There’s nothing too taboo for Sarah Silverman. Not AIDS, not poop.
And in her 20-year career – which began in 1993 with a spot on Saturday Night Live, and then led to a hit comedy special, Jesus is Magic, and her own sitcom, The Sarah Silverman Program – the comedian has established herself as one of the ballsiest voices of our time.
With an all-new HBO special, We Are Miracles, Silverman caught up with us to talk about crushing on Patti LuPone, being “older and wiser and dumber” and the meaning of life.
I saw a children’s book the other day called “Why Dogs Eat Poop.” Guess who it reminded me of?
Aww, was it me?
Of course it was you.
I knew it was either gonna be me or Helen Mirren.
Your comedy special, We Are Miracles, sounds very inspiring. Will we be inspired?
Yeah, I hope that you’ll leave that show completely changed. Just kidding. I mean, maybe a little bit. But probably not.
What can you say about the special?
All I can say is that the special is mind-blowing and life-changing for the viewer. It’s just a really honest reflection – either literally or figuratively – of where I’m at right now, just in my life. Not that it’s autobiographical at all – it’s still lies – but it’s just what I’m into now. Like, I’m older and wiser and dumber.
It’s different than my first special. It doesn’t digress into other videos or things. There’s a scene at the beginning and at the end but besides that it’s just the live performance. It’s just the standup special with a teeny-tiny audience – just 39 people.
Tell me there will be poop jokes.
Why of course, baby! There’s at least one.
You attract all sorts of people.
It’s so weird that I have such a random and eclectic demographic, like the old, the young, the gay, the gayer.
And your style of satirical comedy, where you make fun of just about every group of people, seems to have the ability to unite people. When you look out at your audiences, do you feel that way too?
Aww, yeah. Half of it is the energy in the room. It’s like sometimes you listen to Howard Stern and you might think he sounds like he’s being really mean, but if you’re in the studio and you saw the mischievous smile on his face, it’s a totally different thing going on.
What’s your special ritual before you hit the stage?
I write out a set list and yell at myself for waiting to the last minute. And I have a sugar-free Red Bull.
No. There are drugs they put in it. Whatever it is. It’s the “limitless” pill. Oh god, I want the limitless pill so bad.
Have you ever felt badly or regretted a joke you made?
Yeah, I never wanna make anyone feel bad, but I also know that’s not possible. Everyone who watches comedy, they’re watching in the context of their own life experience, so you don’t know what’s gonna catch someone.
Just recently the tables were turned and you were hurt by some age jokes during The Roast of James Franco on Comedy Central.
I wanna be so protective of the rules of the roast, which is that there are none and that anything goes – and I protect that. I would never want to change anything that was said. It just was separate from the roast, and I said brutal things – that’s just how it is. But it’s separate from that. It just illuminated things for me in my life, and you’re right – it is just like that. In the context of my life, that stuck. It’s like, I had feelings! But I still loved it. And I feel like I’m better for it because it forced me to deal with stuff. You know, Jonah (Hill) said the same thing. He said, “Everything that is my biggest fear in life was said tonight and I lived through it,” so there’s something cathartic about it as well.
Did it make you rethink your approach to comedy and how something you say could offend someone, as well?
No, no, no. First of all, I don’t talk about specific people in general. I mean, not as a rule, but I don’t tend to in my stand-up. Roast is a very specific thing.
You push buttons, though. When does a gay joke become offensive?
Well, what is a gay joke? Where, like, homosexuality is the joke? Is the punchline? I don’t see that a lot right now. That’s in an ugly past. Hopefully perceptions are finally changing with these fucking idiots.
How much thought goes into what you wear onstage?
Very little. I find an outfit I feel comfortable in – or that I did well in (laughs) – and I just wear it until I have to wash it. I’m just kidding. I do laundry.
You do your own laundry?
I do, actually. I’m in a building, so I don’t even have my own washer and dryer. There’s just one for every floor. It’s me … and people’s maids.
If comedy didn’t exist, what would you be doing with your life?
I’d work with chimps and apes and monkeys – be a Dian Fossey type. I mean, I’d want to, like, always be by a really nice bathroom. So, close to Dian Fossey but with a nice place to stay.
You’ll soon star alongside Patti LuPone on HBO’s People in New Jersey, which is being produced by Lorne Michaels.
Oh my god! I don’t even know what to say about Patti LuPone. She’s everything you could dream of and so much more. I knew I was a huge fan. I knew I was excited. But she is the most awesome. She is so cool, she’s so funny and her improv skills are crazy. I mean, I couldn’t keep it together. She’s the coolest. I think I have a crush on her.
And she’s gonna be your mother. How does it feel living the dream of every gay man on earth?
It feels so right.
OK, the lightning round.
Lady Gaga or Katy Perry?
Katy Perry. I just like “Firework.” I love that song. So good. And “Roar” – I like “Roar,” too! I love any kind of anthemic music.
Is “Roar” your pre-show pump up song?
(Laughs) Honestly, for a while, it was.
Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana?
Miley Cyrus. I mean, I love “The Climb” and “Party in the U.S.A.,” but I’m interested in what she’s doing now. She’s expressing herself. She’s got the right to express herself. She’s 20 or something. It’ll be interesting to see where it leads.
Eminem or Coolio?
What’s the meaning of life?
I don’t know, but it involves Nerds Rope.
Any last words?
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.