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Jewesses with Attitude

The "real" Sarah Silverman

Last Friday I went to a sold-out book reading in Coolidge Corner. Sarah Silverman, probably the most (in)famous Jewish woman comedian today, was reading from her new memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee. Since she is without a doubt a "Jewess with attitude," I thought it was important that I be there.

Her "schtick" is playing the inappropriate child, who Elissa Straus describes as "old enough to know what she is saying is bad, but not old enough to understand how bad it really is." It's not for everyone, a fact I discovered when I had trouble finding someone who would take my extra ticket and come with me. As it turns out, not many in my circle are fans of Sarah Silverman. I did finally find a friend to come with me and both of us were impressed to learn that Sarah Silverman has a lot more to offer than just her "schtick."

Sarah Silverman took the stage wearing a knit Red Sox hat, sweatshirt and jeans. She could have blended in with any crowd in Boston. Relaxed and casual, she began by reading an except from her book about the messages her father leaves on her answering machine, which she described as "comedy gold." (They were.) It gave me a peek into her family life, and I found myself wanting to learn more. Without further ado, it was time for questions and answers.

Overall, I was impressed by the "real" Sarah Silverman. She spoke with an unaffected eloquence, slipping GRE words in amidst her "likes" and "ums." She answered questions very honestly and earnestly. One young woman asked her if she would like to go out drinking with her and her friends after the book signing. Sarah replied with a touching "Awwww," followed by a pause and then, "No." While she "wanted to want to go out," she explained, she doesn't drink and was really looking forward to going home and watching Law and Order.

She talked about her recent TED Talk and how disappointed she was to hear that TED organizer Chris Anderson called her talk "god-awful" and actually apologized for inviting her. As a fan of the TED Talks, she had worked hard on her bit and left feeling like it went well. From a genuine place, she described how upsetting it was to hear Chris Anderson's response. She re-told what she believed to be the offending joke. As she explains it, she was talking about adoption and how she would like to adopt a mentally retarded child because she "cares about people." She was worried that if she died before the child did, no one would be there to care for him or her, so her plan was to adopt a mentally retarded child with a terminal illness. I thought it was funny, but then again, I like offensive humor. 

Soon after the joke about mentally retarded, terminally ill children, someone asked her if she had any limits -- what was out of bounds for Sarah Silverman? Her answer surprised and impressed me. Making jokes about fat women, she said, wasn't funny to her. She just didn't think it was something to joke about.

In a Heeb review of The Bedwetter, StevenM writes:

Silverman’s standup, normally marked by a detached persona and thick outer layer of snark and irony, is off-putting for some, but here she hits previously unseen levels of honesty and sincerity – the type of genuineness normally associated with comedians like Louis CK, Bill Burr, or Doug Standhope – while still retaining her expected level of filth. (See first chapter, “My Life Started by Exploding Out of My Father’s Balls, and You Wonder Why I Don’t Work Blue.”) Only Silverman could mix a true confessional autobiography with this many fart and dick jokes ... Even if you’ve hated Sarah in the past, you’ll love this story.

I have not yet read The Bedwetter, but if the book is written with the same sincerity and subtle wit the "real" Sarah Silverman showed on Friday, it might just change our minds.

For reviews of The Bedwetter, visit The Forward, Vanity Fair and Heeb Magazine.

More on: Comedy, Memoirs,

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "The "real" Sarah Silverman." 26 April 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/the-real-sarah-silverman>.

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