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Comedian Sarah Silverman

The mind and mouth of Sarah Silverman. She joins us to talk about comedy, life, and her new memoir, “The Bedwetter.”

Sarah Silverman arrives at the 15th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2010, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Comedian Sarah Silverman knows how to mix it up. Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em rage.

On race and religion and sacred cows of every kind, it takes this comic about ten seconds to get so far out on the edge that people are walking out. But a whole lot more stay. And laugh. And think.

Silverman is sly. And cocky. Sweetly raunchy. Unrepentant. And – in a new memoir – almost tenderly revealing about the life and childhood that made her.

This Hour, On Point: A conversation with in-your-face comic, Sarah Silverman.

Guest:

Sarah Silverman, comedian, writer, and actor. Her new book is “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.”  (Click here to read an excerpt.)

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  • Susan Young Mercer

    Sarah Silverman is brilliant!!! Over the years I’ve cheered her on as she’s gifted us with her socio/political and personal observations , have laughed and cried [often at the same time] at the raw truths of her humor. I’m thrilled to be able to report that I’m now in the midst of my SECOND reading of the unrelenting and uninhibited tale she tells in her new book – THANK YOU, SARAH SILVERMAN!

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    Wonderful picture of Sarah Silverman and good choice for this post, really channels her character. That AP photographer did a great job.

  • Thomas Mallon

    Tom, are you becoming so careless of decency, so dumb downed yourself, or so servile to the Powers that you would bring this decadent woman on who said (see Youtube) she would F—- crucify Christ again?

    This woman is helping to mediate culture. What kind? She is neither funny, nor amusing. She’s a trasher. You’ve just gone down many pegs for many of us…

  • John

    Sarah Silverman is extremely funny and a great choice for the show. If Jesus objects to her jokes, he can call in and complain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PsiBrr Bob Hunter

    Sarah is to Comedy what Liz Phair is to rock! Pretty, witty, and anything but mild!

  • cory

    More power to those who find her funny. I don’t and never have. I just don’t see it.

  • Todd

    “Tom, are you becoming so careless of decency, so dumb downed yourself, or so servile to the Powers…She is neither funny, nor amusing. She’s a trasher. You’ve just gone down many pegs for many of us…”
    Posted by Thomas Mallon

    I agree. Silverman is pathetic. Those who find humor in such vulgarity are sick.

    Considering the sources from which On Point (and most all of NPR programming) receives its major funding, it naturally follows that the repulsive material Silverman vomits forth would be promoted and labeled as comedy.

    You are what you laugh at…

  • Glen

    Since you are often the offender, it seems that nothing would offend you. Am I wrong? Have you been offended in the past? Are you still capable of being offended?

  • Sheila

    I am part of a community of comediennes and performers in Boston committed to supporting women in comedy. Can you give some advice for how women can use gender to their advantage in such a male-dominated industry? Really admire your work and hope The Sarah Silverman Program lives to see another day!

    -Sheila

  • JP

    Could Sarah Silverman be more AWESOME?!!!

    I hope not!

    My gut would explode!

  • gemli

    I’ll bet she makes Tom blush. Too bad it’s radio and we won’t be able to see.

    I’m a big fan of Sarah Silverman because she’s sarcastic, punctures the pretentious, but most of all because she’s funny.

    It’s not that I am not capable of being offended. I’m offended by self-righteousness, pomposity, hypocrisy, and people who can’t take a joke. But I have to live in a world with those people, so I look forward to hearing the Sarah Silverman’s of the world give it back to them, in spades.

  • Patrick

    Hey Tom-

    I find Todd’s comment above caught somewhere in the middle of comedy-tragedy- in my mind, the greatest of all scales relating to the human condition. While Todd’s world view is depressing, I have to mostly laugh. There is humor in depressing perspectives such as Todd’s. He’s saying people who laugh at a funny woman are “sick”? Hilarious! I’m totally going to slip that into many a cocktail conversation. I think humor helps us all get by, and Sarah nails it more than most.

    I may be a little confused by Todd’s summary, but if we are all “what we laugh at”, and I laugh at him…again, I may be confused…but am I Todd? Whoaaa….Bummer.

  • JP

    Patrick,

    I love it!

  • Todd

    “I may be a little confused by Todd’s summary, but if we are all “what we laugh at”, and I laugh at him…again, I may be confused…but am I Todd? Whoaaa….Bummer.”
    Posted by Patrick

    Is “Star” your last name, by any chance?

  • Michelle

    Where’s Sarah?

  • Mr, Trees

    So….

    was the show canceled last second or something or something? Seriously, I think I had my fill of poetry yesterday.

  • Carrie R.

    What happened?! why is she not on at 11?

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/about-on-point/john-wihbey John Wihbey

    Sarah’s in her seat, ready to go. -John, producer

  • Mr. Trees

    Just to be clear…or something

  • JP

    Thank Jesus!

    They played the wrong opener tape.

    Sarah!

  • Joe

    Sarah –

    Rape, tragedy, death…I have often defended your choice of material. Is there anything that ISN’T funny, or is it all a matter of timing and treatment?

    Joe

  • Bob

    The booker for this interview certainly did a poor job of setting up Tom and Sarah.

  • John

    On this topic, Tom is no Joe Franklin.

  • John

    I think Dennis Miller’s hair plugs were put in too deep.

  • Brian

    I LOVE Sarah Silverman. Not in a freaky way, like how she loves Baby Bel cheese, (well maybe a little). :-) I’m going to miss her show, but I hope she does a whole lot more movies and stand-up specials.

  • http://awkward! at

    This interview is making me cringe! Tom is being so weird. I am sensing some hostility from him… it seems like he doesn’t really like her. That stuff about her being “angry”… it’s just… bizarre.

  • katy

    I think Sarah is great! She is a revolutionary. Somehow she can be smart, funny, a women and RESPECTED (by some). She makes it less surprising for a women to say “outrageous” things. Right now, my husband is the only one who hears my penis jokes… that didn’t come out right… wait… Thank you Sarah!

  • Alex G.

    Yeah, the chemistry between Tom Ashbrook and Sarah Silverman is rather lacking. I find awkward moments rather funny though themselves.

  • http://www.tallfreak.com Chris

    Ask Sarah what kind of relationship she had with both of her stepparents growing up. I’ve also had two sets of stepparents and they made a huge impact on my life.

  • Sara

    Yeah, Sarah, you’re angry. (Tom I’m still really glad you had Sarah on the show!)

  • Jocelyn

    Re: why tom thinks there is anger in SS
    I think that there are people who simply don’t comprehend the complexity of the kind of humor Sarah often employs in relating to the absurdities of our culture. It may have something to do with not understanding some aspects of the influence of some (not all) Jew’s’ upbringing. Cynicism is not always about anger. My current partner, (being a man from a very different background )just can’t get that about me or my family.

  • http://VPR Trish Lyell

    Sarah,
    You are the funniest, scariest voice in comedy-when you say YOU are the idiot, it’s ironic because your”character” may be idiotic but the genius is the reflection of “idiocy”* onto those who don’t get it.

    *or, if not idiocy, then the even innocent naivete people have in ignorance of each other; you point out an excruciating truth of our discomfort with each other.
    I agree with Adam that you must love the foibles of people to be so observant and razor-esque.

  • JP

    Humor is the LEAST angry way to shed light on hypocrisy, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness.

    I simply can’t believe Sarah’s show is not one of the highest rated programs on television!

    LOST over Sarah Silverman? Give me a break!

    Sarah is pure gold!

    I’m looking forward to anything she’s willing to give us in the future!

  • JP

    I love Tom for serious topics, but he is definitely coming across like Charlie Rose or Larry King trying to relate to humor.

    … still, thanks for giving Sarah this hour, Tom!

  • K

    I’m pretty sure that Sarah’s elaboration on the Hitler thing (especially the repeated “I don’t know”s) means she should be my new best friend. Call me. thx

  • Rex

    Speaking of stand-up, when will you be going on tour, or at least Washington, DC?

  • George

    Sara,

    You are the best! You push the boundaries … I’ll never forget the “harmony” you did with your different body parts. Too funny.

    My best to you.

  • Patrick

    Sarah-

    Todd Glass…is he OK? One of the funniest physical comedy acts was his opener at your “Friends” show last month.. His act kicked butt, and I didn’t learn until recently that he was having a freaking heart attack while delivering it! Dang…now that’s showmanship!

    The Granite State thanks you for your raging success.

    I want to hear how, or even if, the Larry Sanders Show helped shape your career.

  • jake

    i wonder if sarah ever heard a comedian and thought, “whoa, that’s over the line!”

  • Harold Juren

    I just happened to tune in by chance, and for the first 5 minutes had no idea what you (or she) were talking about. I had never heard of Sarah Silverman and was not aware of her specialty. In the next ten minutes or so I was baffled by why this woman had been booked for a show. She was nearly inarticulate (as evidenced by Tom’s numerous attempts to make sense of what she was saying) and unbelievably shallow and unintelligent. I can only assume that she relies almost entirely on the use of vulgarity and profanity, which evidently appeals to those as intellectually impaired as she seems to be. I was almost as shocked by the comments of many of your listeners who apparently are not aware that at some points in history humor was associated with wit.

  • James F. Wallace

    I love You! Keep Up The Good Work!
    B’Shalom,
    James

  • informed American

    Leave it to ultra liberal and out of touch On Point to give a forum to the racist, anti-Christian, Sarah Silverman. Just NPR being NPR.

  • gemli

    @Harold,
    Sarah Silverman appeals to a large group of people who appreciate humor that puts the lie to hypocrisy, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness in general. This can irritate some people, particularly the hypocritical, bigoted, and narrow-minded. They seem not to get the joke.

    It seems a bit harsh to say that vulgarity and profanity are not funny, as I think they’re freakin’ hilarious, especially when it shocks people who don’t understand the reference or why it’s amusing.

    Like many people of a certain age, I don’t get a lot of popular culture, especially what passes for music. But like my dad was wrong about the staying-power of the Beatles, I recognize that I might be wrong about the music kids are listening to today. But I’m usually embarrassed to sound like a pontificating old fogey, particularly in a public forum. I feel like I might as well hang a sign around my neck saying, “I don’t get it!” Why let on?

    But I will defend anyone’s right to be loud and proud. Your comment might have been offensive, it might have been sarcastic, it may have intentionally injured some delicate sensibilities. But wait…that’s just what Sarah Silverman is going for! Turns out you two are kindred spirits! I’m a little jealous.

    Can I have your autograph?

  • Brett

    When she was an adolescent her therapist hanged himself?!! …There IS a joke in there somewhere! Hopefully, though, it was liberating to her in some way. When I began giving music lessons in the early 1990′s I had so many twenty-something students tell me that when they were in their middle teens they were prescribed all sorts of medications and labeled with all kinds of diagnoses from psychiatrists; in reality, what they described to me sounded more like typical adolescent stress…I can only hope that therapists treating young people for stress and anxiety now are infinitely more savvy than they were in the 1980′s…

    I thought the whole “time travel to talk to Hitler when he was an art student” thing was a funny idea. Maybe, in addition to telling young Adolf that his artwork showed promise and that he should keep at it, Sarah could have maybe suggested that one of her Jewish girlfriends thought he was hot, maybe that her friend thought his little mustache was the cat’s pajamas or something…

    I think with any comedian who is smashing sensibilities and always trying to push the envelope, so to speak, there are times when they are brilliant, times when they are simply vulgar and offensive. It is part and parcel with great comedy. There have been times when Sarah Silverman has presented brilliant social commentary, and has been funny; there have been times when she is off the mark. Very few comedians in history have endured who weren’t walking a fine line between making people laugh and making people uncomfortable enough to be offended. Mark Twain talked about that fine line (and how he crossed it many times, much to the displeasure of his dinner guests).

    There will be some who laugh at the surface of Sarah Silverman’s humor (as well as some who are simply offended at the surface); there will be those who can see a little more into it and understand the idea that she is making fun of arrogance, supremacy, bigotry and racism. Humor is subjective, though. Someone can either make one laugh or not! Dave Chappelle’s humor is similar to Silverman’s in some respects, in that sometimes he has shown brilliance, sometimes he has just been off. Sarah plays more of a character; it is rooted in the “fool” or the “fop” but with a modern spin.

    JP said, “Humor is the LEAST angry way to shed light on hypocrisy, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness.” And I would add the LEAST OFFENSIVE! Whatever is produced in any art form is infinitely more sophisticated and evolved than to act out those human short comings in everyday life.

    As far as her “inarticulateness,” I can’t think of many, if any, true comedians who are all that articulate outside of their being within the context of their act. Most of the good ones seem like shy people who don’t present themselves well when they aren’t “on.” Humorists are of a different ilk. They are employing us to laugh at someone else; comedians are asking us to laugh at ourselves. Humorists employ being clever; comedians bring a pathos that humorists don’t portray. Humorists are saying, “they’re the idiots, we’re the smart ones.” Comedians are saying, “we are the idiots, and people like us are idiots!” I think some people have trouble admitting that part of being human.

  • steven

    Sarah is not to be confused with a great interviewee. She is more like staring at my autistic child and waiting for the next outrageous antic to happen that seems to come naturally to those without filters. But getting past that, she hits the right dissident chords to make everyone uncomfortable with a keen eye to the soft, vulnerable underbelly of society. Your an ass…that’s why we love you.

  • emily

    Don’t know if I can listen to this. In the past I have found her to be absolutely repulsive … sorry!

  • joshua hendrickson

    @informed American:

    I only wish npr was ultra-liberal–but then to certain right wingers, anything to the left of Glenn Beck is liberal.

    And yes, Sarah Silverman is anti-Christian (whether she is legitimately racist is doubtful), and more power to her: any comedian willing to attack the oldest, most bloated and least worthwhile institution in this world deserves all the credit she can get!

    One question: American you unquestionably are, since being anti-Christian irritates you so, but I would love to know exactly how you consider yourself informed?

  • Good Grief

    To those complaining about offensive jokes, untwist your panties. You have not right to not be offended.

    That said, I’ve never laughed at Sarah Silverman. Not once. Ever. I don’t get what the fuss is about.

  • Dawn

    Sarah is Sarah! She is refreshing! I loved her in Gregg The Bunny, so sad it didn’t stay on the air.

  • Valerie F

    I was so blown away when Sarah said that she doesn’t find jokes about overweight women funny. I have almost no filter and I love a tasteless joke, but I share her opinion that society treats overweight women with severe disdain, a distain that they do not direct equally at overweight men.

    Sarah, I LOVE YOU!

  • Mr. and Mrs. Silverman

    We admit that we spoiled Sarah as a child during her formative years, praising her for everything she did from potty training to telling stories, both poorly.

    Our not so unique parenting similar to many in the upper middle class, was intended to ensure that our precious daughter didn’t feel inadequate or sad about being marginally talented. Luckily, along came cable TV so Sarah would be able to shine by having admirers who confuse ‘odd’ with funny.

    Yet, it’s time for honesty. After all of Sarah’s attempts at making it in electronic media, we realized we did her wrong. We admit now that we actually were striving to have a witty, insightful and articulate comedian, like let’s say Tina Fey, but unfortunately raised Sarah to strive only for humor prized by 8th grade boys who hope that girls think just like them!

    Nonetheless…”enjoy’!

  • luigi

    Mallon: Can you say “humor”. Grow a sense.

  • Eat em

    Hilarious!

    Why do I get the feeling that Sarah herself wrote that post at 9:53?

  • teg

    Terry Gross did better work with Sarah, recently, but, hey, Sarah’s a little unpredictable, what?

  • Rabbi Schlomsky

    I’m confused by some previous comments that explain Sarahla’s “humor” as based in her Jewishness, (or in her case — her Jewessness). Oy vey!!

    If you want a comedian influenced by Jewish upbringing to shed light on hypocrisy, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness, but without portraying hypocrisy, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness stick with John Stewart or Lewis Black.

    Shalom!

  • ECG

    Sarah mentioned several female comedians working today whom she admires. Did anyone catch that list? Can you post it? The first was her writing partner from the show Chelsea someone but I think (hope!) the others are stand-up comedians.

    THX

  • Mr and Mrs Silverman

    @Eat em,

    Sorry to spoil your “feeling,” but it was goyum who came of age in the Jewish Alps of the San Fernando Valley.

  • Dom

    At 30:20 minutes into the interview, she made some comments about Hitler that really startled me.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I didn’t listen to the show but enjoyed the forum, except that it reflects badly on us all, in my opinion, that so many comments are up-or-down evaluations, as if the purpose of the forum was to rate Sarah Silverman on a scale of 1 to 10 and hand that over at the gates of St. Peter, or the Jewish equivalent.
    I like the distinction of wit (humorists) from comedy, as laughing at others versus at ourselves. The intelligence of a comedian would be in the resonance with the edges of our ability to laugh at ourselves, and the only way to learn that for sure is to test it out, push the envelope, which Silverman does. I try to imagine the childhood dinner table of the budding “wit” as opposed to that of the comedian. I would choose neither. I would learn from Sarah the more interactive she is being (not frequently seen on network TV, actually), but on call-in radio — I agree that’s not exactly her chosen medium. I learn from comedians in tandem with them about America’s sense of itself. Amazed at us, amazed at them. It’s so different from wit of the more pompous sort.

  • Grady Lee Howard

    Comedic references depend upon audience familiarity, so Sarah is limited in her choices:Every drunken idiot recognizes the name Hitler. I am getting used to having SS in the limelight although she’s no Gilda Radner. I enjoy Sarah’s resemblances to Jonathan Winters and Andy Kaufman. I hope she will join NASCAR in mid-season and win a race, then trash talk them. Now that’d be funny, not that canned and censored Tina Fey stuff. Too bad Sarah has no fascist political twin.

  • Rob L

    I’ve never really listened to Sarah Silverman – couldn’t get past the whiny voice. Same for this interview. There’s got to be better guests out there.

  • Gary Llewellyn

    Thanks Tom

    Nobody goes “in depth” like you do.

    …to render Sarah Silverman

    temporarily speechless is a Classic….. IMHO

    She is AMAZING!

    but so are you…..

    Day in and day out……this retiree is exhausted just

    thinking about it.

  • Adam

    Like Sarah says, we’re all going to see this from our own perspectives. As far as I’m concerned, she’s a hell of a person. I haven’t seen much of her comedy yet, but even if I hate it, I’ll still have a healthy respect for Sarah. She does ok.

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