Interview: On aging and fainting

Sarah had more to say about the topic she brought up on Totally Biased (women and age), as well as something new: her “fainting thing”– when she spoke to Canadian reporter Victoria Ahearn shortly before her September 20 performances at Just for Laughs.

TORONTO – Salty comic Sarah Silverman says she feels like a hypocrite admitting she was hurt by jokes about her age at Comedy Central’s recent roast of actor James Franco, given the nature of the special and the jabs she took at others on the dais.

But she also feels humour about women getting older is “an easy conceit.”

Last week on the FX series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” the 42-year-old standup star said she was taken aback and her self-esteem took a hit when her age was skewered by some of the younger roasters on the special that aired early this month in the U.S.

In a telephone interview this week to discuss her headlining gig at Toronto’s second annual JFL42 comedy festival on Friday, she acknowledged she “said brutal jokes about people, too” on the program.

But she added, “It’s a very accepted thing, even in the most progressive of circles, to shame women for the crime of not dying.”

“It’s a self-worth thing that takes more work to combat if you’re a woman than a man,” said Silverman, whose 7 p.m. ET performance at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts is one of over 100 in the pass-based JFL42 festival that runs through Sept. 28.

“I mean, Jesus — I think I’m the age Steve Carell was when he made his first movie, you know, and I’m deemed old.”

The Manchester, N.H., native said she understands some people’s perception of her age may be off because she’s been in show business since age 21, when she was a writer and occasional performer on “Saturday Night Live.” She then went on to appear in various series and films, eventually landing her own show, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” which ran from 2007 to 2010.

Her recent projects include a role in Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley’s 2011 romantic dramedy “Take This Waltz,” and the “JASH” web-based comedy YouTube channel, which she co-created.

“It’s just a weird perception thing, and that’s fine. I’m old news in some ways. That’s a kind of pop-culture thing I’m not complaining about,” said Silverman, who recently filmed an HBO standup special that will air in November.

“But just in terms of, as soon as a woman gets old enough to be vital and have opinions and be strong and express herself, she’s often shamed into crawling under a rock — and a lot of women do it because they aren’t given the chance.”

Silverman then lamented the pressure some women face to “shoot up their faces with Botox and fillers … and then they get criticized for that.”

“I would love for a new generation to not be so mirror-based,” she said. “I mean, wrinkles are your life, that’s you on there, that’s your experience. There has to be a point where we embrace that and don’t fight it.”

As for the roasts, she said she doesn’t want to see them end, noting she loves watching them and is “fundamentally for expression.”

“But that’s just a personal decision, like I don’t know if I’ll do another one,” added Silverman, who was also part of Comedy Central’s 2005 roast of Pamela Anderson.

“But I will say that I think the outcome for me is ultimately positive, only because I indulged myself in the whole process. It cut me deep, I was depressed, then I was angry, and I talked it out and talked it out to myself, and then I talked it out to my long-suffering boyfriend.

“Then by the time I was on ‘Totally Biased,’ I was able to talk about it in a more amused way … and I feel like I’m coming out the other end better for it. I wouldn’t have traded that experience.

“If I could do it again, I would do it again.”

Silverman has performed at the Just for Laughs comedy festivals before. She said she always has a “blast” at the events, noting the franchise is “a very well-oiled machine” that feels like “summer camp for comedians.”

And who knows, maybe she’ll get the urge to do an impromptu set at a Toronto comedy club again, like she did when she was shooting “Take This Waltz” in the city.

Just don’t be surprised if she passes out afterward, as was the case when she was hailing a cab after her set.

“I have a fainting thing that happens rarely, but I cannot control it,” said Silverman. “It’s really just a result of having crazy low blood pressure, and I passed out on the street and they were all around me. I was so embarrassed but they were so nice.

“Then I got up and then I passed out again, and then they were like, ‘Please let us call you an ambulance?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to pay $500 for a doctor to tell me I need to eat more salt.’ And they were like, ‘No no no, it doesn’t cost anything here.’

“I was able to convince them, ‘Please, just put me in a cab. It just happens to me and I really, really, really am OK.’ I think I got back (to the hotel) and I ate like a whole can of olives or something super salty and I was fine.”

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