Comedy

The Weekly Interview: A health scare has Sarah Silverman feeling less anxious

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Comedian Sarah Silverman speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Monday, July 25, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jason Scavone

Sarah Silverman is, like the rest of us, having a notable 2016, and sometimes for crappy reasons. In late June, Silverman went to the doctor for a sore throat and ended up in the hospital with a rare case of epiglottitis. Which is a far cry from the “drink a lot of hot tea and pop a few Ricola” advice most of us are going to get for a sore throat. But it’s been gravy since then. Silverman campaigned for Bernie Sanders and spoke at the Democratic National Convention where she got everyone’s attention for saying Sanders supporters who refused to back Hillary Clinton were being ridiculous.

You’re going to be performing just two days after the final presidential debate is held in Las Vegas. Are you going to pull any DNC strings to come to town early to attend? Holy sh*t, that would be like something someone would do. But not me. I’m someone who, if I got great tickets to the Super Bowl, I’d rather watch it on TV. The coverage is so much better. You can’t see everything when you’re there. I am missing that gene that understands the value of being in the venue. I’d rather watch on TV, where I can rewind it, get all the coverage, see everything.

Have you yet been offered a cabinet position in the future Clinton administration? I have not.

What position would you be seeking? I would love to punch up speeches. When someone’s hosting an awards show, they have a couple of their comedian friends backstage writing in-the-moment stuff. I feel like I could be helpful that way. Although once she’s president, she’s just doing policy, and she’s just doing what she’s actually brilliant at. So I don’t know. Groundskeeper?

This year, everyone you talk to, in every Internet comments section, there are people awkwardly shoehorning Trump jokes into any topic. It’s like everyone thinks they’re Mort Sahl. Does the election make for a bad environment for comedy? I think it’s good that it’s every four years and not all the time. This is the sexy election, the presidential election, but the midterms are just as important, and all the things down the ballot are the things that really create change on the state level. But it’s just not as sexy or quippable. It’s Trump who’s just part of a fear-based, stunted place that we’re at. He’s a reflection of it. He was created by us. It’s so funny, because the people voting for him, on Twitter, [if] I say anything, people say, “Shut up, nobody wants to hear from a celebrity.” Well, you’re voting for a celebrity! It’s so bananas.

Hillary knows how to be in government. She’s been a public servant for 30 years or some sh*t like that. What [Trump] has isn’t good for the country or for government. But it’s more powerful. He knows how to talk in soundbites, he knows to say something crazy for clickbait and he knows the news cycle will wash it away within 24 hours. He doesn’t apologize for sh*t. And he doesn’t have to look inside himself, which he could never do because if he did he’d probably kill himself.

Are you really concerned he could get elected, or do you believe all the polls that indicate this will be a blowout? I’ve had a confident smile wiped off my face before in elections, so I do not know what’s going to happen. I don’t feel confidence either way. I really hope Hillary wins, but I’m the asshole who voted for Ralph Nader because I felt it was important to vote my conscience and show that in the polls when I was sure Gore would win and he didn’t. You get so stressed out. And then I have to just go, listen, we’re on a dying planet in outer space. You have to take everything with a grain of salt.

Looking at something less dire, what’s it like for you having your father blow up into a minor Twitter celebrity? Hilarious. He loves it. He’s such a character. He’s such a big part of my life. I love that he gets a kick out of it. I have, more than I even want to have, his disdain for rich people who feel the rules don’t apply to them. It can make me crazy sometimes.

Even if it’s sold out, there are always a couple seats in the front row that are empty, because some rich asshole who can afford front row seats doesn’t have stakes in his life. He can go, “Oh, I don’t feel like it. I’m on the couch. I’m so comfortable here.” They show up a half hour into it. I try to [think like] them. These are people doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, but I’ve got a part of me going, “Oh, f*ck you.” I say, “If there are three people in sh*tty seats right now, run up front and you’ve got front row seats.” But then they show up late.

After the critical acclaim you got for 2015’s I Smile Back, is drama something you’re looking to do more of or are you taking it as it comes? I”m just taking it as it comes. I never look and see what movies are being cast. I know I should. I don’t think about it. I love doing stand-up, I love making dumb videos on my couch. Movies are fun, too. I have a couple movies coming out. I love that I did that drama. It’s not possible to do anything that bleak again. I’m really proud I did it. It wasn’t fun, but it was something else. It was exhilarating in a weird way. Movies are such a different medium. It’s slow. You have to get real zen. A lot of times I’ll read a script, and I’ll say, “Oh, this character is in all group scenes, and that’s so much coverage and I just don’t know.” I’m a quality of life person. It’s hard to get me either out of my apartment or, like, into a long-term schedule where I can’t have lunch with comic friends. But I get excited about stuff, and I want to do it and that’s the best gauge for me. It’s why I keep my overhead low.

After being hospitalized, you wrote on Facebook that, “It helped you come to the moving realization that nothing matters.” What did you mean by that? I’m still feeling it. It was really emotional. They couldn’t put me to sleep, because my blood pressure was so low, so I experienced everything, but I was on drugs. I had to breathe through a breathing tube, and when you’re on drugs and something is down your throat, you go to pull it out. They had to tie my hands down.

When you have a life or death event, totally random, like how the f*ck did that happen? But nothing matters. “Nothing matters” is something you realize and you kill yourself, or it’s something you realize and it makes you totally free. I came out of it having those big life realizations but also going, we are a ticking time bomb. So I don’t know, sometimes when I get stressed, like who’s going to be the next president or how’s this next show going to go, you have to go, oh, come on. We’re in outer space on a planet. Nothing matters that you think matters. It kind of can be a relaxing realization to not be so anxious about the future.

Sarah Silverman October 21, 8 p.m., $59-$89. MGM Grand’s KÀ Theatre, 702-891-1111.

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