Here’s what Sarah looked like for “An Evening with Sarah Silverman,” during which she was interviewed onstage by movie critic/scholar Elvis Mitchell at the Los Angeles County Art Museum on January 7. (Also below is the craveonline report about the event.)
Sarah Silverman glided onto the stage at LACMA on Thursday night for the program An Evening. . . with Sarah Silverman where she spoke with Elvis Mitchell, curator of Film Independent at LACMA, about her massive body of work, which includes comedy, acting, production and writing.
The two-time Emmy Award winner got super honest with the audience, expressing a level of vulnerability about her own life, the recent death of her mother, the real sadnesses that contribute to making a successful comedian, her early childhood cinematic influences, and some of her more recent dramatic acting experiences in this emotional 90-minute talk.
Mitchell started off the conversation asking about films that Silverman loved as a child, to which Silverman responded that she watched Sleepers every day for a period of time between ages 7-8 years old with the Goldsteins, the only other Jewish family in her hometown. She explained that this is probably what sexualized her at an early age. But more than that, she found the film to be both sexual and funny. This sort of sensibility follows Sarah into her comedic work.
Sarah talked a lot about her family, especially her recently deceased mother, Beth Ann, a theater director. Sarah grew up around the theater, which included lots of trips to New York City to see Broadway shows. She recalled an early story about her mother’s perfect diction, which resulted in the local Manchester, New Hampshire, movie theater asking her to record their movie showtimes after she complained about how incomprehensible they sounded. In exchange, Sarah and her mom got to go to the movies for free.
Sarah also noted Woody Allen and Steve Martin as two favorite comedians she encountered growing up. She also spoke very candidly about the cynicism of the New York standup comedy world, and the struggles of life that cause one to become funny as a method of survival.
At some point in the talk, Sarah mentioned the Alan Sherman song “When You’re In Love the Whole World is Jewish.” Even though one wouldn’t refer to her as a “Jewish comedian,” there’s an extreme sense of Jewishness to that statement. It’s like, what if you meet someone who gets your sense of humor and has the same sense of humor, and together you can just laugh? Throughout the talk, Sarah meandered into various Jewish cultural humor statements, and then returned to commenting on the nature of comedy in general.
“Comedians have a way to make language work,” said Elvis Mitchell, candidly continuing the conversation. He noted that Martin Scorsese was into casting comedians, in part because they can be more in the moment — it’s a thing that comedians have to do.
Sarah also talked about how, in her opinion, 100% of comedians “became funny as a way to survive their childhoods.”
We watched a few clips, such as Sarah’s short black-and-white film Fart Party (2013), a trailer for a film that doesn’t exist. The title itself makes fun of the very dramatic tropes in French cinema history. Sarah plays an intense, cigarette-smoking, femme fatale-type woman who keeps making intense emotional glances at a guy . . . who is literally three-years-old (and a great actor). Rather than the adult romances of a French film, Sarah’s nemesis is a tiny young woman who is also in love with the three-year-old boy. The acting style is at times reminiscent of silent film era or theatrical acting, for everything is heightened to bring out just the pure feeling.
Of this film, Sarah joked about how she got to play with French cinema, something she claims to know nothing about, and talked about how it reminded her of her tendency to write poetry. That is, writing poetry that seems deep but actually means nothing.
Much of the conversation wound back around to her performance as Laney Brooks in the drama I Smile Back (2015), in which she played a drug addict mom.
A difficult performance for her, she talked about how much she loves children but made the decision not to have them. She may have channeled that type of loss into the character of Laney, a woman who is obsessed with her children. It was a very different type of role for Silverman, who is known for her funny roles in the Comedy Central show The Sarah Silverman Program (2007-2010), Bob’s Burgers and even voices in The Simpsons.
Sarah spoke candidly about her time in show business, and really needing to learn her own personal/work boundaries.
“It’s a business that will never tell you ‘hey, take a break, you’re doing too much,'” she explained.
Totally in character, she expressed wanting to tell Justin Bieber to chill the F out, maybe take a break from that next world tour; her concern for this mega-pop star felt very Jewish mother.
Sarah stressed how much she loves sleeping and good self-care.
Somewhere toward the end of the talk, she offered some cool words of wisdom to all those who were pursuing their dreams, quoting Garry Shandling: “There are things that come too soon, but nothing comes too late.”
She also ate some pizza on-stage, because YOLO.