Sarah Silverman Interview

The comedian opens up on her stand-up film

She's crass, she's rude, she's offensive, but Sarah Silverman is one of the funniest commedians today. And she's taken her stand up act to the big screen in Jesus is Magic. The title is a little ironic considering Sarah is Jewish, but that's just what you'll find out about her. She offends everyone, from Holocaust survivors to rape victims.

She sat down with MovieWeb to talk about her raw sense of comedy. How does it feel to bomb with such offensive material? She'll let you know; check it out:

Do women ever give you a hard time about making jokes about rape?

Sarah Silverman: No, I'm sure there are people who don't appreciate it; with all these topics, I'm not making fun of rape, I have jokes with rape in it. I'm sure if I was a woman who was recently raped, I wouldn't appreciate jokes about it. But like I always say ‘if you take the ‘e' off of rape, you'll see it gets a bad rap.' (lots of laughter) Right? No, that's terrible; I don't think it's funny, but it's funny because it's totally not funny.

What's some of your new stuff?

Sarah Silverman: I'm doing stuff on Kaballah and Scientology and a little bit more racial stuff, for good measure.

Has anyone ever waited for you after a show because you were too racist?

Sarah Silverman: Yes, I learned pretty early is I never defend my material; it's for other people to if someone is offended. It's so subjective, and if you don't find it funny, it's definitely going to be offensive. There was a couple times where I was escorted out of the back of the Improv. I can't cater to everyone's needs and what they're going to be offended by; that's one freedom I have.

What were you hoping to accomplish by doing this movie?

Sarah Silverman: Get famous! (laughter) Yeah, get famous! (laughing) No, I was doing my live show; my friend wanted to watch the show from the wing. I flicked my tear to him and he pretended to catch it and pleasure himself with it and I was just dying laughing, and I thought this could be a really cool visual thing. It was that one moment that I thought that this would be a great idea for a movie.

When you bomb with your material, is there any way to get the audience back?

Sarah Silverman: I often can't get the audience back; lately I've just been giggling. I just recently did a corporate event, and was booked at the last minute and it was this show opening the new Nokia Times Square Stage. The show was like Mary J. Blige, Sean Paul, Eddie Griffin; I wasn't even on the bill. They shot it for MTV, I hope that none of my stuff got on it. It was all of that MTV picture perfect 17-year old fake audience and I remember saying to one of the producers ‘Oh, I'm going to bomb.' And he said to me ‘Oh, no, these are all kids, but in the back are all Nokia executives. I go out, and I realize me and Eddie are booked so in between the concerts they can switch out the drums and tune up the bands, so the band is tuning up behind, but the audience really can't hear. I was doing pretty well at the beginning; Nickelback was also on the show. The lead singer of the band has this really long blonde hair, so I said ‘I just met the lead singer of Nickelback backstage; she's beautiful!' (lots of laughter) And I had ‘em going for a while and then I started going into ‘I wrote an open letter to Martin Luther King…' and they started going ‘Uh-uh, no she didn't, no way.' But I started giggling, and I got through it; I had two friends with me, and I thought maybe they'd chime in, but it was downhill from there. I went backstage and Eddie Griffin came up to me and said ‘That was great, that was f-ing courageous and you just say what's on your mind.' He said something like ‘You're just like Lenny Bruce or like me; you say what's on your mind.' (lots of laughter) But he was so nice; he told me ‘These kids don't know, they hear buzz words and that's it.' It meant a lot to me, because he really has his finger on the pulse of that community. So I decided to watch Eddie; I braved the audience and stood on the side of the stage. He comes on, and maybe one joke into his set, the band starts tuning up. And we can hear it, but the audience really can't. But he sticks his head behind the curtain and screams ‘Shut the f*ck up' and really has the crowd going. Then he turns around and goes ‘The black man comes on they're on and they're tuning their instruments, meanwhile the white girl comes on and she's talking about Martin Luther King,' (laughter) and the audience is like ‘ahhhhhh.' (lots of laughter) Everyone around me is like ‘yeah, in your face.' (lots of laughter) I'm like ‘Oh my gosh.' I'm not upset about that, but it's just about that one line and how perfect; he knew the crowd was ready for it.

When did you know you had a different way of looking at the world?

Sarah Silverman: In the outcast of my family, I didn't have this one stand out. My dad was one of those dad's who thought it was funny to teach his kids swear words; my first words were ‘bitch, bastard, damn, sh*t' and that's what my dad taught me. But I got such a reaction from such an early age from saying those swear words that it hit me, damaged me in some way. I like to think of myself as ‘hot-larious' (laughing) I'm cute, but I'm totally approachable. I don't think I'm making up this only-American feel.

How does it work with Jimmy (Kimmel) coming up with material?

Sarah Silverman: We never fight over jokes; there's so much that he gives me because he can't say it on ABC. I'm established enough that I'm ok with him giving me a bit if it's good. He's a great writer, and so prolific beyond what you can see on network television.

Have you ever had a bit that was so bad, even your fans were offended?

Sarah Silverman: Yeah, but if I say that you're going to know which one, and I can't answer that. But someone was saying they saw me at the M Bar, and I totally bombed, but that's what happens, you have to try out your new stuff. Sometimes that happens, but you have to try it a couple more times, depending how much you like it, how personal it is.

Jesus is Magic opens in limited theaters November 11th; look for it in more cities in the weeks to come. It's directed by Liam Lynch; it's unrated.