Combustible Celluloid

Interview with Sarah Silverman

I Can Be a Spaz

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Sarah Silverman, 34, has brought sex appeal to stand-up comedy. A bright-eyed, freckled, toothy beauty, she disarms audiences before she wallops them with her razor timing and booby-trapped jokes. Her new concert/performance movie, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, is a quotable compendium of brilliantly offensive remarks that has many critics comparing her to Lenny Bruce. Silverman recently answered a list of questions via e-mail.

Q: Is it easy for you to blow off your detractors, or do you have a thin skin?

SS: It depends. Strangers don't bother me, but I can have a thin skin, yeah. Wafer thin.

Q: There's kind of a "punk" sensibility to your humor. Is there anything that's taboo to you, anything you deliberately leave out because you don't want the hassle?

SS: No. As long as it's funny enough -- more funny than it is upsetting or sad.

Q: What were some of your earliest comedy gigs like? How did your career come to shape itself?

SS: Same as all comics: tough, hellish road gigs, lots of bombing, finding yourself on stage, trying things out, and honing.

Q: I especially liked you in Greg the Bunny, and you were very funny in Rent. After performing your own material, how easy or difficult is it to get behind a "clean" role in a TV show or a movie that wasn't necessarily written for you?

SS: I don't really think of myself as dirty, though I do understand that other people do and that's fine, they're probably right. We never perceive ourselves accurately, I guess. Anyway, if I like the material it's fun to do. I try not to do roles that I don't like, you know?

Q: Are you able to relax around friends and family, or are you performing all the time?

SS: I relax. But I also can be a spaz. Depends on who I'm with. When comics get together (and most of my friends are comics) you just want to make each other laugh.

Q: There's a certain kind of relief in hearing someone talk so frankly about racial and cultural taboos. It deflates topics that have been built up too much. Can you talk a little about this phenomenon? How did you come to adopt this in your act?

SS: It's just the stuff that interests me. The stuff that seems unsaid in the normal world. And maybe it should be, who knows?

Movies Sarah Loves:

  1. Rushmore (1998, Wes Anderson)
  2. Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson)
  3. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Woody Allen)
  4. Where's Poppa? (1970, Carl Reiner)
  5. The One and Only (1978, Carl Reiner)
  6. Boogie Nights (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson)
  7. The King of Comedy (1983, Martin Scorsese)
  8. Ordinary People (1980, Robert Redford)
  9. The Women (1939, George Cukor)
  10. Broadway Danny Rose (1984, Woody Allen)
  11. Man Bites Dog (1993, Remy Belvaux)
  12. Love and Death (1975, Woody Allen)
  13. I Heart Huckabees (2004, David O. Russell)

November 20, 2005

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