What happens at the Big Event stays at the Big Event.
To invoke an overused, yet fitting phrase in this case, those words came to mind while watching comedian/writer/actress Sarah Silverman perform her funny, crass, and sometimes controversial stand-up act on Saturday night at the JUF’s Young Leadership Division’s (YLD) third annual Big Event, held at the Sheraton Chicago. And it really was a “big event.” Launching YLD’s 2011 Campaign, YLD’s Big Event drew more than 1,500 people, making it the single largest YLD event in history.
In her detached, little-girl voice persona, Silverman—consistent with her usual social commentary-brand of humor—tackled taboo subjects like stereotypes, mocking her fellow members of the tribe, Jewish persecution, racism, sexism, and other touchy isms.
Her act makes my task of summarizing her routine for readers an arduous one.
‘Maybe I can write “bleep” or “&*#$@*!” every time Silverman utters something too racy for JUF News publication,’ I thought to myself cartoon bubble-style during a raunchy song she sang during her act.
But then, I figured, every other word would be &*#$@*!
So, instead of relaying every detail of her act, I forewarn you that there might be a few holes in my story.
While the crowd roared during most of her act, Silverman broke the fourth wall between her and the audience when one of her jokes on the subject of stereotypes fell flat. She analyzed the inner-workings of her shtick, explaining why she broaches taboo subjects in her act. “I like to take the air, the power out of words,” she said.
In contrast with the crowd of young Jews in festive attire, the beautiful comedian was clad in her usual casual sportswear, a hoodie, and a messy ponytail, making her look like she’d just gotten off the elliptical machine. Yet that didn’t stop a large contingent of my male friends in the audience from declaring their huge crushes on the comedian.
Her Torah portion would have been off the charts
“Is anyone here Jewish?” Silverman asked the humongous crowd of young Jews at the event.
The youngest of four daughters (including Silverman’s sister, who is a rabbi living in Jerusalem), Silverman grew up in a non-Jewish neighborhood of New Hampshire in a non-observant Jewish household. “I never really felt any different from my [non-Jewish] friends other than being coated in hair,” Silverman said. “I never had a bat mitzvah,” divulged the comedian, “but if I did, my Torah portion would have been off the charts.”
Silverman jokes lovingly about her divorced parents in both her recent autobiography “The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” (HarperCollins Publishers) and in her act. The best advice she ever got, she told the crowd, came from her mother after Silverman was heartbroken over a breakup. “Don’t let this keep you from falling in love because it’s worth the pain of taking the chance to have love,” her mother told her. “It’s not funny,” Silverman told the crowd, “but it’s true.”
Single and 39, Silverman says she doesn’t want to get married, but she does hope to find love. She also broached wanting to have children someday after her “whimsical” days are over. She said she’s considered adoption and surrogacy. “I feel like I’m so busy and so popular that I would probably have a surrogate have my baby,” she said. “And I’m so busy and so popular that I would probably have a surrogate raise my baby.”
“Are you guys having a good time?” she asked the crowd midway through the show. “I know I’m fishing but…you have a long night ahead. I don’t know how you do it. I have to get home and watch Law and Order immediately…I can’t go to sleep without a rape and murder.”
At one point in the show, someone heckled Silverman from the audience. “When people yell out,” she said, “I just want to hold them and hug them and tell them ‘it’s okay.’”
Following her standup, Silverman answered questions in a Q and A format with Brad Morris—a Jewish comedian, actor, and writer originally from Chicago, who has performed at Second City. She also answered questions e-mailed earlier in the week to YLD and from the audience directly.
When asked why so many Jews perform comedy, she replied, “We become funny at a young age because we need to be. It’s a Jewish survival skill.”
Then, Morris read an e-mail from a young Jewish woman. “You don’t want to get married…Why shouldn’t I get married?” “It’s just not my cup of tea,” said Silverman. “…You have to decide what makes you happy…I also don’t personally want to get married because not everyone can. It’s like joining a club that doesn’t allow Jews or Blacks.”
Morris closed the evening with a pressing question, asking the comedian which word she’s more partial to—schmuck or putz. “Schmuck is in my life more,” she said, “but putz is a great scrabble word.”
Thank you to YLD’s Big Event Supporting Sponsors Eleven City Diner, CAR Leasing, Inc., Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Event Sponsor Steve’s Deli.