This is from the July issue of Elle.
by Molly Langmuir
For our first-ever Women in Comedy Issue, we bring you wit, wisdom, and war stories from some of the world’s most hilarious women—Maya Rudolph, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, and more. Today, Sarah on the art of dishing it and taking it.
Candid, irreverent, and outrageous, this queen of low-key hilarity is a stand-up comic who’s been open about her struggle with depression, a onetime Saturday Night Live cast member (at 22!), and one of the most multidimensional entertainers in Hollywood.
Is there anything that you won’t joke about?
Nothing is taboo if you have an angle on it. That said, critiquing women’s human shells isn’t my thang. Though there’s probably something funny or interesting to be said about those who do it, and what that comes from. Not to be all PC. But I’m guessing that would be the area of the fresh angle on that shit.
Do you perceive yourself as a guy’s girl?
I play poker and basketball, and I do stand-up, and those things tend to involve lots of dudes, but times are changing. Women are our current comedy greats. There’s a women’s basketball league started by comics that’s grown so huge I believe there are 19 teams. But me, I’m just me. Don’t make me decide. I love my sisters and brothers both.
As women get older, they’re often made to feel uncomfortable about their age. How do you deal with that?
I just don’t let that mentality be a part of my world. I talk to friends who get their feelings hurt when they read Twitter mentions. I have an amazing solution—don’t read Twitter mentions. Read Lenny Letter. Read E. E. Cummings.
After you participated in the 2013 James Franco roast, it made news that the jokes about your age were hurtful.
Listen—that was me being honest despite my vehement defense of the comics roasting me. It’s what a roast is. You all know and love each other, but I doubt there’s a single roast participant who doesn’t need a couple days in bed reassessing their self-esteem afterward. It’s a bit of a blood sport, but if you decide to do comedy that involves risk, risk means risk, and you can’t complain of flesh wounds if you sit down at the table to play.
Have other jokes hit close to home?
Obviously. All our origin stories come from pain. We’re Riddlers and Penguins just trying to be loved.
One of your famous jokes was: “I was raped by a doctor…which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl.” With rape jokes, what’s too far?
To me, that joke is dated. Most comedy isn’t evergreen, but there’s always a fresh take on anything. I had that joke in my special 11 years ago, and I had a rape joke about rape jokes in my latest special. As long as it’s a reflection of you now, everything is fair game. Right?