Sarah Silverman has been doing standup for over 20 years, but she's never released a televised standup special until now. She's done dozens of late night spots and a theatrically-released concert film (Jesus Is Magic), but Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles, which premieres tomorrow on HBO, is her first ever hour special.
In addition to filming We Are Miracles, Silverman has recently been keeping busy with a whole slew of different projects. She's playing a supporting role in Seth MacFarlane's next live action movie, starring in an HBO pilot called People of New Jersey for producer Lorne Michaels, and releasing videos via JASH, the YouTube channel she's a partner in alongside Reggie Watts, Tim & Eric, and Michael Cera. I interviewed Silverman earlier this week about doing her first HBO special, her favorite comedians, and some ageist jokes she had to put up with at Comedy Central's James Franco roast.
It's been a while since your last standup release. What made you return with a new special now?
That reason. It's been a while, and I had a special in me.
In We Are Miracles, you mention preferring smaller rooms to big ones. Have you always felt this way?
I love big rooms too. I just always wanted to do a special in a super intimate room. I thought maybe it would feel like you're part of this small crowd when watching it at home. But of course there is something to doing a special with a big crowd, with laughs washing over you and taking that time during laughs. But I thought if that is stripped away and you just hear this small group laughing or not laughing, it's an experience you don't usually see in a special. Just totally un-spectacle-ized. Who knows? It may be a huge mistake. [Laughs]
How often do you perform standup these days?
It depends. I'm a very fragile flower physically. I can't shoot all day then go do a show at night. I'm either living days or nights. When I'm shooting, I wrap and it's a race to get to sleep for the next day. When I'm doing standup — especially when I come to NYC for chunks of time to get up a lot and just work out jokes — I'm sleeping all day and up all night.
You recently released your pilot to Susan 313 on JASH. What was your experience filming the show like, and why do you think NBC didn't pick it up?
I was relieved they didn't — just because I realized in that process that I don't wanna do 22 episodes of anything a year. I'm a quality of life person. And that network experience of having to jump through 11 hoops for every shit we took (every choice we made) is just not the life for me. But I liked it. I mean with the perspective I now have I can see there are wholesale changes I would make to fix it. Plus for me, it doesn't really take off until after the first seven minutes since there's so much pipe to lay for a pilot, you know. But it really was a good experience, and I got to work with super great talented friends.
Do you have any JASH videos/series coming up you're excited about?
Just released a video this week: a music video for the song that ends my special, though in the special I sing it live/ acoustic. And one for repro rights that I shot but has a lot of animation still to be built that will come out after the new year.
Who are some of your favorite comedians that people might not be aware of yet?
I love this question! Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan, Todd Glass, Natasha Leggero, Chelsea Peretti, Jenny Slate, Harris Wittels.
What comedy movies/TV shows have you most enjoyed lately?
I don't watch much comedy. I love Louie and Girls and Parks and Rec and Key and Peele, but I mostly watch dramas. It's much more relaxing for a comedian to watch dramas. Homeland, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Orphan Black, Broadchurch, Mad Men, etc.
I enjoyed what you said about the James Franco Roast on Totally Biased. What reaction did you receive to that appearance, and do you have any more thoughts on the matter?
I worry that I would make Jonah [Hill] or Seth [Rogen] feel bad about those jokes. They had every right and I support them and they were funny and it's a roast and fuck, I was brutal to them too. But just putting that aside and using it to talk about perceptions of age and women, yeah, I got a lot of cool responses — mostly by women. And it made me happy to express it. But it's a fine line, and I want to make that clear and not suddenly hold a roast accountable for my feelings. That would be shitty of me.
Sarah Silverman's HBO special, We Are Miracles, premieres Saturday, November 23rd, at 10pm.