Sarah Silverman on Changing Her Comedic Identity and How the Real Housewives Inspire Her Deepest, Darkest Material (2024)

In the eight years since Sarah Silverman’s last comedy special, the sweetly raunchy comedienne has co-created and starred on a self-titled Comedy Central series, written a memoir, won an Emmy (for original music, for the “I’m F*_ing Matt Damon” song on_Jimmy Kimmel Live!), proven that she can act dramatically (in The Last Waltz), and merged comedy and politics in a series of hilarious online PSAs. Up next, the New Hampshire-born multi-hyphenate debuts an HBO stand-up special, We Are Miracles, on November 23. In it, Silverman returns to her R-rated wheelhouse—topics include p*rn, rape, and oral sex—but this time she has a new persona. She spoke to The Hollywood Blog about crafting jokes on Twitter, her hope for Hillary Clinton, and why reality television is so depressingly ridiculous.

Julie Miller: How did you feel about being dragged into Kanye West’s Twitter rant against Jimmy Kimmel last month? Are you going to use his endorsem*nt of you being “a thousand times funnier” than Jimmy Kimmel on the back of your next book?

Sarah Silverman: I mean. . . no disrespect to either of them. It was a compliment that was a little tainted by the fact that it was made to hurt Jimmy, pretty much exclusively. It wasn’t like it was a reviewer saying that I was funnier. . . not that that would be any better. We don’t need to be compared. It was funny though and I’m glad they worked it out.

Moving on to the special, how long have you been accumulating material for this?

It’s been a long time coming. I get frustrated because I can hone a joke forever and there are some things in that special that I think I have figured out better [since filming it] but I just have to let it go. After my first special, Jesus is Magic, I feel like I had a little bit of an identity crisis for a little while because you want to give the audience what they want. And what they want after seeing that special is to be shocked and be surprised. If you give them what they expect, and they expect to be surprised, they cancel each other out.

How did you get past that?

I had to really learn that comedy dies in the second-guessing. So I really started over with [my material]. I had to just eat sh*t and bomb and do [material] I think I am interested in talking about now. And not feel like I am beholden to one thing. So I feel like this special just reflects where I am now, which is what comedy should be. I think?

Do you mean you started over with your jokes, or are you talking about the overall tone of your material? Were you consciously trying to advance to a next act in your career?

No. For better or for worse, I absolutely do not think pragmatically about stand-up or my comedy. That’s gross to me and I would never have that impulse. It’s always what interests me now and what makes me laugh, and trying that out. After I did Jesus Is Magic, I really loved that arrogant ignorance. The ignoramous who is being arrogant. I brought that into my series,The Sarah Silverman Program. But the stuff I was writing just wasn’t that anymore. So you might disappoint people who want what’s familiar to them. But I’m older now. Listen, I still dress like an idiot but I can’t be in my 40s in pigtails—as much as I want to be.

Is there one joke in this new act that you were always most excited to get to onstage? One that you know will kill with the audience?

No, there were sections that were more labor intensive. And there were other sections that were just more fun to do. Like, easy one-liners that just made me laugh. I guess the ta-da line. [Silverman jokes that the only way you can gracefully recover from vomiting after giving oral sex is if you say “ta-da!” immediately after, pretending like it was a magic trick.]

When writing a joke like that, what is the thought process for you? How do you even get to that scenario in your head?

I have no idea. A lot of times, I use Twitter to write jokes. And I really like it for that. Some things have to be a tweet, and they don’t really expand well. But some I can make into something bigger. That was just probably like a stoned late-night tweet that tickled me. I watch all of this crap on TV. . . I swear, like theReal Housewives probably inspire the deepest of what I can offer for material. It’s such a modern tragedy in so many ways.

It’s existentially depressing and yet addictive.

It is fascinating. These are grown women who are behaving badly because, I think, they are getting direct approval and love for their behavior from these unseen producers. They are rewarded for bad behavior. And even though they are grown ups, there is this inner child that responds to that. It’s so like the kid behaving badly for attention, even if it is negative attention. Ahh. It’s amazing.

Which casts do you hate-watch the most?

I tend to watch New York and Beverly Hills. But I am no stranger to an Orange County or an Atlanta [episode].

Sarah Silverman on Changing Her Comedic Identity and How the Real Housewives Inspire Her Deepest, Darkest Material (2024)
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