews by nature.1
Q: George Bush?
Q: Who scares you more: the President of Iran, or the President of the United States?
A: They both do. All fundamentalists from any group or religion scare me. And any nationalism scares Jews by nature.
Q: Are you an observant jew?
A: Nope. I have no religion. I’m only Jewish ethnically. Culturally.
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