Sarah Silverman on the Uphill Battle for Jewish Actresses, Quarantining With Her New Boyfriend, and the Tragic Death of Her Friend Adam Schlesinger
Comedian, actress, and podcast host also gets candid about sex, spanking, and that infamous "Imagine" videoNovember 17, 2020
Sarah Silverman moved to New York City in March of this year to turn the page on an exciting new chapter in her career. The comedian, actress, and bestselling author had spent eight years working with Fountains of Wayne frontman Adam Schlesinger to adapt her 2011 memoir “Bedwetter” into an Off Broadway musical and their plan was finally coming together. Tony winners were cast, a venue was locked down, and the production was on track to open in spring. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit their plans were derailed. Worse yet, Schlesinger contracted COVID-19 early on. Weeks later, the 52-year-old rocker and songwriter was dead.
“We were just about to finally start and … we start getting texts from Adam, ‘I think I’ve got this fucking thing. I have like a 103 fever and I have a cough, but I can’t get a test anywhere,’” Sarah told Howard on Tuesday during her Stern Show return. “A few days after that he goes, ‘You’re not going to believe where I am. I’m in the fucking hospital with COVID. Like, I have pneumonia from COVID.’”
Adam sent her updates from the hospital until he all of a sudden stopped texting. She grew nervous and called the hospital, but they assured he’d been discharged.
“So then I text him and I go, ‘Hey fuck face, answer me when I text you’ … but he wasn’t discharged. He was transferred to a COVID-only hospital, and he was immediately put on a ventilator,” she continued. “Three days in a row he got incrementally better, but the doctors said be cautiously optimistic. Then the next day, April 1, he died.”
The Fountains of Wayne founder, Ivy frontman, and little known “Crank Yankers” theme-song composer was one of the first American celebrities to succumb to the virus. “I’m still in shock,” Sarah said, explaining she’d never seen Adam sick before that and couldn’t understand why the virus didn’t also spread to her, Adam’s girlfriend, or his children. “There’s no pattern,” she said.
As if losing a good friend wasn’t difficult enough, Sarah suffered another blow when opening up to her psychologist about what transpired. “I have this therapist—he’s really changed my life in these past few years,” she told Howard. “He’s helped me so much. I hadn’t talked to him, and I finally had a Face Time session with him, and he’s a COVID denier.”
“The therapist?” Howard asked.
“Yeah,” she responded. “I tell him my friend died and he immediately goes, ‘Well, what was on the death certificate?’” Sarah recalled.
His reaction left her stunned. “I’m like, I don’t even know this person. I don’t recognize him. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t go back to him,” she said, adding, “As he’s talking I’m just thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m paying for this hour.’”
Sarah has remained active and outspoken since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, raising awareness for at-risk prisoners, calling on Americans to wear masks in public, and taking the government to task for its lackluster response. She also participated in a star-studded video where actresses, actors, and entertainers from across the globe tried easing the world’s suffering by singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The video went viral, but not in the way Sarah and the others involved had hoped it would. It was swiftly and overwhelmingly ridiculed.
She told Howard the video was actress Gal Gadot’s idea, though comedian Kristen Wiig was the one to bring Sarah on board. “Kristen emailed me and I’d do anything to be in her club,” Sarah said. “When she said we’re all going to sing ‘Imagine’ … I wrote her back and go, ‘Imagine? Really?’ … She goes, ‘I know, but it’s sweet! … It’s just to cheer people up!’”
“I just can’t say no to Kristen Wiig. I mean, she’s so cool and lovely and brilliant,” she continued. “But at least I tried to make my part funny, you know? And I sent it in and, uh, boy it just got eviscerated.
Kristen texted Sarah to apologize, but she assured her friend it was no big deal. “I looked at it again recently and it’s pretty bad, but it’s not as bad as like the blowback it got,” she concluded. “But, you know, I thought ‘Gigli’ was good.”
Thankfully, Sarah has found other ways to entertain the world during the pandemic. In September, she debuted “The Sarah Silverman Podcast,” a weekly show in which she tackles topics ranging from “politics to breakfast cereal and everything in between.” She said the podcast gives her the creative outlet she needs during a pandemic which has rendered touring impossible.
“I haven’t gone this long without stand-up since I was 17,” Sarah told Howard. “I guess that’s why I started this podcast. It was just like I had no place to do this, you know?”
Howard was fascinated by the topics Sarah covered on her podcast, including fake breasts, Pete Davidson’s late father, a conversation with Larry David, and hidden swastikas. He was especially curious to learn more about one episode entitled “Jewy Actors.”
“The parts I get to play, you’re either a sassy friend of the main character … or you’re this cunty girlfriend before the guy realizes what love really can be, or you’re that guy’s book agent,” Sarah said, explaining how Hollywood rarely casts Jewish women in heroic or courageous roles—even if they’re playing a Jewish woman.
“Actors are actors and they should play all different parts, 100 percent. Let me make that clear,” Silverman said. “But … they finally make ‘RBG’ the movie and it’s a British woman, Felicity Jones. Mrs. Maisel—god bless her, she’s brilliant—not Jewish. Even in ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ which I loved, nobody was Jewish. The Jew in the wall wasn’t even Jewish. It was some actress named McKenzie!”
“Is it the biggest injustice in the world? No, but I’m noticing it,” she continued.
In addition to finding new platforms to entertain fans, Sarah has also recently found a new boyfriend: writer, producer, and former “Daily Show” showrunner Rory Albanese. She told Howard their romance started online, though not on a dating app or matchmaking service. She and Rory actually grew close after she decided to take up video games during the pandemic.
“I started playing ‘Call of Duty: World War II’ which is great because you get to kill Nazis and stuff. I posted about it and he direct messaged me … and every night, after seven o’clock, we would play,” she said.
Shooting Nazis soon paved the way for texting, flirting, and, eventually, a sleepover. Even after hooking up with him the first time, however, Sarah said she wasn’t in the market for anything serious. “I’ve really been trying to correct patterns of just hooking up with a guy and doing two-and-a-half years with him. I just fall in so easily,” she laughed.
Sure enough, their relationship soon deepened and now she calls him her boyfriend.
“I like the sound of this guy, but what’s the endgame?” Howard wondered, later asking if marriage was in the cards.
Sarah wasn’t sure nuptials were a necessary next step. “We’d like to just be together all the time forever,” she said. “If Rory was someone who was like, ‘I need to be married,’ then yeah, I’d think about it I guess.”
While Silverman wasn’t eager to dwell on the topic of marriage, she had no issues opening up about her sex life, whether with her current boyfriend or in years past.
“I heard that you liked to be spanked, and I was shocked,” Howard said.
“Yeah, I wonder why that is? Because it feels good. It can’t be hard enough,” Sarah responded.
Rough spankings can sometimes leave a mark, however, as evidenced in one anecdote the comedian shared about returning home after losing her virginity. “We only had one good shower and it was [my mom’s] shower,” Sarah recalled. “She’s peeing, I’m like getting into the shower, and I step into the shower and she sees my ass. She’s like, ‘Sarah!’ and I look back into the mirror and it’s a bruise in the exact shape of the hand.”
“There was nothing I could say. I go, ‘I like to be spanked during sex,’” she added.
Silverman also shared a story about a short-lived ex who was only turned on by her feet, which he affectionately referred to as “slabs.” “My boobs and my ass did nothing for him. I was lying on his stomach, I had to touch his nipples … and he’s like, ‘Let’s see those slabs,’” she recounted with a laugh. “That’s a real thing for men.”
Sarah has always been open about her kinks in her conversations with Howard and apparently fans have been paying attention. On Tuesday, she told Howard one of their past discussions led to her getting an unexpected shout-out in a porn video she stumbled across.
“I start watching it and I’m lying on my stomach, looking at my phone … I have to put tape over the hole because honestly even a hacker doesn’t deserve to see that,” Sarah laughed. “As he’s coming, he says ‘Sarah Silverman.’ He says my whole name. Twice.”
“My first reaction is I had a heart attack. I thought someone was hacking [or] looking at me,” she continued.
Howard could hardly believe it, but sure enough he found a clip from the porn and played the relevant portion on air.
“Somebody made a porn for me. I’ve never been so honored,” Silverman concluded. “Howard, I got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and this is more of an honor I think.”
Sarah Silverman’s podcast “The Sarah Silverman Podcast” is available here.