Up Close and Personal With Sarah Silverman

Comedian Silverman talks teen depression and her brother's accidental death.

April 16, 2010— -- At some point, most "edgy" comedians deliberately choose to make a living with a potty mouth. For Sarah Silverman, that decision came right around potty training.

"I was three and my dad hilariously taught me how to swear," Silverman, 39, said. "I yelled out, 'Bitch, bastard, damn, s**t.'"

Her toddler shock humor brought peals of laughter. Silverman said the approval made her "dance uncontrollably like Snoopy. The feeling of pride made my arms itch."

To this day "that arms itch thing is like when I get a really big laugh," she said, "It's a joyful experience."

Silverman is a unique presence in Hollywood: an adorable-tomboy-next-door with a heart of gold and tongue of acid. The combination makes a lot more sense in the light of her new memoir, "The Bedwetter: Tales of Courage, Redemption and Pee," which hits bookstores April 20.

In a series of witty and candid essays, Silverman reveals, among other things, that she wet her bed into her mid-teens.

"The constant humiliation made bombing on stage or the prospect of it like uh, yeah, no problem. It's no problem," she said.

An uncontrollable bladder was just one burden for Silverman, who reveals she was once a clinically-depressed child of divorce. In her teens, she was medicated with 16 Xanax a day.

"I was taking four Xanax, four times a day and I was 14. I saved all the bottles in a shoebox because I remember thinking this can't be right and I want evidence," she said. "But this doctor saved me and took me off of it a half a pill less a week and I took my last half a Xanax when I was 16. Then I was myself again. I was like happy-go-lucky me again."

These days, work is her natural antidepressant. Silverman has hosted a self-titled sitcom on Comedy Central since 2007. The third season is wrapped and the program probably won't return for a fourth.

What kind of work comes next for Silverman is anyone's guess; there's always stand-up, where she got her start.

Silverman Spices Up Stand-Up

Silverman has decided to scrap all of her old, surefire material and create a new act from scratch.

During one recent performance she joked about being a Jew. "Around Christmastime the kids would all start blaming me for killing Jesus. And I remember thinking it's not like we killed baby Jesus, you know what I mean, he had a good run," she said. "And by the way you are welcome, because if we hadn't killed him he would not have become famous."

If she's ever in need of inspiration, she can draw on her dad's constant voice mail messages.

"I never answer when he calls because sometimes it can be comedy gold," she said, playing his latest voice mail aloud on speaker in the car.

"Where the hell are you? I know what you're doing, you're all texting each other," her dad, Donald Silverman, said. "Bastards. I love you, give me a call and let me know what's cooking!"

From Tragedy, Silverman Learns Comedy's Limits

Her father, who is the source of her cheer and blue vocabulary, also survived a painful past. Before Silverman was born, her parents took a vacation and left their infant son, Jeffrey, with his grandparents.

"My dad called his parents to see how Jeffrey was and my mom just said she heard him say 'What do you mean he's gone?' And then he just collapsed," Silverman said.

The child suffocated in a defective crib. Years later, the tragedy taught a 5-year-old Sarah the limits of comedy.

"My grandmother, my Nana, came to pick us up ... and she said, 'Everybody put your seatbelt on.' And ... I go, 'Yeah, we don't want to wind up like Jeffrey!' It was just silence," Silverman recalled. "So that was the first time I bombed."

Silverman has been known to push the boundaries of political correctness, addressing sensitive topics in her stand-up such as ethnic stereotypes, racism, and rape.

"I really need more rape jokes in my act because rape jokes are kind of a trick in comedy and yet you never get in trouble for them because who's going to complain, rape victims?" she said in her stand-up. "They barely report rape, you think they are going to take the time to write a letter? As a victim of rape I found your joke inappropriate, cruel, and completely my fault."

"I'm never out to hurt someone," Silverman said. "It's never about making light of rape or the Holocaust or making light of AIDS. It's me being an idiot about thinking things that are serious."

Silverman on Dating Funnymen

After a long and public romance with comedian Jimmy Kimmel, Silverman is now dating a writer for the animated series, "Family Guy."

"His name is Alec. He's awesome. Super funny. Super cute," Silverman gushed.

Silverman admits she couldn't date someone who was not funny.

"Needing someone very funny really narrows the field down to freaks, but I lucked out," she said.

Are kids in her future?

"I love kids. I'm crazy about kids. I think I do. But I want to wait until it's all I want," she said.

Imagine what Silverman's kids will be like -- dancing like Snoopy and telling jokes until their arms itch.