Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman

Birth name Sarah Kate Silverman
Born (1970-12-01) December 1, 1970
Bedford, New Hampshire, U.S.
Medium Stand up, television, film, radio
Years active 1992–present
Genres Blue comedy, black comedy, political satire, insult comedy, musical comedy, character comedy
Subject(s) Racism, sexism, religion
Influences Steve Martin, Larry David, Joan Rivers,[1] Moms Mabley
Influenced Amy Schumer, Daniel Dickey, Erez Ben–Ari
Relative(s) Laura Silverman (sister)
Susan Silverman (sister)

Sarah Kate Silverman (born December 1, 1970)[2] is an American stand-up comedian, actress, producer and writer. Her comedy addresses social taboos and controversial topics, such as racism, sexism and religion, having her comic character endorse them in a sarcastic fashion.[3][4] For her work on television she won two Primetime Emmy Awards.

Silverman was a writer and occasional performer on Saturday Night Live, and starred in and produced The Sarah Silverman Program, which ran from 2007 to 2010 on Comedy Central, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.[5] She released an autobiography The Bedwetter in 2010. She also appeared in other television programs, such as Mr. Show and V.I.P., and starred in films, including Who's the Caboose? (1997), School of Rock (2003), Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).

In 2015, she starred in the drama I Smile Back, for which she was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.

Early life

Silverman was born in Bedford, New Hampshire,[6][7][8][9] to Beth Ann (née Halpin; 1941–2015)[10] and Donald Silverman. She was raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. Beth had been George McGovern's personal campaign photographer and would found the theater company New Thalian Players, while Donald had training as a social worker and also ran the clothing store Crazy Sophie's Outlet.[11][12] Silverman's parents divorced and later remarried others.[13][14] Silverman is the youngest of five siblings. Her sisters are Rabbi Susan Silverman, screenwriter Jodyne Silverman, and actress Laura Silverman; her brother Jeffrey Michael died when he was three months old.[15] Born into a Jewish family, she considers herself secular and non-religious.[16][17] She was in attendance when women lit menorahs at the Western Wall for the first time in December 2014.[18] Her ancestors were from Poland and Russia.[19]

The first time Silverman performed stand-up comedy was in Boston at age 17. She described her performance as "awful".[20] After graduating from The Derryfield School in Manchester, she attended New York University for a year, but did not graduate. Instead, she performed standup comedy in Greenwich Village.[13][21][22][23]


1992–2007: Career beginnings and Jesus is Magic

After beginning her stand-up comedy in 1992, Silverman was part of the 1993–94 season of Saturday Night Live (SNL) for 18 weeks as a writer and featured player. She was fired after one season where only one of the sketches she wrote survived to dress rehearsal and none aired, although she did appear on the show as a cast member in skits, usually in smaller supporting roles. 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."[21] She has stated that she was not ready for SNL when she got the job.[24] She said that when she was fired it hurt her confidence for a year, but after that nothing could hurt her and that she attributes her time to SNL as being a key reason why she has been so tough in her career.[24] Later, she was grateful that her SNL time was short, because it didn't end up defining her.[25] 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 appeared in three episodes of Larry Sanders during its final two seasons.

She also starred in the HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show (1995–1997) and had the leading role for the 1997 independent film Who's the Caboose?, about a pair of New York comedians (Silverman and director Sam Seder) going to Los Angeles during pilot season to try to get a part in a television series; the film features numerous young stand-up comedians in supporting roles but never received a widespread theatrical release. Silverman and Seder later made a six-episode television series sequel entitled Pilot Season in which Silverman stars as the same character and Seder again directed. She also made TV program guest appearances, including on Star Trek: Voyager in the two-part-time travel episode "Future's End" (1996); Seinfeld in the episode "The Money" (1997); V.I.P. in the episode "4812 Hours" (2002); 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 made her network standup comedy debut on the Late Show with David Letterman in July 2007.[26] 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.

In 2005, Silverman released a concert film, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, based on her one-woman show of the same name. Liam Lynch directed the film, which was distributed by Roadside Attractions. It received 64% positive ratings based on 84 reviews on the film critics aggregator Web site Rotten Tomatoes,[27] and earned approximately $1.3 million at the box office[28] 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.

Silverman played a therapist in a skit for a bonus DVD of the album Lullabies to Paralyze by the band Queens of the Stone Age. Silverman also appears at the end of the video for American glam metal band Steel Panther's "Death To All But Metal." On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Silverman 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. In 2006, Silverman placed 50th on Maxim Hot 100 List.[29] In 2007, she placed 29th and appeared on the cover.[30]

2007–2010: The Sarah Silverman Program

Silverman at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival

Her television sitcom The Sarah Silverman Program debuted on Comedy Central in February 2007, the series had 1.81 million viewers[5][31] and portrays the day-to-day adventures of fictionalized versions of Silverman, her sister Laura, and their friends. A number of comedic actors from Mr. Show have appeared on The Sarah Silverman Program. Silverman was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award[32] for her acting on the show. At the awards ceremony, she wore a fake mustache. Comedy Central canceled The Sarah Silverman Program after three seasons.[33]

In June 2007, she hosted the MTV Movie Awards. During her opening act, she commented on the upcoming jail sentence of Paris Hilton, who was in the audience, saying: "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."[34] In September 2007 she appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards. Following the comeback performance of Britney Spears, Silverman 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."[35]

In January 2008, she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to show Jimmy Kimmel, her boyfriend at the time, a special video. The video turned out to be a song called "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" in which she and Matt Damon sang a duet about having an affair behind Kimmel's back. The video created an "instant YouTube sensation."[36] She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. Kimmel responded with his own video a month later with Damon's friend Ben Affleck, which enlisted a panoply of stars to record Kimmel's song "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck".[37] On September 13, 2008, Silverman won a Creative Arts Emmy Award for writing the song "I'm Fucking Matt Damon".[38] Silverman guest-starred in a second-season episode of the USA cable program Monk as Marci Maven. She returned in the sixth season premiere and for the 100th episode of Monk. 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." She appeared in Strange Powers, the 2009 documentary by Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara about cult songwriter Stephin Merritt and his band The Magnetic Fields. Silverman wrote a comic memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, which was published in 2010.[39]

2011–present: Take this Waltz and other projects

Silverman performing at Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, January 2013

Silverman played Geraldine alongside Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in Take This Waltz, written and directed by Sarah Polley. The film was well received when it premiered in Toronto in 2011[40] and was picked up by Magnolia for U.S. distribution in summer 2012.[41] At the Toronto International Film Festival, she told the press she'd deliberately gained weight for the part, which required a nude scene, emphasizing that Polley wanted "real bodies and real women."[42] In interviews she warned fans not to expect too much.[43] However, she later told podcaster and author Julie Klausner that she had not really gained weight for the role, and that the statements were meant as self-deprecating humor.[44]

On September 20, 2012, Silverman made a public service announcement (PSA) criticizing new voter identification laws that create obstacles to the ability of certain groups to vote in the November presidential election, i.e., young, old, poor, and minority citizens. The project was financed by the Jewish Council for Education & Research (JCER) and was co-produced by Mik Moore[45] and Ari Wallach (the pair that also co-produced The Great Schlep and Scissor Sheldon).[46]

Silverman voiced Vanellope von Schweetz, one of the main characters in the 2012 Disney animated film, Wreck-It Ralph. She is in the creative team that writes and produces the content for the YouTube comedy channel called JASH. The other partners are Michael Cera, Reggie Watts, and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (also known as Tim & Eric). The JASH channel premiered online March 10, 2013.[47][48][49][50] In Seth MacFarlane's western comedy film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, she played Ruth, a prostitute, who is in love with Edward (Giovanni Ribisi). It was released on May 30, 2014.

In 2013 HBO announced that Silverman would star with Patti LuPone and Topher Grace in a situation comedy pilot called People in New Jersey, produced by SNL's Lorne Michaels.[51] The pilot was not picked up for a series order.


Racial slur

In a July 2001 interview on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Silverman used the ethnic slur "chink" in explaining that a friend advised her to avoid jury duty by writing a racial slur on the selection form, "something inappropriate, like 'I hate chinks.'" Silverman said she decided that she did not want to be thought of as a racist, so "I wrote 'I love chinks' — and who doesn't?"[52]

Silverman claimed 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.[53][54] NBC and O'Brien apologized, but Silverman did not. Later, appearing on Politically Incorrect in July and August 2001, Silverman questioned Aoki's sincerity, accusing him of exploiting the opportunity for publicity. On a later episode, Aoki appeared with Silverman and stated he did not accept Silverman's explanation, saying that it was not successful satire and that comedians should consult with groups such as his before performing such material. She stated in an NPR Fresh Air interview that she was asked to repeat the joke on Politically Incorrect, among other places, but eventually dropped it from her act because she felt it was becoming stale.[24]

Silverman has since turned the complaint into grist for her standup act, saying that the experience helped teach her the important lesson that racism is bad: "And I mean bad, like in that black way."[55]

The Aristocrats

A minor controversy arose over Silverman's performance in the documentary film The Aristocrats (2005). The film shows her giving an apparently autobiographical account of her life as a child sex performer and mentions that 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. Silverman looks at the camera and, in a deadpan voice, accuses Franklin of raping her. The film was edited in such a way that it appears as if Franklin knows what Silverman said about him. Later, after her clip, Franklin is shown stating, "Sarah Silverman is a young lady to watch." After the film came out, Franklin took offense at Silverman's using his name and considered suing her. A month later, The New York Times noted he remained undecided but said, "The best thing I could do is get Sarah better writers so she'd have funnier material."[56]

Personal life

Silverman became a vegetarian at the age of ten.[57] She is open about her lifelong battle with clinical depression, which at one point led to her developing an addiction to Xanax. She credited her subsequent emotional health to taking the prescription drug Zoloft.[22][58][59] She struggled with bedwetting from the time she was young until well into her teens and stated in a 2007 interview that she had wet the bed recently.[60]

Silverman's autobiography, published in April 2010, entitled The Bedwetter, explores the subject of bed wetting, among other subjects. She stated she did not want to get married until same-sex couples were able to.[61] In 2014 she tweeted "Just read that I wanna get married which is hilarious b/c I will never get married," adding, "Why would I want the govt involved in my love life? Ew. It's barbaric."[62]

She stated she does not want to have biological children to avoid the risk that they might inherit her depression.[63]

Silverman's biological sister, Laura, played her sister on The Sarah Silverman Program. An older sister, Susan, is a rabbi who lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Yosef Abramowitz, the co-founder and president of Arava Power Company, and their five children.[13][64][65] Silverman considers herself culturally Jewish, which she has frequently mined for material, but says she is agnostic[16] and does not follow Judaism, claiming, "I have no religion. But culturally I can't escape it; I'm very Jewish."[66][67]

Silverman began dating Jimmy Kimmel in 2002.[60] She referred to the relationship in some of her comedy, joking: "I'm Jewish, but I wear this Saint Christopher medal sometimes; my boyfriend is Catholic — but you know ... it was cute the way he gave it to me. He said if it doesn't burn a hole through my skin, it will protect me."[21] In July 2008, Vanity Fair reported that the couple had split. However, in October 2008, the media reported they were on "the road back to being together".[68] The couple attended the wedding of Howard Stern and Beth Ostrosky,[69] but split again in March 2009.[70] Silverman began dating television writer Alec Sulkin in early 2010;[71] they met via Twitter after she sent him a personal message and they split up months later in October 2010, but remain friends.[72] Silverman and comedian Kyle Dunnigan were in a relationship from October 2011[73][74] to December 2013.[75][76] Silverman began dating Welsh actor Michael Sheen in January 2014.[77][78]

In July 2016, Silverman spent a week in the intensive care unit at Cedars Sinai Hospital with epiglottitis.[79]

Politics and activism

Silverman introduces Bernie Sanders at an August 2015 campaign rally in Los Angeles

In 2015, she signed an open letter which the ONE Campaign had been collecting signatures for; the letter was addressed to Angela Merkel and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urging them to focus on women, as they serve as the head of the G7 in Germany and the AU in South Africa, respectively, which will start to set the priorities in development funding before a main UN summit in September 2015 that will establish new development goals for the generation.[80]

In 2015, Silverman endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States, saying, "He says what he means & he means what he says & he's not for sale." She had previously introduced Sen. Sanders at a rally in Los Angeles, California that drew an audience of over 27,500 people.[81]

Silverman spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton. She urged other Sanders supporters to back Hillary Clinton and later, amid some boos from some Sanders supporters, said, "Can I say something? To the 'Bernie or Bust' people, you're being ridiculous."[82][83] The Washington Post and Politico called this one of the most memorable moments of the night.[84][85] The New York Times called her speech "the perfect breath of fresh air."[86] Michael Grunwald of Politico coined the term "Silverman Democrats" for Sanders supporters who followed Sanders's advice to support Clinton in the general election.[87]



Year Title Role Notes
1997 Who's the Caboose? Susan Also co-producer
1998 Overnight Delivery Turran
1998 Bulworth American Politics Assistant
1998 There's Something About Mary Brenda
1999 The Bachelor Carolyn
2000 What Planet Are You From? Woman on Plane Uncredited
2000 Screwed Hillary
2000 The Way of the Gun Raving Bitch
2001 Say It Isn't So Gina
2001 Heartbreakers Linda
2001 Evolution Denise
2002 Run Ronnie Run! Network Executive #3
2003 School of Rock Patty Di Marco
2003 Bad Santa Teacher Uncredited
2004 Hair High Cherri (voice)
2004 Nobody's Perfect N/A Short film
2005 The Aristocrats Herself Documentary
2005 Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic Herself Also writer
2005 Rent Alexi Darling
2006 I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With Beth
2006 School for Scoundrels Becky
2007 Futurama: Bender's Big Score Michelle (voice) Direct-to-DVD
2008 Super High Me Herself Documentary
2008 A Bad Situationist Jamy Shonelike Direct-to-DVD
2009 Saint John of Las Vegas Jill
2009 Funny People Herself Cameo
2010 Peep World Cheri Meyerwitz
2011 The Muppets Restaurant greeter Cameo
2011 Take This Waltz Geraldine
2012 Wreck-It Ralph Vanellope von Schweetz (voice)
2014 Gravy Bethany
2014 A Million Ways to Die in the West Ruth
2014 Cops, Cum, Dicks and Flying Lieutenant Silverman Short film
2015 I Smile Back Laney
2015 Ashby June Wallis
2016 And Punching the Clown Sharon Levine
2016 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Paula
2017 Battle of the Sexes Gladys Heldman Filming
2017 The Book of Henry Sheila
2018 Wreck-It Ralph 2 Vanellope von Schweetz (voice) In development and also co-producers


Year Title Role Notes
1993–94 Saturday Night Live Various roles 18 episodes; also writer
1995–97 Mr. Show with Bob and David Various roles 10 episodes
1996 Star Trek: Voyager Rain Robinson 2 episodes
1996; 1998 The Larry Sanders Show Wendy Traston 3 episodes
1997 Seinfeld Emily Episode: "The Money"[88]
1997 Brotherly Love Rosa Episode: "Pizza Girl"
1997 JAG Lt. Schiparelli Episode: "Blind Side"
1997 The Naked Truth Ali Walters Episode: "Look at Me! Look at Me!"
1998 Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Herself (voice) Episode: "Alderman"
1999 Late Last Night Jen Television film
2000 Manhattan, AZ Dakota Episode: "Jake's Daughter"
2000, 2013 Futurama Michelle (voice) 2 episodes
2000 Super Nerds Gwen Pilot
2000 Rocky Times Kate Pilot
2002 V.I.P. Lucy Stanton Episode: "48 1/2 Hours"
2002 Saddle Rash Hanna Headstrong (voice) Pilot
2002 Greg the Bunny Alison Kaiser 13 episodes
2003 Frasier Jane Episode: "Maris Returns"
2003–07 Crank Yankers Hadassah Guberman (voice) 4 episodes
2004 Pilot Season Susan Underman 2 episodes
2004 Aqua Teen Hunger Force Robositter (voice) Episode: "Robositter"
2004 Drawn Together Bleh (voice) Episode: "The Other Cousin"
2004–08 Monk Marci Maven 3 episodes
2005 American Dad! Stripper (voice) Episode: "Stan Knows Best"
2005 Tom Goes to the Mayor Barb Dunderbarn (voice) Episode: "Pipe Camp"
2006 Robot Chicken Lt. Uhura / Cork's Big Sister / Playmobil Bunny / Woman (voices) 2 episodes
2007–10 The Sarah Silverman Program Herself 32 episodes; also co-creator, writer and executive producer
2010–16 The Simpsons Nikki McKenna / Herself / Rachel (voices) 4 episodes
2011 The Good Wife Stephanie Engler Episode: "Getting Off"
2011 Childrens Hospital Britches Episode: "Ward 8"
2011 Bored to Death Lori Episode: "I Keep Taking Baths Like Lady Macbeth"
2011, 2013 The League Heather Nowzick 2 episodes
2011–present Bob's Burgers Ollie Pesto / Ms. Schnur / Lead Singer (voices) 31 episodes
2012–14 Louie Herself 3 episodes
2012 Susan 313 Susan Farrow Pilot; also co-creator, writer and executive producer
2013 Out There Amy (voice) Episode: "Ace's Wild"
2013 Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself Episode: "Sarah Silverman Wears a Black Dress With A White Collar"
2013 People in New Jersey Melanie Levin Pilot
2013 Comedy Central Roast of James Franco Herself Television special[89]
2013 Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Herself Stand-up special; also writer and executive producer
2014 Maron Herself Episode: "Marc on Talking Dead"
2014–16 Masters of Sex Helen 7 episodes
2014 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Sarah Silverman/Maroon 5"[90]
2015 Man Seeking Woman Josh's right hand (voice) Episode: "Pitbull"
2016 Lady Dynamite Herself Episode: "Loaf Coach"

Music videos

Year Title Artist References
2006 "Rise Up With Fists!!" Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins [91]
2009 "Death to All But Metal" Steel Panther [92]
2013 "We Do Not Belong" Psychic Friend [93]
2013 "Perfect Night" [94]
2015 "Save Dat Money" Lil Dicky [95]
2016 "Don't Wanna Know" Maroon 5

Video games

Year Title Voice role
2012 Wreck-it Ralph Vanellope Von Schweetz
2013 Disney Infinity
2014 Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes
2015 Disney Infinity 3.0

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2004 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Villain School of Rock Nominated
2008 Writers Guild of America Award Best Written New Series The Sarah Silverman Program Nominated
2008 GLAAD Media Award Outstanding Comedy Series The Sarah Silverman Program Nominated
2008 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Special Class - Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs The Sarah Silverman Program Nominated
2008 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Monk Nominated
2008 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics Jimmy Kimmel Live! for "I'm F**king Matt Damon" Won
2009 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series The Sarah Silverman Program Nominated
2012 Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Animated Female Wreck-It Ralph Nominated
2013 Visual Effects Society Award Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Wreck-It Ralph Nominated
2013 Dorian Awards Wilde Wit of the Year Nominated
2014 American Comedy Awards[96] Comedy Special of the Year Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Nominated
2014 Primetime Emmy Award[97] Outstanding Variety Special Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Nominated
2014 Primetime Emmy Award[97] Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Won
2015 Grammy Award[98] Best Comedy Album Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Nominated
2015 Writers Guild of America Award[99] Comedy/Variety (Music, Awards, Tributes) – Specials Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles Nominated
2015 Seymour Cassel Award[100] Outstanding Performance (screen acting) I Smile Back Won
2015 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress I Smile Back Nominated
2015 Screen Actors Guild Award Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role I Smile Back Nominated


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External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sarah Silverman.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Sarah Silverman
Preceded by
Jessica Alba
MTV Movie Awards host
Succeeded by
Mike Myers
Preceded by
Chris Pratt
Saturday Night Live host
October 4, 2014
Succeeded by
Bill Hader
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