Here’s the phone-interview based article from the Montreal Gazette in advance of Sarah’s July 27 Canada appearances at Just for Laughs.
MONTREAL — This explains everything: Sarah Silverman was born and raised in Manchester, N.H.
Remember that classic scene from Annie Hall, wherein Woody Allen, while fantasizing, pops up in Hasidic attire, because that’s how he believes Diane Keaton’s blueblood Wisconsin family perceives him? Well, Silverman claims she also felt that she stood out in the predominantly gentile community of Manchester.
“That’s exactly right,” Silverman, 42, says in a phone interview. “I am not a good representation of a person from New Hampshire. Growing up there, people would ask me if I was from New York. And I would say: ‘What’s New York? I’m from here.’ They didn’t believe her.
“But then when I turned 18, I moved to New York. Then I went: ‘Ohhh, that’s a totally different kind of Jew there.’ I didn’t know other Jews till I moved there.”
But her Manchester upbringing probably accounts for that sweet-looking girl-next-door demeanour, which is, of course, deceptive. Totally disarming, for beneath that benign smile lurks one of the more mischievous minds around, and one of the funniest, too. It’s that contrast of wholesome image and irreverent patter that works so effectively for Silverman.
“Yeah, I’m really just a farm girl at heart,” she not-so-innocently coos.
Silverman will be bringing her act to Montreal on July 27 when she hosts two Just for Laughs galas at Place des Arts. It has been a long time coming for her fans here. She had previously done the fest’s New Faces series many years ago, before becoming one of the hottest comedy stars on the planet.
Patrons can expect Silverman to take dead aim at American values and to fire a volley of shots at institutions and people she views as hypocritical. She is particularly unimpressed with much of her country’s negative stance on gay marriage.
“We really do live in a very backward country. We’re going back in time, to the ’50s. We’re living under a very fear-based, power-managed administration.”
But she doesn’t regret orchestrating The Great Schlep in 2008 and The Great Schlep: Part 2 in 2012 to help get Barack Obama into the White House. Her mission was to conscript young Jews in the north to visit their grandparents in Florida and to have them vote for Obama. As political campaigns went, this one was highly unorthodox and, not surprisingly, highly amusing: “If you knew that visiting your grandparents could change the world, would you do it? Of course, you would. You’d have to be a douche nozzle not to … Jews and blacks have a lot in common: track suits and Cadillacs … And Barack Obama’s brisket is beyond …”
And sure enough, Obama was elected both times. Coincidence? Most probably.
“I still believe in Obama. And he has had to deal with a whole group of people trying to sabotage his every move. The situation is terrifying. There are politicians placating him, so they must have some kind of power. We have a country that’s literally addicted to money, where corporations are considered people.”
On the bright side, the situation has given her and others abundant comedy.
“It’s true, but the fact is that I dearly love America.”
That may not be completely obvious to those who have caught her edgy and much-acclaimed concert film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, or her TV series, The Sarah Silverman Program. And who can forget Silverman’s raunch, and fabricated, recollections as a child sex-performer in the X-rated The Aristocrats?
In spite of or because of her projected innocent manner, Silverman is, without doubt, one of the most outrageous wits around.
While many of those performing at this year’s Just for Laughs fest — Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Hannibal Buress — credit their stints on Saturday Night Live for enhancing their comedy careers, Silverman’s experience on the show was anything but memorable. She lasted only a year as a writer on SNL. She penned numerous sketches, but only one ever made it to air. Then she was canned.
“That was during a period when I had to ask myself if I was really in show business. Then I would think that I might not be in show business any more. But, look, I’m not complaining. I was hired very young. I looked back at the sketches I wrote, and they were terrible. They were very idealistic and wide-eyed. I still had a ways to go to figure out exactly what I was doing. And I still feel like I do.“
She fared far better with The Sarah Silverman Program. The series ran from 2007 to 2010 and netted Silverman an Emmy nomination in 2009 for best actress in a comedy series. She essentially played a slightly fictionalized version of herself.
“The show won’t be coming back, but that was just the greatest experience of my life, getting to work with my best friends. I wish it was coming back,” says Silverman, who lives in L.A. with her 19-year-old dog, Duck, a chihuahua-pug mix.
In 2008, she won an Emmy for outstanding original music and lyrics for her collaboration with Matt Damon — one of her favourite subjects/targets.
She is currently in the midst of shooting the big-screen comedy western, A Million Ways to Die in the West, written by Seth (Family Guy) MacFarlane and also starring Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried.
Hold on: Sarah Silverman in an oats opera? That would have given the Duke, the late John Wayne, some pause.
“Hard to believe, but I am in a western and I’m wearing corsets. I’m a saloon gal and a hooker in the Old West, who won’t have sex with my boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi). It’s because we’re not married and we’re Christians.” Pause. “Did they have Jews in the Old West?”
Uh, yeah, but it’s a good bet they weren’t quite like Silverman.
“I like doing movies, but I prefer it if I come in, do my thing and leave. This has been a blast, but it’s just been months. And I’m just used to that immediate gratification of my stand-up and even my videos that I make on my couch. The turnover in television is so much faster too.”
Regardless, Silverman recently provided her pipes for the Oscar-nominated Disney ’toon Wreck It, Ralph. And she was cast, starring opposite Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, in “Canada’s prize possession,” Sarah Polley’s dramedy Take This Waltz.
“I love Sarah. She is so special. She just hired me and gave (the role) to me. I’ve never had someone see in me what she saw in me. That I could say lines honestly, and that it didn’t matter if there was a joke in them.”
Silverman wants to make sure patrons who catch her festival galas are aware that she is hosting and not headlining in them.
“I don’t want to mislead people. I’ll be presenting my favourite comics — the funniest and cutest guy in the world, Kyle Dunnigan (who just happens to be Silverman’s beau), the brilliant Tig Notaro, who actually introduced Kyle and I, along with Wil Anderson, Kyle Kinane, Marc Maron, Arj Barker and Pete Holmes,” she notes. “But don’t get me wrong. I’ll talk in-between them. And I’ll try to pack it with a punch.”
She would also dearly like to entice Joan Rivers — who hosts a July 27, 5 p.m. gala prior to Silverman’s two — to drop into her show for a shmooze.
Silverman is not surprised by the strongest-ever contingent of women at this year’s Just for Laughs — Rivers, Notaro, Maria Bamford, Amy Schumer, Kristin Chenoweth, Whitney Cummings, Kathy Griffin, Kristen Schaal et al.
“Women are pretty much running comedy right now. It’s funny that the question comes up. Look around. It’s not like charity. We are really coming together and realizing that we’ve got to team up.
“How about Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosting the Golden Globes last year? There couldn’t have been a more perfect performance,” she says.
“I would love to host an awards show myself, but I can’t see that being entrusted to me any time soon. They seem to want edgy humour from people and hire them as hosts, and then they s–t all over them afterwards.”
Her sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, has been fighting a non-secular woman’s cause. Along with a group of nine other women, she was detained by police last February for participating in prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“Susie is doing great now. Her Women of the Wall are getting respect. Now instead of protecting the men who are throwing the rocks at them, they’re protecting the women from the men who are throwing the rocks.
“I have no religion myself. My religion is science and nature and love. I’m not going to L. Ron Hubbard it. I’m just trying to be a good person for the prize of being a good person, and not for trying to get into heaven or keep out of hell.”
Silverman prefers to save her killing for the stage/screen. Which suits her fans just fine.
Sarah Silverman hosts galas July 27 at 8:15 and 11 p.m. at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier in Place des Arts.