We caught up with Sarah Silverman at the Toronto Film Festival, which she was attending to support her new film Peep World, which co-stars Michael C. Hall and Rainn Wilson; she plays a bitter failed actress who fights with her three siblings at her dad’s 70th birthday party. We met before the screening, where she’d see the film for the first time: But regardless of whether she’d turn out to like the finished product or not, she told us she was relieved that she had a chance to play something other than the role she’s usually offered, “the bitchy friend or the bitchy ex-girlfriend.” Read on for Silverman’s tales of trying to go method for a Star Trek: Voyager guest role, and what it was like realizing she wasn’t the only Jew in New York City.
So you haven’t seen the film yet?
Well when I found out it was going to be in this festival, I was just like “Mehhhh. I’ll wait.” ‘Cause otherwise I’d have to see it twice.
Do you usually not see your films more than once?
I don’t see any movies really more than once except for, like, great eighties, two-and-a-half stars, Sleeping With the Enemy kind of movies.
But you don’t watch your own films more than once?
I don’t have a rule about it, but I just never go like, “Hey, let’s pop that DVD in of a movie I played a bitchy friend in.” But I’ll tell you what I think is different about my Peep World character: She’s three-dimensional. She doesn’t exist solely for the exposition of the main character. I’m not going like, “But you’re a lawyer and he loves you!” She’s got her own world and that’s what drew me to her. It’s not like the bitchy friend or the bitchy ex-girlfriend I’m so sick of playing: She’s not just a bitch, she’s a mess. She’s fucking pathetic. And I like that.
Is the messed-up family in Peep World anything like your family at all?
No. Not really. I mean, we’re all girls and really supportive.
So when you were playing that character, what were you drawing on?
Uh, I was pretending. You know, years ago I got a part on Star Trek: Voyager and I go, “Oh I’m going to go to an acting coach for this!” So I go to this acting coach and he’s like, “You know … sometimes when you’re running from lasers, you just have to like pretend you’re running from lasers.” There’s nothing to draw on, you know? I think I was just imagining the scenario: I know people who are riddled with insecurity, with chips on their shoulder, whose ego manifests itself in negative, self-destructive ways. And I, you know, pretended to be them.
What was the most difficult scene to play in the film?
When I had a crying in the shower scene. I was crying in the shower and I just am like, “I wanna do this ugly, like the way I look when I cry.” So I was sitting in the shower and I got the shower going on me, and I’m going [makes horrendous face] “waaaaaaaah!” ‘Cause that’s how I cry. And the director’s like, “Can you cry prettier?” And I’m just like, “But that’s how I cry!”
In Peep World, your character has to watch unflattering moments from her life be reenacted. Who would play you in a film version of your life?
I’d say Chris Noth. I think I look like him. There are so many me’s — every Jewish girl is like, “Everyone tells me I look like you!” We all look the same.
The same Mitochondrial Eve …
Ooh! What does that mean?
Mitochondria are part of our DNA passed from mother to children, and they traced all Jews to a few Mitochondrial Eves, I think. You and I are probably related at some point.
So then why aren’t we all like retarded? I mean I know that we were raped by the Mongolians and stuff, and my sister has really almond Asian eyes from like Mongolian rape in the 1300s. Genghis Khan came up into where we’re from, Russia-Poland-Whatever, and they raped and pillaged. And so I think that’s why sometimes you see an Asian-ish feature here and there. My sister is very Asian-looking.
You play up a lot of JAP-py stereotypes in your act and show. When you were growing up, did you play up your JAP-iness a lot, or was it something you were ashamed of?
I don’t think of myself as JAP-y at all. I grew up in New Hampshire. There weren’t any Jews there. I did get a perm in seventh grade, if that counts for something. It was literally so ingrained in me that I’m the only Jew that I went to NYU for a year, freshman year, and I’m like, “I have to go home for this thing, it’s called Passover, it’s like a Jewish — ” and they’re just looking at me like, “Yeah. I know. Everybody’s Jewish here.” I never had to not explain that stuff before.