Sarah Silverman
Photo by Alex de Brabant

Sarah Silverman: “Usually I’m the idiot”

 Listen to Audio Excerpt Listen to Audio Excerpt
Short Profile

Name: Sarah Kate Silverman
DOB: 1 December 1970
Place of Birth: Manchester, New Hampshire, USA
Occupation: Comedian, Actress

Ms. Silverman, how do you get away with the offensive things you say?

I think when a comic can get away with something it’s because people are like dogs: they smell fear and they smell intentions. If you say something racist or something that you don’t mean but what transcends is love, then you can get away with it more than if there’s a coldness.

So you can be mean as long as you’re not serious?

If it’s hateful, it’s a scary, ugly thing. But if it’s silliness, you can smell it. I think there’s a difference.

But often people don’t see the difference.

People still get offended. The most money I’ve made was from commercials I’ve done for eBay. They find that I’m popular and they hire me, but before they air they find that far more people hate me and then they don’t air it. It’s great. It’s a good way to make a living without anything ever airing.

“Part of being a comic is that you have to be responsible for the things you say.”

What was your comedy about when you started?

Let’s see… mostly about high school. You know, I hadn’t done anything.

Do you remember a joke from your first routine?

“If you say something that rhymes by accident you say, ‘Oh I’m a poet and I don’t even know it.’ But what if you say something free verse by accident? ‘Oh, I’m a poet and I never realized that.’”


I was 17!

When did you start making fun of other people?

I don’t make fun of people - usually I’m the idiot.

I am pretty sure I remember you making fun of certain people.

I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but part of being a comic is that you have to be responsible for the things you say. So you’re not edgy if there are no consequences. Sometimes there are consequences and you’ve got to suck it up.

You called Britney Spears’ kids “adorable mistakes…”

What happened was Britney Spears was going to have this big performance at the Video Music Awards and there was no doubt in my mind she was going to be amazing – she’s always been great at this show. It was a whole spectacle: she had snakes, she made out with Madonna. Every year it’s something great. And following Britney, you have to do a couple of jokes about Britney, so I had a couple of jokes. But what I didn’t know, because I didn’t watch her because I was pacing trying not to have diarrhea, was that she was terrible. She wasn’t even lip-synching.


I didn’t know. I didn’t know the weight the jokes would take because I didn’t know that she was ill. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings and it’s not my usual thing to talk about specific people, but I felt like it was more pop culture.

Sarah Silverman's monologue about Britney Spears at the Video Music Awards in 2007.

The reaction to it was pretty harsh.

Well it’s funny because I’ve been murdered for jokes I’ve done about her and Paris Hilton – you know, two rich white blondes. Not that money means anything, but my point being… scapegoated just like the Jews! No, just kidding.

At least you came out with a book where you wrote embarrassing things about yourself as well.

I think it just was honest. I don’t really think about it in terms of embarrassing myself or something because I think the realization you have as an adult is that some kids wet their beds and it’s okay. I did it for a long time, but the horrors of childhood, given some time and perspective, are not so bad.