Judd Apatow has a book out based on interviews he has done with many of the celebrities he knows. The July issue of Elle includes excerpts. Here are the Sarah parts that are in the July Elle. Some new stuff (on becoming more civilized when dating Jimmy, some new insights into sister Susan, and comparisons of her work style to those of Seinfeld and others) and some heard befores (her low overhead lifestyle, the story of her dad teaching her swear words).
by Judd Apatow
I’ve known Sarah Silverman since she moved to California to do stand-up when she was 21 years old. Back then she was the young, hilarious girl who was from the same town in New Hampshire as my friend and roommate, Adam Sandler. That always seemed so weird to me, the idea that two brilliantly funny people could come from the same small town.
Last year I interviewed Roseanne and Sarah for this book. They both are legends who have changed the face of comedy.
Sarah: I’m so much more famous than I am financially successful. I mean, I live in a three-room apartment. I mostly make free videos on my couch. But I am fine.
Judd: Is it because, creatively, you’ve done what you’ve wanted to do?
Sarah: I’ve always kept my overhead low so I could do whatever I want. I think of myself as lazy with spurts of getting a lot done. I find myself rooting against things sometimes because I get excited at the thought of a clean slate.
MY DAD MADE ME THIS WAY
Sarah: My dad taught me swears when I was a toddler, and I saw, at a really early age, that if I shocked people, I would get approval, and it made my arms itch with glee. I got addicted to it. It became this source of power in a totally powerless life.
Judd: Did your dad get a kick out of it?
Sarah: He thought it was funny to teach his three-year-old daughter swears. His dream was to be a writer—and he wrote all these books that he self-published when he retired—but he owned a store called Crazy Sophie’s Factory Outlet. And he did his own commercials. I have a bunch of them—they’re amazing. He has such a thick New England accent. You can’t understand a thing he’s saying. He’s like, “When I see the prices at the mall, I just want to vomit! Hey, I’m Crazy Donald!” He was Crazy Donald, like Crazy Eddie, only in New Hampshire.
I never consciously set out to talk about taboos or anything like that. That was just what the household I grew up in was like. There wasn’t a sense of, like, “Maybe let’s not say that in front of the kids.” It was all out there, you know, and I didn’t know better. I mean, honestly, a lot of the human etiquette I learned in life I learned from, like, thank-you notes and dating Jimmy Kimmel. I have great parents, and they both taught me great things, but my formative years were boundaryless.
Judd: But was there a core of morality to it?
Sarah: Oh yeah, definitely. We had no religion at all, but we were Jews in New Hampshire, and my sister—who is now a rabbi—said it best: We were, like, the only Jews in Bedford, New Hampshire, as well as the only Democrats, so we just kind of associated those two things together. My dad raised us to believe that paying taxes is an honor.
Judd: How does your sister talk about Judaism?
Sarah: It’s funny because sometimes I’ll get cunty with her, and I’ll be like, “Oh, so you believe there’s a man in the sky?” And she’ll go, “Well, I like to live my life as though there is one.” And I’m just like, “Oh, you’re beautiful.”
Judd: I wish I could convince myself to believe the way your sister believes because I’m so exhausted from not believing.
Sarah: I actually don’t think that she believes in God, necessarily. I think she just loves the ritual of religion and finding meaning in every little thing. She loves living her life that way.
Judd: She doesn’t believe in a God that is actively involved in people’s lives, making choices?
Sarah: She doesn’t believe that God is rooting for the Giants and not the Patriots. She’s not fucking ridiculous.
SOMETIMES THE LONG ROAD IS ODYSSEAN
Judd: Seinfeld said he sits and writes for two hours every single day.
Sarah: Seinfeld and Chris Rock, they’re just that incredible combination of funny and not lazy, which is very rare and special and completely failure-proof. I remember before I did my HBO special, Chris screamed at me—in a loving way, but still. He was like, “You need to do 200 shows in a row and a month straight on the road before you even think about recording a special!” And I had literally booked two weeks on the road and then went right into the recording. It put me in a panic, but it also made me work harder and made me realize that everyone works differently, and that’s okay. I definitely learned to embrace the quiet moments onstage from Garry Shandling—relaxing and not fighting with the crowd, not raising your voice, not ever trying to win them over. I remember the very first time Louis [C.K.] saw me. I was just starting, and I had this affectation where I would pull the mic away from my mouth. And he was like, “You shouldn’t do that. It looks weird, and it’s a bad habit to get into.” And so I stopped.
Judd: What is it like, at this point in your career, to look back on what all these people you came up with have accomplished?
Sarah: You know, everyone’s got their own velocity, and there’s no real time frame with comedy. Louis has been brilliant for 30 years, but it has been so exciting to see, these past five years, the world getting Louis fever. On the flip side—so many times I will find myself talking to someone, “No, no, you don’t understand—he was the king,” and people only see a guy washed up, with no place to live, who can’t get his shit together. It’s so frustrating. Like I said about Seinfeld and Chris Rock, they’re a great combination of brilliance and hard work. [But] there are people who are brilliant and don’t work hard, and there are people who are brilliant and sabotage themselves. Every once in a while, you forget there’s nothing you can do about it, so you scramble, trying to get something going for them, and then you come to the realization that they’ll never let it happen.
Judd: And you end up with survivor’s guilt.
Sarah: It’s awful. Even the cruise ships don’t want them anymore. Comedy is like alcoholism. You’re surrounded by people who are getting high all day, fucking around, and just being comics—and time passes, you know?
Judd: None of us have any other skill to fall back on.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly.