Sarah Silverman (born December 1, 1970) is an American comedienne,
writer, actress, singer and musician. Although usually credited as Sarah
Sarah, she is sometimes credited by her nickname, Big S. Her satirical
comedy addresses social taboos and controversial topics such as racism,
sexism, and religion.
She often performs her act as a caricature of a Jewish-American princess, mocking bigotry and stereotypes of ethnic groups and religious denominations, by endorsing them in an ironic fashion. Sarah was first noticed as a writer and occasional performer on Saturday Night Live. She now stars in and produces The Sarah Silverman Program, which debuted February 1, 2007, on Comedy Central.
Sarah's performance on Community Auditions in 1985Sarah Silverman, the youngest of four daughters, was born in Bedford, New Hampshire. Her mother, Beth Ann Halpin, was George McGovern's personal campaign photographer and founded the theater company New Thalian Players. Her father, Donald Sarah, was a social worker by training who ran the discount clothing store Crazy Sophie's Outlet. Her family is Jewish, the descendants of immigrants from Russia and Poland.
She appeared in community theater at age twelve, also starring on a local television show in the Boston area called Community Auditions at age 15. She attended the The Derryfield School in Manchester, New Hampshire. At seventeen, she performed stand-up comedy in a restaurant, singing a song she called "Mammaries." She then attended New York University and continued her stand-up in Greenwich Village.
Sarah first received national attention in the 1993–94 season of Saturday Night Live as a writer and featured player. She was fired after one season because only one of the sketches she wrote survived to dress rehearsal, and none aired. Bob Odenkirk, a former SNL writer explained:
I could see how it wouldn't work at SNL because she's got her own voice, she's very much Sarah Silverman all the time. She can play a character but she doesn't disappear into the character — she makes the character her.
Sarah claims that she was greatly upset when SNL fired her via fax. She parodied the situation when she appeared on The Larry Sanders Show episode "The New Writer" (1996), playing Sanders' new staff writer, whose jokes are not used because of the chauvinism and bias of the male chief comedy writer, who favors the jokes of his male co-writers. She had a recurring role on Larry Sanders for its last two seasons.
Sarah was a featured performer on the HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show (1995-97). She made TV program guest appearances on Seinfeld, in the episode "The Money"; (1997) on Star Trek: Voyager, in the two-part time travel episode "Future's End"; (1996) on Greg the Bunny as a series regular (2002); and on the puppet television comedy Crank Yankers, as the voice of Hadassah Guberman (2003, 2007). She had small parts in the films There's Something About Mary, Say It Isn't So, School of Rock, The Way of the Gun, Overnight Delivery, Screwed, Heartbreakers, Evolution, School for Scoundrels, and Rent, playing a mixture of comic and serious roles. Her stand-up comedy act, a one-woman show, was released in 2005 as a feature film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. As part of the film's publicity campaign, she appeared online in Slate, as the cover subject of Heeb magazine, and in roasts on Comedy Central of Pamela Anderson and Hugh Hefner. In 2005, Sarah played a therapist in a skit for a bonus DVD of the album Lullabies to Paralyze by the band Queens of the Stone Age.
Sarah was a guest star in a second season episode of the USA cable program Monk. She returned in the sixth season premiere. According to the audio commentary on the Clerks II DVD, director Kevin Smith offered her the role that eventually went to Rosario Dawson, but she turned it down out of fear of being typecast in "girlfriend roles". However, she told Smith the script was "really funny" and mentioned that if the role of Randal Graves was being offered to her she "would do it in a heartbeat".
On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Sarah parodied sketches from Chappelle's Show, replaying Dave Chappelle's characterizations of Rick James and "Tyrone", as well as a Donnell Rawlings character based on the miniseries Roots. The parody addressed a popular rumor that Sarah was the planned replacement for Chappelle after he left his popular television show.
In 2006, Sarah placed #50 on Maxim Hot 100 List. In 2007, she placed #29 and appeared on the cover. She made the cover of the The Observer in Britain, with an article naming her "the world's hottest, most controversial comedian".
On June 3, 2007, Sarah hosted the MTV Movie Awards. During her opening act, she commented on the upcoming jail sentence of Paris Hilton, who was in the audience:
In a couple of days, Paris Hilton is going to jail... As a matter of fact, I heard that to make her feel more comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises. I think it is wrong, too. I just worry she is going to break her teeth on those things.
Then, on September 9, 2007, Sarah appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards. Following the comeback performance of Britney Spears, Sarah mocked her on stage, saying: "Wow, she is amazing. I mean, she is 25 years old, and she has already accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life. It's mind-blowing." Sarah called Spears' children "the most adorable mistakes you will ever see" and imitated Spears' vagina with her mouth.
On January 31, 2008, Sarah appeared as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in order to show Jimmy Kimmel, her boyfriend, a special video. The video turned out to be a song called "I'm Fucking Matt Damon", in which she and Damon sang a duet about having an affair behind Kimmel's back. The video created an "instant YouTube sensation".
Kimmel exacted his video "revenge" on February 24, 2008 by airing a video directed at Sarah which enlisted a panoply of stars to record Kimmel's song "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck". On September 13, 2008, Sarah won a Creative Arts Emmy for writing the song "I'm Fucking Matt Damon".
In October 2008, Sarah visited the United Kingdom to promote the release of The Sarah Silverman Program on Paramount Comedy, but her media and stage performances failed to impress audiences. Her debut stand-up performance at the Hammersmith Apollo was widely panned by the critics and audiences alike. The performance bombed when Sarah's warm-up act failed to show and Sarah rushed through a short 35-40 minute set. The heckling audience, who had been charged £40-50 a seat, refused to leave the theatre and Sarah, sporting a pair of after-show slippers, was forced to return to the stage for an impromptu question and answer session. Steve Bennett from comedy website Chortle declared that "minute for minute, there are sex phonelines that are cheaper than Sarah Silverman".
Sarah recently sold her idea of a book of humorous essays to HarperCollins for $2.5 million. The Observer reports that David Hirshey will be her editor.
Sarah's concert film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, based on her one-woman show of the same name, was released in 2005. Liam Lynch directed the movie, distributed by Roadside Attractions.
Rotten Tomatoes gave Jesus Is Magic a "fresh" rating of 64 percent with 54 positive reviews and 30 negative ones, with the "cream of the crop" giving it a rating of 67 percent. It made US$124,475 on its opening weekend, showing on seven screens. The box office performance led to an expanded release in as many as 57 theaters, resulting in a box office take of more than US$1.3 million.
The movie was released on DVD on June 6, 2006. The soundtrack featured songs and standup from the movie, and previously unreleased songs.
Sarah's television sitcom, The Sarah Silverman Program, debuted on Comedy Central on February 1, 2007. The show proved to be a ratings success, scoring the highest premiere ratings that a Comedy Central show had in three years, with 1.81 million viewers and the highest 18–49 rating of the night on cable. It portrays the day-to-day adventures of fictionalized versions of Sarah, her sister Laura and their friends. A number of comedic actors from Mr. Show have reappeared on The Sarah Silverman Program.
Sarah caused a brief controversy after using the ethnic slur "chink" in an interview on the July 11, 2001, episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In the interview, Sarah explained that a friend had advised her on how to avoid jury duty by writing a racial slur on the selection form, "something inappropriate, like 'I hate chinks.'" However, Sarah said that she ultimately decided that she did not want to be thought of as a racist, so she said, "I wrote 'I love chinks' – and who doesn't?" Sarah said that the joke satirizes the racist thought process. Guy Aoki, of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), objected to her use of the slur, saying that NBC's airing of it was inexcusable. NBC and O'Brien issued an apology, but Sarah did not, later appearing on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher on July 26, and August 22, 2001. Sarah questioned Aoki's sincerity, accusing him of exploiting the opportunity for publicity. On an episode of the show, Aoki appeared with Sarah, and stated that he did not accept Sarah's explanation, saying that it was not successful satire, that she should have substituted "chink" with "Chinese person," and that comedians should consult with groups such as his before performing such material. Sarah stated in an interview on NPR's Fresh Air that she was asked to repeat the joke on Politically Incorrect, among other places, but she eventually dropped the joke from her act because she felt it was becoming stale. Sarah has since turned the complaint into grist for her stand-up act, saying that the experience helped teach her the important lesson that racism is bad: "And I mean bad, like in that black way."
A minor controversy also arose over Sarah's performance in the documentary film The Aristocrats released in August 2005. The film, in which numerous comedians tell a famously ribald improvisational joke, featured Sarah giving an apparently autobiographical account of her life as a child sex performer. During the course of the act she mentions how Joe Franklin, a New York radio and TV personality whose nostalgic programs have aired since the early 1950s, would ask her to perform privately for him in his apartment. The act finished with Sarah looking at the camera and, in a deadpan voice, accusing Franklin of having raped her. After the film came out, Franklin took offense to Sarah's performance, concerned that it would hurt his reputation, and considered suing Sarah. When pressed by the New York Times in September 2005 over whether he would sue, he remained undecided, but said, "the best thing I could do is get Sarah better writers so she'd have funnier material."
Sarah has said that she does not consume alcohol, because it nauseates her. She has made reference to smoking marijuana in her act, and can be seen vaporizing what might be marijuana in the movie Super High Me with Doug Benson. She is open about her lifelong battle with clinical depression, crediting her current emotional health to taking prescription drug Zoloft. She struggled with bedwetting when she was a teenager, and has said the last time she wet her bed was when she was fired from Saturday Night Live.
Sarah talked about having dated Dave Attell on one of her appearances on The Howard Stern Show. Sarah and Colin Quinn joked about having been romantically linked during her Saturday Night Live career. In her first appearance on the Stern show in June 2001, she said she was dating someone named Tom who wrote for SNL.
A February 2007 magazine article said Sarah was then in a relationship that began in 2002 with Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! She referred to the relationship in some of her comedy:
In July 2008, Vanity Fair first reported that Sarah and Kimmel had split, ending their relationship of five years. However, in October 2008, it was revealed by FOX News and People magazine that they were on "the road back to being together." The couple attended the wedding of Howard Stern together, but split again in March 2009.
Sarah says she does not want to get married until same-sex couples are able to. She also says she doesn't want to have biological children to avoid the chance that they might inherit her depression.
Sarah's real-life sister Laura plays her sister on The Sarah Silverman Program. Another sister, Susan, is a rabbi who lives on a kibbutz in Israel with her husband and five children.
Sarah is a fan of Jenny Lewis and appeared in Lewis' music video for the song "Rise Up With Fists!!" She is also a fan of comedian Steve Martin, who was one of her major inspirations as a younger comedian. Sarah enjoys playing Scrabble on the Internet. One of her regular opponents is Alyssa Milano, who lives in the same building as she does. She credited comedian Tig Notaro as one of her best friends in an interview in The Advocate.
Sarah supported Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In October 2008, she released an internet commercial called The Great Schlep that humorously urged younger Jews to travel to Florida from their home states and persuade their grandparents to vote for Obama.
This Sarah Silverman Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub