Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with two-time-Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and producer Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman).
Sarah currently hosts The Sarah Silverman Podcast and stars in the HBO Max animated series Santa Inc., opposite Seth Rogen. She will next be seen opposite Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson in the feature film Marry Me. Other upcoming projects include TBS’s Stupid Pet Tricks, an expansion of the famous David Letterman late-night segment, and the indie psychological thriller Viral, starring alongside Blair Underwood.
Her first book, a memoir called The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, which went on to become a New York Times bestseller, is currently being adapted into a musical with the Atlantic Theater Company to premiere in April 2022.
Sarah served as creator, executive producer, and host of the Emmy-nominated series I Love You, America, which streamed weekly on Hulu and saw her connecting with people through honesty and humor. On stage, she continues to be recognized as a force in stand-up comedy. Her latest stand-up special, A Speck of Dust, debuted on Netflix in May 2017 and culminated in two Emmy Award nominations and a Grammy Award nomination. Her additional film and television work includes Battle of the Sexes, I Smile Back, Wreck-It Ralph, Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet, Masters of Sex, and Bob’s Burgers.
Transcripts may contain a few typos. With many episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.
DUE TO SOME HEADACHES IN THE PAST, PLEASE NOTE LEGAL CONDITIONS:
Tim Ferriss owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as his right of publicity.
WHAT YOU’RE WELCOME TO DO: You are welcome to share the below transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles (e.g., The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian), on your personal website, in a non-commercial article or blog post (e.g., Medium), and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include attribution to “The Tim Ferriss Show” and link back to the tim.blog/podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.
WHAT IS NOT ALLOWED: No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Tim Ferriss’ name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. For the sake of clarity, media outlets are permitted to use photos of Tim Ferriss from the media room on tim.blog or (obviously) license photos of Tim Ferriss from Getty Images, etc.
Tim Ferriss: Sarah, welcome to the show. It’s nice to finally see you.
Sarah Silverman: Likewise.
Tim Ferriss: And I thought we would start with an unfinished story, from my perspective, which came about when I had COVID and I was isolating and I was watching multiple episodes of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and I watched your episode where you had coffee with Jerry and you were beginning to tell this heartfelt story. You said, “I went through a terrible depression. I remember my stepfather says, ‘What does it feel like?'” And then Jerry jumps in to say, “Excuse me,” to the wait staff, “Can I get some half-and-half?”
And you’re like, “Really? Was it that much of an emergency?” And then the edit cut to a different segment of the conversation. So I was wondering if it’s possible for you to finish the cliffhanger, because I was actually interested to hear the rest of that, “I went through a terrible depression. I remember my stepfather saying, ‘What does it feel like?'” And then you got cut off by the half-and-half.
Sarah Silverman: Wow. Yes, I could tell you exactly. It’s one of the few, very clear memories I have of that time. Depression came over me when I was 13 like, I always say, it was as fast as getting the flu. You ever get the flu and from one moment to the next, you feel fine, and then you go, “Oh, oh, my God, I have the flu.”
It was that fast. Just like a cloud covering the sun and all of a sudden it’s dark. And it lasted for a few years, and it was the ’80s, and I was put on Xanax. That’s a crazy story. And ultimately was just given more and more and more until I was 13 and taking 16 Xanax a day; four Xanax, four times a day.
Tim Ferriss: Good Lord. Wow.
Sarah Silverman: It just doesn’t even seem possible. It can’t be legal to be giving a child that much drugs. My mom and my dad were kind of trying to come up with solutions and fix things, and my stepdad was the only one who just asked me what it felt like. And it was the first time I had to think about what it felt like. And I really came up with the perfect description, which is, “It felt just like I was homesick, but I was home so there was no way to satiate it. There was nothing to hope for. There was no home to go to. I was home.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And that was where? If we place you in time, where were you at the time? Were you still in New Hampshire?
Sarah Silverman: 206 County Road, Bedford, New Hampshire.
Tim Ferriss: New Hampshire.
Sarah Silverman: 03110.
Tim Ferriss: Can you think of, or identify anything, that led to that wave crashing over you at that time? Is there anything that you can point to that acted as a trigger?
Sarah Silverman: I remember the moment it happened, what was happening. I was a chronic bedwetter and we had the eighth grade camping trip, which was a four-day camping trip up Mount Cardigan. And I was the student leader and I cried the whole time, and I had diapers hidden in my sleeping bag and I just felt humiliated and homesick. Nobody caught me with the — I slipped diapers in my sleeping bag so that I wouldn’t pee in my sleeping bag.
I was 12, 13, but I just was painfully homesick and I never enjoyed a moment of it. It was terrible. I probably would’ve loved it. Anyway, it was humiliating and we come home and I just want to go home and go into bed, and I’ve got my giant backpack with all my stuff and everyone’s getting off the bus and my mom picks me up. She was a photographer and she just was taking pictures of me like a paparazzi and I was begging her to stop. And it was this very odd combination of being photographed and ignored at the same time, and that’s when it happened. And there’s a picture of it. I have a picture of the moment depression took hold of me.
Tim Ferriss: It’s kind of incredible that you have that locked in the amber in a way. You have that moment captured. And part of the reason I’m asking is I do not have a clear vision of when the depressive episodes that I’ve experienced started. I know it seems to be congenital. My dad has had extended depressions for as long as I can remember. I don’t know when my experience of that started, right, and in retrospect, it kind of seems like it was ever present. But what I’d love to do is actually flash forward to something I read in a piece from a few years ago in The Guardian, because I’m curious about how this has kind of lent itself to your life. I read that your mom always said to be your own best friend.
Sarah Silverman: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Right, this was at the very end of a Guardian interview, I suppose, and the paragraph reads, “As we say our goodbyes, Mary the dog trots off down the corridor to pay some visits and Silverman asks if we can hug. I mention that she seems happy, glowing, in fact. Why?
‘This is going to sound obnoxious,’ she replies, ‘but Mom always said be your own best friend, and I really, really mastered that.'”
And it goes on. Could you just elaborate on that, because I think this is one of my lifelong quests, is to get to that point. I would love to hear you just speak more to that and maybe just describe how your mom instilled it, and also how you practiced it, if that was something that you explicitly practiced?
Sarah Silverman: I was a serial monogamist. I wouldn’t go out on a date with a guy without at least putting two years in.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: I think maybe out of politeness. But there was one relationship I just completely lost myself. My partner fell in love with this independent woman and I became a completely dependent, codependent — I got out of that relationship so emotionally atrophied, I forgot who I was. I remember I just kept saying, “I don’t know how to be,” and that was really scary for me. And I think from then on, I really got very — it became really important to me to be alone and enjoy that. And I loved it.
I would come home and go, “What do you want to do tonight, me?” I love hanging out with myself, but I also love television. I said recently on my podcast, I had to kind of admit, I always say how much I love being alone and I do, but I’m constantly being kept company. I’ve got the TV on, I’m listening to Howard Stern. I guess when I listen to music, I think it takes me to a new place that isn’t just company, but it is a kampf. I’m trying to use that word in a positive way. It’s mein kampf!
Tim Ferriss: Rebrand. Rebrand.
Sarah Silverman: I did actually practice. I lived in this apartment building for 14 years, I just moved into my first house since growing up in New Hampshire. But I would walk in from the apartment building and there were mirrors by the elevator and I’d make myself look in the mirror and give myself a thumbs up. And even though it’s silly — because it’s silly, I guess — it always made me laugh. It just makes me laugh. So it’s nice to have kind of inside jokes with yourself. I also became very comfortable talking out loud when I’m alone. When you first try it as an experiment, you really have to break through a wall, it feels so odd and now I’m so comfortable doing it that oftentimes —
Tim Ferriss: Are you talking to yourself or other people, the world in general? What’s the content?
Sarah Silverman: I just talk out loud. I think just creatively, just as a human, I’ll be saying my half of a conversation I’m imagining or just be in conversation with myself. I mean, I think when someone has a dog, they feel comfortable doing that, but essentially that isn’t talking to yourself, you’re talking to another living thing, but remove the dog and there isn’t a big difference in that conversation.
Tim Ferriss: In the conversation.
Sarah Silverman: And so I got really comfortable talking out loud, so much so that I’ve had boyfriends that are like, “What?” And I’m like, “No, nothing. I wasn’t talking to you,” but —
Tim Ferriss: “I’m talking to myself.”
Sarah Silverman: But I feel I get a lot out of that, just talking because we are always — have this kind of inner monologue going on. Do we? I don’t know. I think we do.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I think so.
Sarah Silverman: We’re always thinking something. Meditation is trying to clear that out, so we must be always — have something in our heads.
Tim Ferriss: Was that something that you always had? That feeling of enjoyment or being at ease with yourself and you just had to resurrect it after getting lost in that relationship? Or was it something that you were kind of building from the ground up afterwards?
Sarah Silverman: My friends always made fun of me because I have the opposite of FOMO. One of my best friends, John, he loves telling this story. I was living in West Hollywood and all my friends lived on the east side and I just never saw them because it was, I couldn’t even imagine getting in my car and going to a bar to hang out. I don’t know why. I like staying home. I love watching TV. Listen, it’s not very intellectual, but it’s really my joy. And there was a birthday party for two really close friends not even a block away and I didn’t make it. And he was just like, “You’re unbelievable.”
But when I do go out, I am social and I love talking to people and meeting new people. And I am a people person, but I just really love, I love being alone. And I’ve had friends, especially now, really annoyed with me that I’m not connecting with them. And I feel busy because when I have free time, I want to take a nap or watch TV or snuggle with my dog. And I love my friends and I do drop the ball a lot. I have a lot of friends that say, “Why is it always me calling you?” And I feel terrible because I love them and I think of them and I keep track of them on social media — whatever, these are asshole excuses, but I’m really not good at staying connected.
Tim Ferriss: Well, it makes me think of a friend, Jason Fried, talking about the opposite of FOMO as JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out.
Sarah Silverman: Yeah. Oh, that’s great.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, that’s his take.
Sarah Silverman: I mean, there’s nothing better than someone canceling plans for me. I’m just like, “Ah.”
Tim Ferriss: Surprise gift, surprise gift. So you mentioned watching TV, are there series that you have re-watched multiple times or watched multiple times, or if you had to, is there anything that jumps to mind as something that you would absolutely replay?
Sarah Silverman: Law & Order is my safe space. Something about the softcore murder, the kind of comedian version of things ripped from the headlines, not true crime, but the —
Tim Ferriss: Homicidal but approachable?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah. You only see blood and it’s all Broadway actors playing cops and lawyers, and I love watching the same actors playing different roles and I just — I think it comes from this, which is when you’re on the road, it’s a constant, wherever you are, you can find a Law & Order. And it’s like my — what do they call it in the — my totem. You know, the movie —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah, it’s totally. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like a totem of some type, it’s some kind of a —
Sarah Silverman: It’s a constant, it’s something I can always — I used to bring the same plaid blanket that I’d shove into my bag, just so I could put it over the hotel blanket and just have something just consistent. Something that feels like home. So I think that Law & Order has just always been that, and now I’m — it’s so funny, I’m discovering I’m loving Colombo, from the ’70s and ’80s.
Tim Ferriss: It’s a classic.
Sarah Silverman: Ugh, it’s so good and just bizarre. And I tend to not watch comedies even though I really should, and when I do, I’m glad I did, but I think as a comedian, it feels stressful to — I don’t go like, “Oh, this would be relaxing,” because either I don’t like it or I like it, and I go, “Oh, God, I wish I wrote that.” But I do end up liking it. And one show that’s on, that I watched the whole first three seasons twice through is, and I’m waiting for the fourth season, and it’s a comedy, is What We Do in the Shadows.
Tim Ferriss: What We Do in the Shadows. What is it about, or what’s the —
Sarah Silverman: Oh, my God. It’s on FX, it looks like a reality show because it’s one of those mockumentary style, but it’s about these three vampires.
Tim Ferriss: That’s right.
Sarah Silverman: Living together in a house in Staten Island. And it’s very kind of a show about nothing, just about everyday life, getting along, but then they have unbelievable effects. So to see that in a format that’s like reality TV, the contrast is so fascinating and it’s just brilliant, it’s —
Tim Ferriss: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize that — I knew that name sounded familiar and I didn’t realize that it was made into a TV show because it started as the New Zealand mockumentary. I knew that I recognized the name.
Sarah Silverman: Right, it was a movie. Taika Waititi —
Tim Ferriss: Taika Waititi.
Sarah Silverman: — and Jemaine Clement.
Tim Ferriss: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. That was outstanding. I had no idea that it had been made into a television series.
Sarah Silverman: And the movie’s so great, but I have to say, I love the series even more, there’s just some — the actors are unbelievable and it just, it brings me a lot of joy. It doesn’t give me that comedy stress, for some reason. I think I’m growing out of it.
Tim Ferriss: When you say comedy stress, what does that mean? You’re analyzing it as it plays out in front of you, because it’s your craft? What do you mean by comedy stress?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah, I think so. And I think I’ve shed that a lot, but I think comedians kind of go one of two ways. Judd Apatow watches everything comedy that comes out. Podcast, movie, TV, he just loves consuming, he loves comedy. It’s like when you watch a Scorsese film or a Tarantino film where you go, “Oh, these movies are made by someone who loves movies.” I think Judd’s love is of that school. But then there are other comedians and I’m not proud that I fall into this, that just, they can’t — it’s not relaxing to watch comedy. It’s relaxing to watch a murder mystery or for me, I like thrillers or murdery stuff. Peaky Blinders. Stuff that’s just not in my world. Something that I can just get lost in.
Tim Ferriss: When you wrote your memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, was there any part that you found particularly, or very cathartic to put down on paper? I mean, you’ve lived so publicly, shared so many stories. Was there anything that just felt different, or freeing, or cathartic when you put it in the book? Or the opposite, extremely difficult to kind of put down.
Sarah Silverman: Well, the first couple months of stuff I wrote, I had to throw away because it was, I was writing the way I thought a writer should write, instead of just the prose of how I talk. Or just me, however that is.
Tim Ferriss: Using your voice. Right.
Sarah Silverman: It’s like the first time I did Fresh Air with Terry Gross, I remember I was like, “Well, Terry you know…” and then I was just like, “Who is this?” I felt like I had to — I grew up with NPR, I wanted to have that voice, I felt like I needed to. So these moments where I found myself trying to do or be what I’ve seen before, what is normal or what, and then I had to just throw it out. And I was writing with such a furrowed brow and you could see it. But then just kind of almost being an investigative reporter in my life, interviewing my parents and seeing how those stories, their perspective on things were the same and where they were different and kind of be a detective in my own life, to be able to tell a story and realizing stuff I had never realized. Having to deconstruct — I always thought, “Oh, God. Well, deconstructing comedy just ruins it.” But it kind of doesn’t, it’s interesting. And to me, it’s fascinating. It’s what I love.
And writing that book made me realize, really see the trajectory of how I became a comedian. Because I had a dad who thought it was hilarious to teach his three-year-old swears, and then I would yell those swears at the market. And I just, I remember the feeling of yelling it out and all these grownups giving me this wild approval despite themselves. And that feeling, I just became addicted. I remember my arms itched with glee. And of course, I chased that. I chased it. Shock became my currency at three and four and five, and it just made so much sense, looking at how I depended on that.
And then after my first special, which was a standup movie, actually, I didn’t get a special with anyone. But the guy from Interscope was like, “I’ll make a movie.” And Jesus Is Magic was my first special, it came out like a movie. And after that, I had to start over. That was my first special, so it was the best of everything I had ever done, kind of assembled. Now I had nothing.
I had done it as a one-woman show for a few years and then it came out in like 2004 or 2005. So I had been working with that material for so long and then I just kept doing it a little bit. And then I was like —
Tim Ferriss: After it came out?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah. I just didn’t know what to do because I had a real identity crisis and it was a great moment of growth in a way, because people didn’t want to see the same material. I had to write new material. But in order to do that, I had to disappoint audiences. I had to start over and now people came to see me. I wasn’t just comedian number seven at the Improv lineup. People were coming to see me, but I had to start over. But what they expected was to be shocked and surprised, and I wanted to give them that. And I didn’t know how to do that, because they had an expectation of it now. And what I had to realize was, comedy dies in the second guessing of what your audience wants to see. It was never how I had started and now I found myself in this place where I was like, “Well, if they’re expecting to be surprised I need to surprise them. But then I’m giving them what they’re expecting.” And I just had to stop.
And I got very inspired by watching Chris Rock, who does a special, I mean, he’s such a pro, he goes out on the road, he runs it, runs it, runs it, tweaks it, all those things. And then he starts at zero, and he goes to the Comedy Cellar or wherever he goes and they bring him up and the audience goes bananas. And he doesn’t take on that pressure of wanting to give them what they want to see, he just, “What do I got?” He brings it down to zero. And he just, he bombs. And maybe one or two or three things, there’s something there.
It’s work, and you have to be brave enough to eat a bowl of shit and try new stuff and see where it goes. And then, some stuff that bombs, you cut and some stuff that bombs, you still believe in, “There’s something here, I like this.” It could be just missing a beat or an and, or an article of a word, or I’m setting it up too much or I’m not setting it up enough, and you stick with — But the point is, you have to be brave enough to bomb again and start over, even if you’re famous, even if people come to see you and you know they’re going to be disappointed. Because that process is, you can’t avoid it, you can’t write a monologue at home and memorize it, it’s just not how comedy works, the audience is half of it.
Tim Ferriss: And there’s a, I would have to imagine a toughness that you develop through repetitions of that, attempting to rise from the ashes like a phoenix with zero, just eating shit sandwiches over and over again. I have read, and I actually don’t know the details on this, kind of deliberately, because if I knew all the answers to the questions I was going to ask, that would be very boring for me. I would love to hear a bit about your Saturday Night Live experience. Because I’ve read that that helped you to become tougher. And I don’t know if that’s true and I also don’t know the details of what happened. But could you perhaps just describe what your experience was?
Sarah Silverman: I think what I meant was it really was like a bootcamp. And I remember going in thinking, “Oh, my gosh. I have this job where I can dream things up and then they’re on television.” And it didn’t necessarily go that way, but it was a great experience and I learned so much. And it was still very much a boys club, to use that old — and there were not many women around and it was just a very different time. It was about to really change, but it hadn’t yet. And I did like it and I got along with everyone, and I really shined on Thursday nights for punch-up, that was where I could really, I felt like I —
Tim Ferriss: What is punch-up?
Sarah Silverman: Oh, so Thursday night you take the writers’ room, you sit around a big table and — I mean, this is how it was in ’94. And you go through all of the scripts that are now chosen to be on the show and you punch them up. You, “Oh, there could be a joke here. Let’s think, maybe there’s something better for this.” Just go through it and see, try to make it better as a group. And boy, I mean, it was — there was computers then, but they were, we still wrote on legal pads and gave it to a room of typists.
I remember my first day, I was put with these three guys who were hired right out of Harvard, and we were all 22. But I didn’t go to college, I was a standup. And they kind of put us together because we were the kids and the newbies or whatever. And I spent the whole day with these guys. And at the end of it, they, I mean, they thought I was a typist, they just assumed I was a typist.
Tim Ferriss: At the end of the day.
Sarah Silverman: They were hanging out, we’re getting to know each other and they go, “So are you a typist?” And I was like, “What? I’m a writer like you.” And it was just it — I always think of how it was for me to be a woman in comedy as how it was for me to be a woman in basketball. Because I played basketball growing up, but not at school, I played at the Y. And so, I always played with almost all men. And I still, although I haven’t played since March 2020, play pickup games with almost all men. Sometimes a woman will play and it’s great. And I always demand that we’re on the same team, because I hate how they always go, “Well, we’ll each take a girl.” I’ve played my whole life, I play but that feeling of going to pick up games and the, you can feel guys rolling their eyes or a burden they feel that they have a girl on their team or this, and having to prove yourself so much.
And I like using this analogy with other women in comedy or other women that I play basketball with, every shot as a woman that you shoot and miss is like missing a hundred baskets, because you feel the weight of the guy going, “Argh.” And maybe I’m putting that on them. Maybe it’s true and maybe I’m putting it on them. And either way, it shouldn’t be in my head but it is. And you carry this weight and it doesn’t help you.
And I always say, sometimes, especially in New York, I love just watching the pickup games and stuff, and there’s always, maybe there’s a woman playing and I go, “Watch how many times these guys shoot and miss and shake it off, and shoot again, and shoot again, and shoot again.” That’s how you get better. You cannot take on this, “Oh, I’m a woman in a guy’s game. And I…” That feeling that if I shoot and miss, I better not shoot for a while. Because I better just work on setting picks. And it really taught me something, learning suddenly taking the focus off of myself, which is really a self-centeredness and watching the guys, and watching them fail, shake it off, shoot again, shoot again. And go, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. I can keep shooting, if I have a shot I should shoot.” Does that make sense at all as an analogy?
Tim Ferriss: It does. Yeah, no, it does make sense. It does make sense. And did it take you — so my understanding with the SNL —
Sarah Silverman: Oh, God, I completely forgot what we were talking about SNL.
Tim Ferriss: No, no, that’s okay. No, that’s okay, because I think it ties to the basketball in the sense that you got a, is it true that you got fired by fax or let go by fax?
Sarah Silverman: I got a call, a three-way call from my agent and my manager and it never occurred to me that I wasn’t coming back. I was already writing sketches, I was like, “And this year’s going to be better. It’s going to be great.” And I go, “Oh, they’re both calling me.” I go, “Well, hello. What wonderful news must this be?” And of course I was fired. And they said that they had gotten a fax.
Tim Ferriss: They had gotten a fax.
Sarah Silverman: I mean, it’s fine that they got a fax, that’s the business, that’s how it was. And they let go of a lot of people that were, had their first year. But I remember starting out comedy and guy comics giving me advice. They go, “The best woman comic is Paula Poundstone.” And that was probably true. I love her. But they go, “And the reason is because a guy could do the same material and it would work.” And I bought it. I bought that. I mean, looking back I’m just like, that’s so absurd that a woman comic couldn’t talk about the experience of being a woman. The conceit was, yes, the audience is half men and half women, but the women are on dates and they only laugh if the man laughs, so your audience is the men.
Tim Ferriss: I never thought about that.
Sarah Silverman: Well, it’s absurd and stupid.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: But that was what it was.
Tim Ferriss: Question for you. Well see, you mentioned not taking on this burden of, for lack of a better term, kind of hiding, say as a woman taking a shot in a basketball game, if you happen to miss. In the case of SNL, because part of what’s impressed me, does impress me still about you is just your longevity in the craft. I mean, it’s really, it’s remarkable. It’s really remarkable and it’s not all together common at all. And I’m curious, after the SNL, were you able to dust yourself off and just get right back to work quickly?
Sarah Silverman: No.
Tim Ferriss: Did it take a while to recover from?
Sarah Silverman: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: All Right. Please tell me more.
Sarah Silverman: I have a Polaroid picture I took of myself and I saw it when I was moving. And I had cut my bangs maybe an inch, just insane looking bangs and it just says, “No confidence,” on it I wrote. And I just, I remember thinking like, “Am I in show business?” I mean, I didn’t know where I fit in. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how to just — and eventually, I just put my head down and kept doing standup and it led me wherever it led me. I’ve really never made a plan in show business. I’ve never thought like, “I want to do this.” Or I know this is maybe not the, it’s not advice at all, but I’ve never set goals for myself. I just always kind of, I don’t know.I love the stuff I do. I think of myself as I do odd jobs. And when I couldn’t do standup, I said, “Well, I have to do a podcast. What am I going to do with all of this?” But I do think part of the longevity is just being open to be changed and to be —
What I learned after that first special that I talked to you about, that really changed my life, along with therapy, great therapy. But to be brave enough to bomb, to change, and no longer have the same fans, to disappoint people and just go on the trajectory I go on.
There’s a line in a song in a musical, Sunday in the Park with George, it’s a song called “Move On,” and she says, “The choice may be a mistake, the choosing is not, you’ve got to move on.” And it does free you. I feel like you can, thinking of that, the whole play is quite brilliant, it’s about art and life. But that it doesn’t matter the choice. It doesn’t make a difference. You’re going to wind up where you’re going to wind up, but make one. Because it can be so paralyzing, I think. Not wanting to make a mistake. And I think what I learned from that basketball analogy as well, along with a brilliant quote by Charlie Kaufman and it’s being talked about a lot just in general is, how essential failure is and what you do with it, which is not a new concept anymore.
Tim Ferriss: Is this it? I just pulled it up. “Failure is a badge of honor, it means you’ve risked failure. If you don’t risk failure, you’re never going to do anything that’s different than what you’ve already done or what someone else has done.”
Sarah Silverman: Oh, wow. I never heard the whole thing. All I knew is, “Don’t fear failure. Failure should be a badge of honor. It means you risked failure.” And look at all these — the concept of cancel culture, and I can argue either side of it passionately. But another thing is, if you think of yourself as a risk taker, in comedy for instance, the thing that makes it a risk is that there’s something to lose, is that there’s consequence. You can’t just say “I’m risky” and then be angry if there are any consequences. You’ve got to take it and be changed by it or disagree with it, maybe. But wonder about it.
It’s like when you get notes from a network, and I know, there must be a — I know this sounds very specific to show business, but of course, any job where you have a boss. When you get notes from a network and you go, “This is stupid. This is not even…” There’s always something that they’re onto, some germ of something, the spirit of that note that you need to figure out, because they’re onto something, but they maybe don’t know how to articulate it.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. The first sentence in that quote by Charlie Kaufman that I don’t have any context for was, “Do not simplify…” And then it goes on to, “Do not fear failure…” And I wonder what that refers to.
Sarah Silverman: We need to find the whole thing.
Oh, Inspirational Writing Advice from Charlie Kaufman. It’s on YouTube.
We’re going to have to watch it. I’ve heard it as a quote or I read it as a quote and I was like, “Oh, my God.” And completely attached myself to it. And of course, I never just Googled the whole thing, which is now I’m very excited to watch.
Tim Ferriss: It’s 41 minutes. We’ll link to that. Charlie Kaufman’s got all sorts of good quotes, “Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who has lost someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time, it can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you and that will give them hope.” All right. Charlie Kaufman, I’m sold. Charlie Kaufman who was, as I understand it, “One of modern cinema’s most celebrated writers with work including Surreal Fantasy, Being John Malkovich, cerebral sci-fi Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, comedy-drama Adaptation and extraordinary animation Anomalisa.” I don’t know that one.
Sarah Silverman: Oh, yeah.
Tim Ferriss: Wow. All right. Well, we will put that video, Inspirational Writing Advice From Charlie Kaufman, 41 minutes.
I have spent way too much time on the internet with this kind of accidental audience or unexpected audience, after my first book in 2007, and I’ve seen in the last say four or five years some really disconcerting patterns emerge just watching this large — I mean, for me large-ish following —
Sarah Silverman: Massive.
Tim Ferriss: — and I imagine, I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned, in some cases, well-educated, doesn’t really matter, but thoughtful people get pushed to the polar ends into these extremes or pushed themselves, or just been led by algorithms, who knows, but the —
Sarah Silverman: Right.
Tim Ferriss: — it makes me think of, and I could also be getting the facts wrong on this, but it was either Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, one of those lovely dystopian novels, that makes me think of the book burning in one of them, but probably Fahrenheit 451, and there’s this kind of monolithic state and the firemen and so on. But the book burning started with the people, the people themselves were burning the books and the kind of righteousness porn and like reputational assassination that I’ve seen, even among people who you would think to be of the same kind of tribe, let’s just say listeners of this podcast, is really disconcerting to me, and I’m curious to know where you think this goes.
Like, does it burn itself out in some fashion? Does it get increasingly bad with higher and higher consequences? Because, I mean, you’re watching a lot of these events unfold and you’re noticing them. If you had to hazard a guess, where do you think this goes, right, three years from now, two or three years, or four or five years from now, what do you think it looks like?
Sarah Silverman: I’m going to have to say a very solid “I don’t know,” but I couldn’t begin to guess what the future holds for us in terms of this. I think the sooner people realize we’re all totally connected and you’re fighting with yourself basically, the better, but I do think we’re at really, like the pendulum has frozen in both —
Tim Ferriss: Extremes.
Sarah Silverman: Yeah. And they’re almost a mirror image of each other in a real fucked up way, as much as neither side would want to see that.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: But I hope that there’s a — I don’t know. I don’t know how to an — what is your answer to that? I mean, listen, when you leave social media for a while, you realize it’s not the whole world, it’s not even most of the world or half of the — it runs a very small part of the world, and —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: But it’s given us this thing where we, in real time, can see how, like, almost everyone — well, it seems like everyone feels and it can — yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here. I mean, listen, we — and unless Facebook and YouTube radicalize people by algorithm, it’s not like they’re set out to do it, but greed has made them do it because inciting rage is — they found very lucrative.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Twitter too.
Sarah Silverman: And Twitter. And so you see a headline and the headline is designed — even reputable places now, their headline is click bait. It’s so one small piece of a story that is the most salacious. And maybe if you click on it and read it, it proves to not be true at all, or is wildly minimal to — but who clicks on it and reads it? Very few people they’re reacting to — so it’s just these little beams of light coming out at your face to upset you and make you angry. And whoever you are, it’s designed just for you.
Tim Ferriss: A guest on the podcast, very bright guy who has the most endurance of any guest I’ve ever had, Balaji Srinivasan, he talks about the media you consume having root access to your brain, in the same way that you can have root access to a computer and therefore control the computer, right.
So if coding is scripting the behavior, let’s just call it behavior of computers, then media is basically the code that gets installed into humans, and so when you have algorithms on Twitter, or anywhere else for that matter, YouTube, right, that are kind of self perpetuating by reinforcing to greater and greater extremes because they’re more effective for producing clicks. Of course I’m not a Nostradamus, I don’t know where that leads, but I do see more and more examples of the kind of hatred and vitriol online resulting in people getting doxxed, so having their physical addresses and personal information posted in the hopes that there will be some to type of violent consequence. And I really do — and I think it’s also just my nature, I come from a long line of worriers. So I have to be aware of my predisposition to go to worst-case scenarios. I don’t know, there’s some part of me that maybe perversely just gets something out of imagining these —
Sarah Silverman: I think for a lot of people, and I think myself included, and I really see it like in my stepmom and so many of us that worry is, even though we don’t want to be in worry, we don’t want to be worried, it’s our comfort zone because it’s familiar.
Tim Ferriss: Do you experience that yourself or do you —
Sarah Silverman: Yep.
Tim Ferriss: — see that more so in — yeah.
Sarah Silverman: I do. I do. I mean, all these things I know and talk about are purely aspirational for me so I can hear myself talking, moving my mouth.
Tim Ferriss: Well, I mean, in a sense they’re aspirational, but I’m still impressed by this sort of success story around the be your own best friend. I think that’s very rare. I think that at least in my kind of concentric circle of friends, I think that particularly if people are driven, and I think even though you may not have a five- or a 10-year or a 20-year plan, I mean, I think most people would consider you very successful at what you do. A lot of that drive seems to translate to people being very dissatisfied with themselves or hypercritical of themselves or at least they seem to correlate. So, I mean, what advice would you give somebody who’s maybe prone to self-flagellating? Would you have any advice to them, if they’re not yet at a place where they, maybe they don’t even particularly like themselves, right, but they use work as a way to occupy their minds so that they’re distracted from that?
Sarah Silverman: I think in terms of the self-flagellation, I see it, and I don’t mean this to pile on someone who is constantly putting themselves down in their head or out loud, but it is not modesty. It is self obsession. Unless those thoughts turn into change that make you into the person you would be very happy to be, then it’s very masturbatory. It’s, there’s no room to observe and watch and be delighted and mused by others. It’s just all self. And listen, I mean, I think, I have friends that are comics that cannot be alone. They are out until four in the morning and only go home when they can drop to sleep, and it worries me, some of my friends.
Tim Ferriss: Why do you think they do that?
Sarah Silverman: Because being alone is terrifying for them, being still, being alone, being alone with their thoughts, is terrifying. And listen, I admit to you, I love being alone, but alone with my thoughts is a whole other thing. I mean, I am often, but I still constantly entertain myself with television and radio and —
Tim Ferriss: Law & Order?
Sarah Silverman: I just think there’s, when you accept yourself the way you accept any schmuck on the street, you just have a lot more room for other stuff.
I had a therapist who said, “Look in the mirror less,” and I found it to be incredibly profound because instead of like — just know that any one of us looking in the mirror does not see what other people see. Not that what other people see is what’s important, but we cognitively distort what we see in the mirror so much. I mean, look at the whole thing with selfies, and I see it the same as people who heckle, and I know that sounds really a weird connection, but hecklers, to me, whether they’re yelling something out lovely or mean, or whatever it is, it’s interrupting, like a show.
And the same with people who are constantly taking selfies. I feel like the subtext is the same for both, which is, “I exist, right?” And that’s ultimately what it is that life is this existential crisis of like, what is it to exist? And we need it to mean something.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I completely agree with you on the — and I say this as someone who I think is pretty self-absorbed as evidenced by my sort of depressive episodes in the past because —
Sarah Silverman: Same, same.
Tim Ferriss: No, because it is the sort of the, me, me, me, I, I, I song, right, when you’re either suffering from depression or anxiety, you’re kind of trapped in a self-referential loop, right? So I think —
Sarah Silverman: Yeah, it’s not conceited. It’s awful, but it’s consumed, to be consumed.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. And I think that what’s been hard for me is realizing that, but not being able to extricate myself from that loop, right? So this might be a good time to just ask, in what ways therapy has been most helpful to you, because there’s good, the bad and the ugly among therapists, right? So I’m —
Sarah Silverman: Yes.
Tim Ferriss: — wondering, how has therapy most helped you or why has it been helpful?
Sarah Silverman: Besides that it’s another perspective on your life, and how you see things and how you relate to people — listen, there are plenty of terrible therapists out there, but it’s always bizarre to me that people will drive 10 different cars to see which one they like best and if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford therapy, and it’s becoming at once less and less accessible and more and more accessible because there’s a lot of stuff online, and there’s a lot of stuff — I mean the best therapist I ever had charged $100 a session. This is recently, I mean, up until very recently, but I mean, that’s not nothing, but it’s for therapy. It’s pretty good, but it’s become more and more accessible, and I just think, if you have the luxury to be able to find the right one for you, do that, but I found the right one for me and he just changed my perspective in a lot of ways. And you want some greatest hits?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: Is it?
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: Like he said —
Tim Ferriss: I mean, if you’ve got, yeah, definitely. It sounds like you have a couple locked and loaded. So let’s do it.
Sarah Silverman: I have one, he said, “Have you ever predicted anything that’s happened in your life?” I go, “Well, yeah, I guess not.” He goes, “We’re looking through a pinhole.” You don’t know what’s coming up next. We have a fear of the unknown. That’s why we tend to, and I’m very ritualistic and I, it’s hard to get me to try new things actually. And I try to break out of that, but we have a fear of the unknown. We have a fear of change, but like the truth is you should be just on the edge of your seat. What’s going to be next? I don’t know it’s — so I thought that looking, we’re looking through a pinhole, we don’t know what’s coming up next. I like that.
He changed my perspective in a lot of ways and I realized like, listen, I see this when I think about when I went into depression so fast and I think about it in beautiful, wonderful ways as well, but I mean you change your perspective by one degree and the whole room looks different, the whole world looks different. And that’s neat to me.
Tim Ferriss: How often do you, when you’ve been in the sweet spot, whatever that means from a therapy perspective, how often are you doing sessions? Is it once a week, twice a week, once every two weeks, what is your cadence?
Sarah Silverman: I’m very erratic with it. I’ll go once a week if I’m working through something and I’ll go like — then I’ll just, sometimes I’ll go like months or a month or something and be like, “Oh, you know what? I need to talk this out,” or — I’ve gone for many years regularly and I kind of go — I’m starting actually with a new therapist and I’ve got my second session on a Wednesday.
Tim Ferriss: So why are you starting with the new therapist if you had a great therapist?
Sarah Silverman: He’s so wonderful. Well, I could just say he’s retiring, but I actually left a little before he retired and I love him so much, but I’m talking about path — I’m not giving him a path to redemption or whatever, but he doesn’t need to be redeemed. I just — we had a session after I lost my friend to COVID that was my writing partner on this musical, the music part, and I had my first session with him since spending three months in New York during the first three months of the pandemic. And I told him the whole story of losing Adam and it just seemed — it was all so — he texted me, “Oh, my God, think I have this thing.” And then like, “Oh, I’m still sick, I can’t get a test anywhere. This is crazy, I have like a really high fever.”
And then not getting anymore texts. And he was in the hospital. Then I get a text, “I’m in the hospital with COVID.” And then the texts stopped and then his girlfriend was reaching out to us and then he was gone. I mean, because it was so early, they put him on a ventilator and he was — anyway, I tell him the whole story and I guess I don’t have to not say this, because it’s my therapy, you know what I mean? I feel like —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: But he was like, “Well, what did it say on his death certificate, because they’re calling everything COVID now, because they pay hospitals $30,000 to call something COVID.” And he’s like a COVID denier. And I don’t care what he is, but he didn’t need to bring it there. And I was pretty positive the thing to say was, “Are you okay?” Or, “Gee, I’m so sorry.” And now I feel like someone online who, “He didn’t say exactly what I needed him to say, and now I’m angry at him.” I’m not angry at him. I love him and I’m so grateful for him, but I just needed to detach with love. And I have a very close friend who also knows him and said, “Just talk to him about it or whatever.” And for some reason, I don’t feel angry about it, I just want to kind of move on. I had wonderful years with him and I don’t need him to say — well, listen, he’s on his own thing and I’m so grateful for what he taught me, but I just kind of moved on.
Tim Ferriss: You can get a lot from someone and a lot of value and they can do something you really disagree with. And the latter does not necessarily negate the former, which is hard to sometimes see out there on social media.
Sarah Silverman: Oh, yeah, it’s odd that we seem to be living in a world where people just expect you to — they’re just, if you say something that wasn’t, in their mind, what you should say, they’re just so disappointed. And I’ve always maintained personally, I go, “Hey, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and it’s okay if you don’t like what I say and it’s okay if you’re no longer a fan.”
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. I had the author and, I mean, she’s just an incredible historian and historical thinker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, on the podcast, and I asked her if she thought leaders like, say, an Abraham Lincoln or an FDR or a Churchill could exist, could actually be elected in today’s day and age? And she said no, because the veneer of perfection has to be — the facade has to be presented in such a way that if any of the kind of foibles and flaws of many of these leaders had been transparent or were transparent in today’s day and age, there’s no way they would get elected, even though in other respects they were really effective. So, it’s definitely — I don’t know why today is the day I’ve decided to showcase all my dystopian concerns about the world in the next five to 10 years.
Sarah Silverman: I bring it out in people.
Tim Ferriss: Oh. Now, The Sarah Silverman Podcast, I think you alluded to, at least, one of the reasons perhaps, and, I think, that you began the podcast, but why did you decide to start the podcast?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah, the pandemic happened and I couldn’t do standup and I just felt like this is — where do I put all this? And just made sense to do a podcast. I’ve been resisting doing a podcast for so long, and I —
Tim Ferriss: Why had you been resisting it?
Sarah Silverman: Because everyone was doing it. I wasn’t an OG like you, but I really liked the idea of being able to talk to, to hear from people all over. And I’m shocked by the people who call from so many other countries. This is just so American, it didn’t occur to me that this would go to other countries, it just didn’t cross my mind. And so, that’s been really neat, but just that people from all over are really calling in and I was hoping that would happen and that I get to — . it’s voicemails. Every once in a while I go, “I need to talk to this person more,” and will call, but it’s mostly voicemails. But people will call in and follow up and I’ve become kind of connected to this kind of community, but it’s always changing.
And it’s so different from my standup. First of all, sometimes I listen back to the podcast and I go, “There’s no evidence of a comedian. Who do I think I am?” But then, I don’t know, I try to remember joy before I go on. I go, “Stop taking yourself seriously — I take a little puff at night and then if I listen to some podcasts, I go, “Who the fuck do you think you are?” It’s embarrassing to me, but then I go back and do it again and people call in with questions and I really feel like I can help, or at least say what I’m thinking. it’s morphed into this thing that I didn’t expect. And I didn’t really know what it would be, but I knew I just wanted to talk and hear people’s thoughts and opinions, and then let that be the trajectory of the episode and it’s been really fun.
Tim Ferriss: How do you choose which to speak to, because you use — I was looking at your Twitter feed. You have an enormous New York City plus sized Twitter following, like 12 point something million, and you use SpeakPipe. But with that sized audience, you must get an absolute avalanche of different voice messages. How do you choose what to respond to?
Sarah Silverman: I’ve got two producers on the show, Raj and Dyana, and they go through all of them and they bring me about 20. And they know I want different — . because it becomes very, we all think alike kind of, so I’m always looking for another perspective or anything. And they kind of know what I would look for. And we listen to them the night before, like tonight, because I record on Tuesdays and it comes out on Thursday, and I just go, “Oh, yeah, that’s good.” I kind of talk through like what I might say and I just, “Yeah, yeah, let’s do that one.” And I probably pick like 18 of the 20 and then that night or the next morning, I’ll kind of think about it more and make like an outline just to have thoughts in my head.
And then we record and sometimes I respond the way I planned and sometimes I don’t at all, I go a different direction, and then I always record way more than we need. And so, we either throw stuff away or if it’s evergreen, could be used another week, it’s not about the news of this week or something, we might save it, because then when I work on the play in March, April, May, I’ll probably be able to do some episodes in New York, but I like to stockpile some that are brand new, but could be a month from now or so. And maybe you didn’t want those exact details, but that’s basically how it goes.
Tim Ferriss: Are you kidding? I love exact details.
Sarah Silverman: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: I stockpile exact details, so you’re in good shape.
Sarah Silverman: Yeah, it’s interesting, because with my standup, I’m a very slow honer, I’ll work on a joke for months, months, months, months, maybe even a year or two years and I hone it so slowly, even though it may sound kind of in the moment, I’m working on it inch by inch. And on the podcast, it’s very immediate. It’s messy, so I’m loving now that I can do standup more and more, less and less, and then more and more depending, they’re very different. And I like doing odd jobs. I like doing different stuff. And when they converge, it’s kind of neat where if I say something, I go, “Oh, that could maybe be a joke.”
Tim Ferriss: Has anything from the podcast popped in an unusual way for you, where one topic or one episode unexpectedly got particular traction? Has anything been really surprising for you overall?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah, I’m always surprised. Well, at first I was like, I usually pick three little clips to post on social media.
And do we go with what works best or do we go with what — because it’s a quandary because then you become —
Tim Ferriss: You run into the same problem with second guessing the audience on stage, right?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah.
Tim Ferriss: I want to dig into this, because this is an important choice, right? Do you use what you think is going to get kind of the cheap applause, so to speak, or the easy layup or do you use something else? So how do you make that —
Sarah Silverman: But the irony is, and I don’t know if this is irony, but I would post those clips that I thought were funny and people are like, “Meh.” And then I post something and I go, “Oh, that’s opinionated, thinky, hippy, dippy, granola, stuff that is also me, but…” And people really responded to the more serious stuff. There’s a couple comedians that have become like motivational speakers and I find it incredibly obnoxious and then I’m like, “How am I different? Am I doing that?” And I think maybe that’s why, because people always go, “Why do you always say you’re talking out of your ass or whatever?” I go, “Because I am.” This is me in process trying to make sense of life. And so my answers, there’s no authority in my answers other than my own life experience and having not died. And I’ve lived a long while, I hope to keep living a while and I have learned a bunch of stuff, but it’s a fine line and I would be horrified if I saw that I had become that.
And I think that’s why I — and I really spot when people qualify things a lot and now I’m doing it right now. And I do it on my show sometimes where I go, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m talking out of my ass. What do I know?” But I feel like it needs that qualifier just to prevent me feeling like I think I know best.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Sarah Silverman: My mother was like that and I’ve become my mother. She couldn’t help, but — I mean, there were not enough comments cards in the world for my mother. She felt she could correct so many things, just in the strangers around her. I mean, it was almost like a horror movie. You could pick up a book, there was a book she had that like a guide to Santa Barbara and it had in pen corrections all throughout it, like grammar. But now, I’ve found that I’ve become that person that I’m like, “I’m helping.” She would always go, “I’m helping.” And I would go, “Oh.” But I was at like 7-Eleven and a 19-year-old kid or something was buying orange soda and Doritos and I just couldn’t control myself. And I was like, “Really? Almonds are the same price. This is what you’re feeding your body?” And I’m just like, “Oh, my God, Sarah.”
Tim Ferriss: “I’m helping.”
I would love to ask you — there are a few questions. I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you a twofer, and you can pick which one you want to answer first.
Sarah Silverman: Oy!
Tim Ferriss: So the first is how you chose to become involved with I Smile Back. And the other is what you learned, or any kind of lessons taken away from Garry Shandling.
Sarah Silverman: I’ll just do both of them in order. I Smile Back was a book written by Amy Koppelman, and she had sent it to my agent at the time, who’s a real character. If you ever want to interview an agent, I don’t know why you would want to, but he’s fascinating, named Michael Kives. And he sent it to me, and he said, “She wants you to play this part.” And I was like, “She does?” And I read it, and it was really interesting. And then she and her friend, Paige Dylan, wrote the screenplay. And then they were very — I said, I’d do it, and they were really collaborative and we worked on a lot of it together. And it was very hard.
I mean, I remember thinking, “Yeah, this is a really heavy movie, but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be fun. Yeah. I’ll act. That it’s the reality of the moment, and then they’ll say cut and we’ll have — it’ll be fun.” And it was.
It was a good experience, but it was so — I didn’t know that you have to have your 10,000, 100,000 hours in. Tom Hanks seems like he can just — I always heard he jokes around and he is like the belle of the ball. He’s funny and all this, and then they say “action,” and he is Captain Phillips. So I just thought —
Tim Ferriss: Right.
Sarah Silverman: — “Oh, yeah.” I don’t have the experience to be able to access everything. Once I access those kind of things, they’re just on my lap. You know? So it was —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: I remember a friend would call and say, “How’s it going?” And I’d go, “This is really a bummer.” I wasn’t able to just separate. So it was just a lot.
Tim Ferriss: To compartmentalize.
Sarah Silverman: But I’m so glad I did it. And it was an incredible experience. That movie’s really relentless though. You know? Even —
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: What’s the movie Gabourey Sidibe won the Oscar for? Precious. Even Precious had moments of relief.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: This movie is just like too much. But it was really fun to do. And Koppelman just directed her next book that was made into a movie, which is really cool. Anyway, so that was that. And the second question —
Tim Ferriss: I want to say two things real quick. So the first is, I thought you did an outstanding job. I think a lot of folks have exposure to your comedy of course, and you as comic and so on, but less exposure to you in a dramatic capacity. And I thought you did a really outstanding job and a really nuanced job. So I wanted to say that. And I’ve had dinner with Amy before; she is a very smart, very observant, fascinating woman. So I wanted to also encourage people to check out her work.
Sarah Silverman: What did I learn from him? I can’t say enough about him. And really, for anyone who’s listening, please watch Judd Apatow’s two-part documentary on him.
Tim Ferriss: Is it The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling?
Sarah Silverman: Yeah. Oh, it’s so good. But Garry was so generous. We played basketball at his house every Sunday, and there were big celebrities that played. There were writers’ assistants, PAs that played. It didn’t matter. He assembled this ragtag group, and they were all his friends equally.
I said there are NCIS scripts that a writer would show to Garry, and he’d give — he put so much into helping writers, helping actors. Everything he learned the hard way, he really offered up to us on a silver platter.
And some things you’ve got to learn the hard way, but so many things, he really — I learned about silence, about taking the — in stand-up, even, just the moments in between the words and the currency in that. Currency sounds like a — or the specialness, or the — that you’re saying something in those moments just as well. And to not be afraid of them, to not feel like you need to fill that empty space.
And it’s interesting, learning that for stand-up, but then in life. I hear my dad, when we talk on the phone, now we FaceTime and it’s different. But when we would talk on the phone and there would be like a dip in conversation, he’d go, “Um, ah, ah, ah, um, um, um, um, uh…”
That fear of silence is so real in people. You know? And I learned that from him. It’s very interesting. And he studied Buddhism. He was a Buddhist, but it wasn’t because he was naturally that way. It’s because he was riddled and he needed it. And that’s all of us.
And trying to just be honest and get to the core of — he kept a journal, which I think your comedy notebook is half journal. And he would say, “Just be Garry Shandling, whatever that is, on stage.” All these things.
Judd helped clean out his house and stuff and would post — took pictures of a lot of his journal pages that are, I don’t think he would be upset about it, are so revealing and so helpful. He wasn’t perfect, but he was in search of. And just even learning that or watching that in him was so fortifying and helpful.
Tim Ferriss: Here’s just a question that is sometimes directly leading to a dead end, but that’s on me. So I’ll try it. “Just be Garry Shandling” made me think of this. So if you could put a message, any message, could be a quote, could be an image, could be anything really, on a billboard, metaphorically speaking, just to get it out to a hundreds of millions, billions of people, what might you put on that billboard?
Sarah Silverman: Two things come to mind. One is the story about Fred Phelps who started the Westboro Baptist Church.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t know this story.
Sarah Silverman: So he started the Westboro Baptist Church. You’ve got to interview Megan Phelps-Roper.
Tim Ferriss: All right.
Sarah Silverman: She —
Tim Ferriss: I’ll write it down.
Sarah Silverman: — grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church, and her story is amazing. She’s amazing, her change, and the ways in which she didn’t change, that she was always this beautiful person, but to grow up in something and believe it with your whole heart. Anyway, her story’s incredible.
Fred Phelps, her grandfather, started the Westboro Baptist Church. And of course, these are the people that show up to funerals with signs that say, “God hates fags.” They’re those people.
And people showed up at his funeral with signs that said, “Sorry for your loss.” And I just thought that was the most beautiful act of protest I’ve ever heard.
And for some reason, I feel like that on a billboard would be useful for everyone in some way.
Tim Ferriss: I don’t want to chip too much of your time, Sarah. I’m having a great time. Is there anything else that you would like to talk about? Is there anything else that you would like to comment on? Any suggestions you’d like to make? Anything you’d like to point people’s attention to that comes to mind?
Sarah Silverman: I’ll say what my Auntie Martha told me: “Grab joy where you can get it. Grab joy where you find it.” I was single, and I was in DC, and I was supposed to go home to L.A. for a friend’s memorial service. Comedians kill themselves a lot. And I kind of wanted to go back to New York to see this guy I was dating. And I go, “I feel guilty.” She goes, “Go to New York, grab joy where you can get it. Your friend is gone. You can honor him in your mind.” You know? There are other ways.
Tim Ferriss: Yeah.
Sarah Silverman: Although —
Tim Ferriss: Grab joy where you can get it.
Sarah Silverman: — comedian memorials are really fun.
Tim Ferriss: Okay. I can’t let that sit. So tell me more. What makes them fun?
Sarah Silverman: I find funerals to be pretty fun, usually. Even if you’re sobbing, you’re with a group of people that loved this person, talking about the greatest hits of who they were and how they impacted everyone. And with comedians — I mean, Garry Shandling’s memorial was amazing. You’re laughing and crying.Kevin Nealon, for lack of a better word, closed the show, the memorial. And he was sobbing, and he was killing. And it was just all real and true. But afterwards, when everyone goes their separate ways and lives life is when grief punches you in the face and you’re at line at Ralphs two weeks later. But you’re just —
Tim Ferriss: But in the meantime —
Sarah Silverman: — hearing the funniest stories and the greatest things they wrote and said. It is a celebration. I think that’s a — you know.
Tim Ferriss: Sarah Kate Silverman. Where’s the Kate from?
Sarah Silverman: I don’t know. I think I was supposed to be named Kate Sarah Silverman, and my Nana said, “No, I know someone named Kate, and I don’t like her,” or something. So they go, “All right, well, we’ll say Sarah Kate.” And that’s the amazing story of my — if I was a boy, I know I was going to be John Robert after the Kennedys.
Tim Ferriss: Wow. John Robert. I think Sarah Kate works. I like it. Sarah Kate Silverman @SarahKSilverman on Twitter. Thank you so much for taking the time. People should absolutely check out The Sarah Silverman Podcast, where each week, you can find joy where you can get it, one bite-sized audio morsel at a time. And your book, your first book, memoir, is The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee.
Sarah Silverman: That’s from 2010 —
Tim Ferriss: It is from 2010.
Sarah Silverman: — but the musical is called —
Tim Ferriss: The musical —
Sarah Silverman: The musical is called The Bedwetter, and it comes out — previews start in April at the Atlantic Theater in New York. And that is based on the book, but it’s just the year I was 10. And I’m not in it. There’s a little, pint-size, incredible me. I mean, the actress is incredible.
Tim Ferriss: Well, congratulations. I know that’s been a long time in the making. I know that your dad has been counting down the days, as best I can tell.
Sarah Silverman: Yes. Yes. Like how much longer do I need to stay alive?
Tim Ferriss: And it’s here, it’s here in just a few months. Fingers crossed and thank you so much for taking the time, Sarah, I really enjoyed the conversation and getting to know you, not just through doing the homework and research with the conversation, but having the conversation itself. And I hope that we get to have another conversation sometime. And I appreciate it!
Sarah Silverman: Me too!
Tim Ferriss: And for everybody listening, we will put links to everything in the show notes, and you can find that at tim.blog/podcast. And until next time, thank you for tuning in.
Sarah Silverman: Bye!
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)