Sarah Silverman's innocent outward appearance and sing-song delivery is in direct contrast
to much of her comic material, in which she deals with many controversial topics
such as racism, abortion, rape, body hair, scatology, and child abuse, among
others. Her comedy-acts are sometimes performed from a caricatured or
stereotypical Jewish-American perspective.
Sarah Silverman was born in Bedford, New Hampshire to Jewish American parents Donald and Beth Ann Silverman. One of Silverman's earliest acting roles was as a 12-year-old starring in the title role of a Community Players of Concord production of Annie. She performed stand-up comedy in her teens — in an October 2005 profile in The New Yorker, her sister Susan recalled an early performance at a Mexican restaurant when the 17-year-old Sarah sang a song called “Mammaries” (to the tune of “Memories...”), about wishing she had breasts. Silverman attended New York University for one year, but left to concentrate on her stand-up career.
Within three years Silverman had a major career break — she earned national exposure after earning a role on the 1993-94 season of Saturday Night Live. She was a writer and featured player at this time, but was fired after one season because she had written only one sketch that survived through to dress rehearsal and none which made it to air. Bob Odenkirk, a former SNL writer who knew her from her stand-up act in Los Angeles, commented on why she was fired: "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." Silverman states that she was fired by SNL in an undignified manner — via fax.
Sarah Silverman then moved on to the HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show with Bob and David, where she was a featured performer. Silverman made guest appearances on such programs as the two-part time-travel episode "Future's End" of Star Trek: Voyager and as a series regular on the TV show Greg the Bunny (2002), playing serious characters, as well as the voice of character "Hadassah Guberman" on the salacious puppet television comedy Crank Yankers. She has also had bit parts in films such as There's Something About Mary, Say It Isn't So, School of Rock, The Way of the Gun, Screwed, Heartbreakers, and "Rent", again playing serious roles. On November 11, 2005, her stand-up comedy act was released as a feature film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic. As part of the publicity campaign surrounding the film, Silverman made several high profile appearances, including online in Slate, as the cover subject of Heeb magazine, and performing on the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson.
On Jimmy Kimmel Live, she has parodied sketches from Chappelle's Show, as a point of view of what would happen if she played Rick James, Tyrone, or the Pilot Boy Productions-like logo called Pilot Girl Productions. This segment is based on a popular rumor that Silverman is a planned replacement for Dave Chappelle after the apparent demise of his popular television show.
On November 11, 2005, Silverman's concert movie, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is
Magic was released in eight theatres. Based on her popular one-woman show of the
same name, it was directed by Liam Lynch and distributed by Roadside
Attractions. Receiving mixed reviews, it made just under $125,000 opening
weekend, and had the highest per screen average. Its performance led to an
expanded release in as many as 57 theatres, resulting in a box office take of
more than $1.2 million. The movie is expected to be released on DVD in April
Sarah Silverman 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 offending interview, Silverman explained that a friend had advised her on how to avoid jury duty by writing a racial slur on the selection form, "something really inappropriate, like, 'I hate Chinks'." However, Silverman said that she ultimately decided that she did not want to be thought of as a racist and instead wrote, "I love Chinks." Even though Silverman claimed to be satirizing of the racist thought process, NBC issued an apology, but Silverman did not. She said 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 felt compelled to drop the joke from her act because she felt it was becoming stale.
Sarah Silverman 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." Her stand-up act is similarly charged with outrageously ironic racist statements, delivered in a perfectly serious manner:
"Everybody blames the Jews for killing Christ, and then the Jews try to pass it off on the Romans. I'm one of the few people that believe it was the blacks."
"I was raped by a doctor, which is so bittersweet for a Jewish girl."
Another classic snapshot of Silverman is what Paul Provenza called a "disconcerting and uncomfortable" performance of the infamous joke called The Aristocrats in Provenza's documentary of the same name. In her version of the joke she accuses Joe Franklin of raping her, in a perfectly deadpan manner; it is a perfect Silverman moment, in that the audience is not sure how to respond, causing as much discomfort as laughter.
Sarah Silverman is currently in a relationship with Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live. It is a relationship she refers to in some of her comic material:
"I wear this Saint Christopher medal sometimes because—I’m Jewish, but my boyfriend is Catholic—it was cute the way he gave it to me. He said if it doesn’t burn through my skin it will protect me."
Sarah Silverman was romantically linked with Colin Quinn during her Saturday
Night Live career, which is also referred to humorously by both parties.
Silverman has three sisters: Susan Silverman, a feminist rabbi and author of Jewish Family & Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today's Parents and Children; Laura Silverman, also an actor; and screenwriter Jody Silverman.
Sarah Silverman is very open about her lifelong battle with clinical depression, crediting her current freedom from attacks of despair to her use of prescription Zoloft, which she says was urged by her mother and aunt, both psychologists.
Silverman is a teetotaller.
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