"We never go for shocking if it's not funny to us," Sarah Silverman says regarding the sometimes-shocking content in the new season of her Comedy Central series, "The Sarah Silverman Program," which kicked off season three last week. "I mean, I think that we go for aggressively dumb but I don't know because that has been what really makes us laugh in the room lately, like the biggest compliment you can get is, 'That is so... dumb.'" Silverman recently chatted with our Jim Halterman on a press call promoting the new season.
In fact, Silverman questioned whether anything shocks anyone anymore but did say she hopes the show reaches beyond shock value. "I think that this season there is actually growth and character arcs and stuff; hopefully still just really dumb and funny and silly. And anything smart you can infer from it from you smart brain is great. I don't know that it's pure shock value. I don't know how long that can last... I feel like we've got a really, really full season."
Despite the subject matter, Silverman admitted to giving a more big screen quality to the episodes this season. Last week's season premiere, where the on-screen Sarah is told she was born with both male and female genitals, accomplished that, she said. "'Proof is in the Penis' feels really cinematic to me. We just haven't been on the air in 14 months, and that kind of kills us in our hearts, but we just really wanted to start with this one because it just felt like for people who are fans of the show, we know you've waited a long time, and here's something that may be kind of special, or worth the wait; that has slow reveals, and just feels maybe like something special. We love that episode."
The actress/comedienne said that the out-there story ideas that appear in the show come about from ordinary happenings - sometimes unfortunate ones - with the writers. "There's an episode where Steve [played by Steve Agee] writes a song that becomes famous called, 'I'm glad you hurt your hand' because Brian [Brian Posehn] hurts his hand. That just came from the writer's room from me. [Co-creator] Rob Schrab hit his hand and I was in an extra obnoxious mode and I just started going, 'I'm glad you hurt your hand. I'm glad you hurt your hand.' Then Rob wrote it into the script."
Silverman also stresses that she never aims to make fun of people in a mean-spirited manner. For example in an episode airing this season featuring mentally handicapped adults, the joke isn't on them but on Sarah. As Silverman explained, "I get in trouble for peeing in a mailbox and I get sent in to work at this place called 'The Little Buddies Program,' which works with retarded adults; but I think I'm paired with a mentally handicapped adult, and she thinks she's paired with a mentally handicapped adult and we're so condescending to each other that we never realize who's retarded, because it's like, "Do you like ice cream? I love ice cream!' 'Do you like ice cream? I love ice cream!'"
For all the lunacy in the show, however, Silverman promised at least one heartfelt story this season that should surprise viewers by the emotional reaction it may elicit. "Our eighth episode, actually, is a Steve and Brian story line that you'll actually, dare I say, cry at the end. It was written as a drama. Rob Schrab wrote this episode. He wrote the 'A' story like it's a drama. I don't think it's like a very special 'Family Ties,' but I think you might get choked up at the end."
While Silverman was happy to be nominated for an Emmy last year, she said that nobody is really working just for whatever accolades might come to the show but, instead, for a simpler reason. "I think everyone that works on [the show] has this awesome love for it. I know it's so corny when people say that but we really are like a group of friends. We stand on the set, not just the cast and the writers, but the crew. With all our huge, crazy insane gaps in production, all the crew works their way back to the show because we just have such an awesome time. We stand around going, 'Oh my God! We're making show business. Like, this is going to be on TV.' It doesn't seem fair to get to do what we all love so much."
Silverman did admit that it would have been nice to have been eligible for other awards like the Golden Globes or SAG Awards but "we weren't on the air in 2009, at all. It will have been 14 months since the last time we were on when we air on February 4. You'd think we were 'The Sopranos' or 'Lost' with these gaps and not a 21-1/2 minute show about fart jokes, but we'll take it. We really love it. We love being together and making this super-super dumb, funny, silly show."
While being a frequent late-night talk show guest (and having been in a relationship with Jimmy Kimmel), Silverman definitely had some thoughts on the recent brouhaha that led to the ousting of Conan O'Brien from "The Tonight Show." Making it clear that she is on Team Conan, she offered, "I just can't get my head around it. The guy has done so much for NBC and for late-night, and has made such a success. If you remember, any talk show starts out super slow. No talk show has ever been a hit from day one, ever and to switch from 12:30 to 11:30 seems like no big deal, but it is. It's a whole different animal." She also added that NBC "should never be able to use the words 'The NBC Family.' Ever. But, that said; people go, 'Well, he got so much money' and that's nice that he got money, but he loves that job... wherever he lands, he'll always have an audience."
One place Silverman, who appears in the current motion picture "Saint John of Las Vegas," doesn't have many complaints about her show's home at Comedy Central. "I could complain about Comedy Central about plenty of things, I guess, but they are super cool about the most important thing, which is content. They may have gripes or they might complain or try to lure us away from a topic, but they never put their fist down and say, 'No.' It's awesome. They really have not meddled with any of the content we like to do. They're great about it. They never really sensor us, and even the standard and practices people can make us crazy, but really as long as we can give them a way to defend it, they'll let us go. They just always need to know how to defend something that they're worried about."
"The Sarah Silverman Program" airs Thursday nights at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central.