The Scene’s Jack Silverman interviews comedian Sarah Silverman in anticipation of her upcoming set at the Schermerhorn
by Jack Silverman for The Nashville Scene
Published 18 April 2013
Whether it’s rape, the Holocaust, Jesus, race, vaginas, penises or anuses (ani?), comedian Sarah Silverman has yet to meet a sensitive topic she didn’t like — which only makes the announcement on the Schermerhorn Symphony Center website that Silverman’s April 23 performance will be “presented without orchestra” all the more disappointing. Poop jokes with a string section? We’d have killed to see that. Maybe they can at least set up the timpani section for the anal-sex routine. Regardless, it’s a can’t-miss show for comedy fans.
In a recent email interview with the Scene, Silverman discussed Tennessee politics, Holocaust jokes, the hubbub over her TED talk about wanting to adopt a mentally challenged child, and the comedy website JASH:
I’m a Silverman too. Did you ever have an Aunt Myrtle or Uncle Bob in Cleveland, Ohio? If so, I might have to bag this interview to avoid appearance of conflict of interest. Nope, no relation. We are safe to procreate!
Is it harder to be funny in email? Not at ALL – see: Oh …
You did some great pro-Obama videos. What do you think of his performance so far? I’m enjoying some blind faith. He isn’t perfect, but I believe in him. And I believe he is ultimately good. I don’t understand signing a bill that helps GMOs, and I can’t imagine our first lady was cool with that, but there are so many shitty loopholes grandfathered into bills and stuff that I’m sure it’s hard to do the right thing all the time. Right? Fuck, I don’t know.
Is it tougher doing crude humor as a woman? Is there a crude-humor double standard? Firstly, I don’t know the answer to that because I’ve only ever been a woman. That said, I think it’s natural that women are the cruder, more graphic comics right now because women are going through some real-life shit right now and comedy naturally reflects that. So when society tells us our body parts are gross or that we shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions regarding our very own bodies, that shit — that anger is gonna be reflected in comedy. It makes perfect sense to me.
I’m Jewish too. Our people can be a bit sensitive about Jewish jokes. Have you gotten much flack from Jewish organizations? No, on the contrary. It seems there is almost nothing I can do to escape the fact that I am “good for the Jews.” I did a Holocaust joke to a group of elderly Jews at the Friars Club, and they laughed, and Freddy Roman turned to me and said, “I love that you do a Holocaust joke to a room of old Jews.” And I said, “If I can’t do that stuff here, then I shouldn’t be doing it anywhere else.” And he agreed. You can’t laugh when I joke about Scientologists and Catholics, etc., and then get a pole up your ass when it’s your turn. That’s straight sociopathic, I think.
We just had a TEDx conference here a couple weeks ago. Surprisingly, you weren’t there! Has Chris Anderson ever apologized or invited you back after your 2010 speech? No, but after I talked about it on [Real Time With] Bill Maher, he called my manager and said, “Can we call a truce?” Poor guy didn’t know it’s just never a good idea to fuck with a comic. You’ll get decimated. Poor thing just didn’t know better. I mean, man, I asked him like three times if he was sure he wanted me when I was invited. I LOVE TED — and was so honored. So for him to tweet that he thought I was awful after was such a shitty thing to do. It’s very Anti-TED in my opinion. But I still love TED, just not the barnacle of a curator who detaches the second rich people scoff or he thinks your shit may stink. But that’s OK.
Have you played Nashville before? NO! And I can’t wait! The thing that sucks is I’m there for such a short time. This damn tour is so tight! I want to spend TIME there. I am a HUGE fan of folk-country (Patty Griffin, Mary Gauthier, Nancy Griffith, Gillian Welch, etc.).
Are you aware of Tennessee’s great political legacy? I’m going to name a couple of memorable political initiatives by Tennessee state legislators in recent years. Feel free to comment on any of the following:
• We had a state senator attempt to ban Sharia law because he was afraid it was going to take over. Fear-based legislature is so reasonable … Jesus. Why does this country totally ignore freedom of religion? What part of freedom of religion has you swear on the Christian Bible to tell the truth? Ooh, that’s an interesting topic …
• We passed a law here making it legal to take guns into bars — and one of the bill’s lead sponsors was arrested for driving drunk with a loaded weapon in his car. What is there left to say. The joke is already there. Jesus …
• There was a “Don’t Say Gay” bill proposed in our state legislature that would have forbidden teachers to discuss homosexuality in the schools. I hate people. Fucking fear. Pussies are the dangerous people. Nobody brave tries to take rights away from people. Ooh, that’s good. Imma tweet that. If you’re left-handed and you talk about how some people are left-handed it ain’t gonna turn your kid left-handed, dummies.
• A state senator is currently trying to pass a law that would essentially reduce a family’s welfare benefits if a child performs poorly in school. This is why we need smart people in political office. There aren’t any — or very few — because by virtue of being smart you don’t have the desire to rule over people. But we need you, smart people.
Have you ever thought of a joke so politically incorrect that you were afraid to tell it? If the answer is yes, tell us now. No, I tell it. I at least try it. I have one I’m doing lately. But I’m gonna save it for the show…
Some people think that some of your edgier material is all about shock value. But it seems that you are trying to make a greater point about the futility of political correctness. Is that the case? I would like to say “yes” but it really isn’t for me to say. That’s what makes it (dare I say) art. It’s subjective.
What do you think of Aubrey Plaza’s impersonation of you? It’s cute. Can’t really deny any of it. I think of me as more than just “vagina vagina vagina” — but not too much more. It’s good. It’s hard to have perspective because it’s me. But there are a few girlies out there who have got the nasal, sporty, vagina-y thing down. Can’t really argue.
It’s really strange. The first time I saw you perform, I thought, “I’ll bet that’s what prostitutes back in the Wild West were like.” And then I just read that you might actually play a prostitute in Seth McFarlane’s comedy Western, A Million Ways to Die in the West. Any truth to that? HA! — Yep, I start in May. Can’t wait.
What else are you working on right now? Making videos for JASH, which is just pure fun. It’s a great chance to be experimental and risk total failure without any networky second-guessing: What will a 14-year-old boy find funny?” That’s such a comedy killer on networks. Doing the movie most of the summer. Shooting the special early May … but now I’m just thinking TOUR! Nashville!