"That's the thing if you want to do something in the arts: you cannot control how people infer what you put out. And maybe they're wrong about it; maybe you're wrong about yourself, I don't know. I mean, you gotta get a little Zen about it. We're literally in outer space. How seriously can you take it all?"
– Sarah Silverman
Guy MacPherson: Sarah?
Sarah Silverman: What's up? Let me put my earbuds in. Hold on a second... Hi!
GM: Hello. How are you?
SS: I'm well. How are you doing?!
GM: I'm okay. Hey, you were up late last night. I was up and I saw that you tweeted at, like, 1:40.
[We're cut off. She calls back.]
SS: I am so sorry!
GM: How dare you hang up on me!
SS: I actually did hang up on you because my alarm on my phone went off and I went to press it to turn it off and I turned off our actual phone call. So sorry. The last thing I heard was, 'You were up late last night.'
GM: Yeah, because I was on Twitter. It was like 1:20 and I saw that you posted. Normally when I see your tweets, you already have like a million likes, and this one had just come up. So I thought, Sarah's up.
SS: I was. Oh my God, I could not... I was coughing all night. I'm not sick. It must be like an allergy cough or something. I was so tired.
GM: Well maybe you are sick. How do you know you're not sick?
SS: I can't be sick. Colds don't start with a cough.
GM: I don't know. I'm not a medical professional. Hey, first things first, I gotta you why weren't you attracted to Mike Reynolds?
SS: (pause) Wait a minute. How do you know Mike Reynolds?
GM: (laughs) He was an attractive guy. Why weren't you attracted to him?
SS: Uh... Um... Myriad reasons, but we were friends. We're friends!
GM: It was nice of you to get him the Peter North autograph, though.
SS: Oh my God, was that all around that time? Yeah, of course, he was my buddy.
GM: No, no, it wasn't around the time you were in Vancouver. I was talking to Colin Quinn the other day.
SS: (laughs) Oh my God.
GM: I said I'm talking to Sarah, is there a question that she would know immediately was from him, and he came up with those.
SS: Oh, that's hilarious. Yeah, the three of us were buddies. Not that we aren't anymore. God, Colin, I haven't talked to him in so long. He's in New York. Mike I actually saw recently when I was in Vegas; he came to the show.
GM: I think you and Colin are in town at the same time.
SS: Oh really?! Oh, good!
GM: He's doing two nights and you're doing one so there's an overlap.
SS: Oh my God. I'm coming in the night before. Maybe I should try to see his show. Oh my God, I love him so much.
GM: He's never been here so I'm looking forward to seeing him.
SS: Wow! How is that possible?
GM: He's such an east coast kinda guy, I guess.
SS: That's true.
GM: I'm confused over this uproar over your tweet, like you have the power to move the military or something.
SS: Look, I'm sorry I called for a military coup! I knew it was a longshot, obviously! Most of the military voted for Trump. (laughs) Also, I'm not an idiot. If I didn't put it in all caps, probably no one would notice.
GM: You're not somebody who could rally the troupes to do something by just saying the military should overthrow. I don't get it.
SS: Yeah, I mean, if we want to talk about crazy, inappropriate tweets, we should probably start with the leader of the free world. And to concede, he was by all appearances voted in by the electoral college, which is democratic.
GM: That's clear. It was one of the greatest victories of all time.
GM: I wonder if there are any net positives to the political situation in America today. People are banding together against the president. Journalism seems to be coming back – I'm certainly reading more papers. Art, whether it's comedy or visual art. People are doing more things. Or maybe I'm just now noticing it.
SS: No, for sure. Art is more important than ever right now. Fantasy, escapism, realism, all the -isms.
GM: You've had so many internet dust-ups in the past. Where does this one rank?
SS: Mm... I'll let you know. Listen, if our president Donald Trump has taught us anything it's that the news cycle pushes through daily and everybody forgets. He banks on that.
GM: Have you ever met Donald Trump?
SS: I have, yeah. We were at Howard Stern's wedding together.
GM: At the time he was just a blowhard businessman.
SS: Yeah, I didn't really think anything of it. He was like, (impersonating Trump) 'I'm going to get you to play my club in Florida' or something. You know, I can't say I have some amazing experience with Donald Trump. I'll tell you this: I never missed an episode of Celebrity Apprentice or regular The Apprentice.
GM: So you're a big fan. Would you meet him now if it came up?
SS: It would depend on the context, I suppose. I think contact of unlike-minded people is crucial because the truth is we are, most of us, pretty much the same. You know, I made myself listen to Alex Jones the other day, and I just thought if this guy was my Rachel Maddow, I would believe what he said as fact, you know? I don't think it's just evil people thinking... It's not like the right perceives what's going on the way the left is perceiving it and then liking it. They perceive it differently, as good, as justice, of something totally different than how we see it.
GM: I see Alex Jones is on the latest episode of Joe Rogan's podcast.
SS: That's what I dipped into.
GM: Has the new politics changed your act at all?
SS: Uh... Well, I suppose so but it's nothing like how on Twitter I'm way more political because I feel an urgency. I don't know how any citizen can consider themselves not political anymore. There used to be a time where we'd go, 'Wow, foreigners all know American politics,' and then the other person would say, like, 'Yeah, because they have to.' And now we have to. There isn't anyone that can go, like, 'Yeah, I'm really not political' that is an American citizen anymore because how can you do that with what's going on in the world, no matter what your beliefs are? There's too much at stake all the time. Standup is... you know, it's the usual. It's aggressively dumb and then there's a lot of other social politics, which is more what I'm interested in: people.
GM: You've always had the aggressively dumb character who would say racially insensitive things.
SS: I don't do that anymore.
GM: Because you can't? Is it wrong?
SS: I've changed, the world's changed. I've never been someone to be like, I'm this character for my whole life. I change and my act changes, and people are either still fans or they're not anymore or different people are fans. It has nothing to do with me. I love standup and to me it's about expressing how I'm feeling now and talking about the stuff that I think is funny now. I've been a standup since I was 17. I'm 46. That's 29 years. If I'm doing the same kind of shit, something's genuinely wrong with me!
GM: It sounds like the aggressively dumb character is still the same kind of character but you're just talking about different things.
SS: No, no, no, when I say aggressively dumb, that's not a character.
GM: Well, but that's not you so it's an exaggeration or persona.
SS: No, no, no. Guy. It's just me on stage. I'm just me.
GM: Yeah, yeah, I know that.
SS: I'm just saying, yeah, there was a time where I liked doing that arrogant ignorance but I haven't been like a character on stage in a while. I'm just myself.
GM: You had a health scare last year. Did that change your career goals or your outlook? Or is it just something that happened and you move on?
SS: I did. I almost died. It's crazy that I did not die. It was very traumatic because they couldn't put me to sleep because my blood pressure was too low so I had this breathing tube and they tied my hands down because I wasn't out, but I was on drugs, so when I would wake up, you know, your human instinct is to pull this thing that's in your throat out. And then I would see that my hands were tied down and then I would just assume that I was captured by ISIS and then someone would have to tell me like, 'Sweety, no you had a surgery and you're okay,' and then I'd understand and I'd fall asleep and then I'd wake up like a minute later and the whole thing would happen again. But I did think when I got out of the hospital I'd have that Ted Baxter-like... You remember when Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler-Moore Show had a heart attack and when he came back to work he was like, 'Salt! Do you ever really look at salt, Mary? It's so beautiful!' you know, 'Look at the sunset!' But I did not have that experience. But what I did realize is something less beautiful, which is we are all ticking time bombs and you should probably do what matters to you.
GM: It's something we all know but we don't consciously think of it.
SS: Yeah. Like, my realization wasn't really beautiful or have some Zen perspective; it was just like, 'Oh my God, we're all gonna die at any minute.' You don't know when it's going to happen so don't do dumb stuff because you're too embarrassed to, you know, speak up for what you think.
GM: I see you as this really influential comic but I don't hear you being credited enough for it. I guess you'll have to be immodest to agree with me. But I see you in so many comedians now. Do you see how you've influenced others?
SS: I'm older now. Listen, I've seen comics before me be very frustrated and kind of destroyed by the fact that other people have kind of taken what they have started and gotten rich from it maybe or something. I've seen it destroy people but really it's something that should be a point of pride. Like, why did we do this if not to influence people and push other artists farther? Sometimes it's frustrating when I'm just sitting on my couch and I see my own reflection, and I don't have my own washer and dryer; I share it with my floor (laughs). But at the same time, I want for nothing, I love my life, and the rest has nothing to do with me. We could all be brains in jars. We're avatars. To get tied up in that shit, 1. it ages you, and 2. it's just no way to live. But if I've influenced people, that's a good thing, I think, you know?
GM: Yeah. I guess it would just be better if other people acknowledged it.
SS: I don't know. You know when it gets frustrating is when people just take like it's fact that I'm some dirty, inappropriate for children, blue comic.
GM: Having met you and known you sixteen years ago, and then seeing you really blowing up and hearing people's perceptions of you, I see how completely wrong it often is.
SS: Yeah, sure, I know. That's the thing if you want to do something in the arts: you cannot control how people infer what you put out. And maybe they're wrong about it; maybe you're wrong about yourself, I don't know. I mean, you gotta get a little Zen about it. We're literally in outer space. How seriously can you take it all?
GM: You're very philosophical.
SS: We're on a planet in outer space, Guy.
GM: You're either very philosophical or very high.
GM: I know you don't like doing these kinds of interviews, but I've seen you interview Bernie Sanders and read you doing a great interview with Whitney Cummings. I don't know if you've interviewed other people, have you?
SS: No, I'm terrible at it.
GM: So are you more sympathetic to us interviewers?
SS: Yeah, I am but it's not that I have a problem with interviewers; I have a problem with myself. I like to think about my answer and be thoughtful about it and then write it out. That's why I like doing email interviews, but I know people don't like that because for I don't know what reasons – I guess because then they have only thoughtful answers that people want out there as their answers and not just a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo.
GM: I know you said you want to stay and fight the good fight in your country. There are some candidates in Canada who are kind of in the mould of Trump and I'm thinking if they were elected here, I would feel so embarrassed and I would move in a second, if I could.
SS: Well, I really love this country. It's where I've always lived. I think that people on the left are easily generally like, 'If you voted for Trump, you're in the KKK!' I mean, definitely, they all voted for Trump, but a lot of hard-working people who were promised jobs by this famous businessman they had heard of voted for him because, listen, they've been ignored. The Democrats were supposed to be the party of the working class and they have been ignoring the working class. Having all this globalization and jobs being gone, these people didn't feel listened to. I think a lot of them are now feeling very betrayed. If you go to @Trump_Regrets, it just goes on forever. My heart goes out to them because they deserve to be listened to. They're the heart of this country. This is a divided country where each side is getting their facts from different places and they're not the same, you know?
GM: I know you're a huge TV fan. You probably need time to think about this, but can you think of your top 5 shows of all time?
SS: Oh my God, that's so impossible. Oh my God... I'll just have to spew a bunch of shows because really I just love the dramas now so much. I don't really watch comedy so it's not fair.
GM: But over time you did, probably.
SS: Yeah. Like Taxi I loved. Mary Tyler Moore. And then like Larry Sanders, I know I got to be on it but I love that show. It was so brilliant... Uh, I could go so many directions. It's just crazy... It's too hard. I love so much TV! There's so much brilliant TV. I really like this new show Good Behavior, that's one I just finished.
GM: I've never heard of it.
SS: Oh my God, it's on basic cable and it's fucking brilliant. Michelle Dockery.
GM: I'll check it out. For me, my top one is It's Garry Shandling's Show.
SS: Oh my God, best theme song ever.
GM: Best show ever.
SS: He did, he broke the mould.