Sarah Silverman Opens Up About Depression, Comedy And Troublemaking : Shots - Health News Throughout her life, comedian Sarah Silverman has experienced varying degrees of depression, which she likens to a "chemical change." She plays a profoundly depressed woman in the film I Smile Back.
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Sarah Silverman Opens Up About Depression, Comedy And Troublemaking

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Sarah Silverman Opens Up About Depression, Comedy And Troublemaking

Sarah Silverman Opens Up About Depression, Comedy And Troublemaking

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, Sarah Silverman, is one of my favorite comics, finding hilarious and often subversive ways of addressing sexism and ethnic stereotypes and the things that make us self-conscious about our bodies. She's starred in her own TV series, created comic videos that have gone viral, hosted the Independent Spirit Awards and has a recurring role in the Showtime series, "Masters Of Sex." She won an Emmy for her 2013 HBO comedy special, "We Are Miracles." But in her new movie, "I Smile Back," she shows a side of herself and her craft that I haven't seen before. She stars as a wife and mother living in the suburbs who is overcome by anxiety and is profoundly depressed. Silverman has had serious bouts of depression herself dating back to when she was 13. In the film, her character's gone off her meds and is self-medicating with cocaine, pills and wine. The combination of the drugs and the depression is leading to self-destructive behavior that's upsetting her husband and children and distancing her from them. In this scene, she started rehab and is talking to her therapist, played by Terry Kinney.


TERRY KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) So where would you like to start?

SARAH SILVERMAN: (As Laney Brooks) Really?

KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) Really.

SILVERMAN: (As Laney Brooks) What's more interesting for you, the daddy issues or the drugs?

KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) Well, I like to start with the daddy issues because it's a very organic segue into the drugs.

SILVERMAN: (As Laney Brooks) Mine's boring. My dad left when I was 9. That's the whole story. He kissed me good night, and that's the last time I saw him. So drugs?

KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) Yeah, we'll get to that. Can you tell me why you haven't spoken again?

SILVERMAN: (As Laney Brooks) He didn't call me.

KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) Why didn't you call him?

SILVERMAN: (As Laney Brooks) Because I didn't know where he lived.

KINNEY: (As Dr. Page) Oh.

GROSS: Sarah Silverman in a scene from "I Smile Back." Sarah Silverman, welcome back to FRESH AIR. It's a great performance...

SILVERMAN: Thank you...

GROSS: That you give in this. Your face turns into a mask in the movie, a mask that's somewhere between hostile and just opaque blankness. I know you've had depression in the past. Do feel like that's how you must've looked during periods of depression?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, yeah, I mean there's - I do think that Laney is somebody who feels several emotions, and they're right on the surface of her skin. And then she kind of expertly covers that. And it's not that she's dead inside; it's that she feels too much and needs to self medicate. And, you know, I understand - you know, even as a teen bed-wetter or a bed-wetter at sleepover camp, I understand the total disassociation it takes to get through just an average day, you know? Like, this is a weird association to the plight of Laney, but, you know, waking up soaking wet in a room with seven girls you don't know and then just - just making the bed like everyone else over it and pretending like this isn't happening and being in such a dissociative state, I understand that, you know. I don't know if that sounds crazy.

GROSS: No. For people who aren't aware of this, your memoir was called, "Bedwetter," and it was about your experiences, in part about your experiences having that problem when you were young.

SILVERMAN: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: So there's also, you know, like, scenes where - in the movie, where you're looking in the mirror when you're depressed. And you're examining yourself very judgmentally, your face, your breasts, you're kind of pulling up your breasts as if to see, well, how would they look if they were lifted? Is this...


GROSS: And is this...

SILVERMAN: It used to be here.

GROSS: Yeah (laughter). Is this an exercise you're familiar with as well, as I think a lot of people are?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, yes, I - it's funny because there are weird mirrorings of my standup and this movie. And it's, you know, of course, kind of polar. They're yin and yang of each other, and I guess that means that they do kind of go together in an odd way. But, you know, where I say nice try, mirror, you know...

GROSS: That's right (laughter)...

SILVERMAN: Those are obviously - those are obviously my mother's boobs. And I don't think there's a woman in her 40s who - you know, who doesn't examine herself in the mirror. And I tried to - when I catch myself doing that, I make myself say, I'm strong, and my body works (laughter). You know, and it helps. You know, but one of the greatest things my therapist said to me - and he's so kind and warm, but he just kind of said it as such a blanket statement. And it really blew my mind in the greatest way. He just said, look in the mirror less. And I just thought, oh, right. That's great, of course, you know.

GROSS: Did you take your therapist's advice and look in the mirror less?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, I do. I look in the mirror less, for an actress...

GROSS: (Laughter) That's right...

SILVERMAN: Who needs the approval of strangers to get through life...

GROSS: Well, you also need to know what you look like. Like, you're playing a part on stage, even if it's the part of yourself, you know.

SILVERMAN: Right. Oh, yeah, yeah, I do look in the mirror when I'm doing something, but...

GROSS: And then you have to watch videos of yourself, too, and movies. So you're kind of forced to see yourself.

SILVERMAN: I'm pretty good at it. I take into - I always look at myself knowing that I will have a certain degree of cognitive distortion. You know (laughter), so I put it on a bell curve. I kind of adjust what I'm seeing and know that it's better than what I'm seeing (laughter), whether that's true or not.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Sarah Silverman, who's best known for her comedy. But she stars in the new drama, "I Smile Back," as a woman who is a mother and wife and very, very depressed. Would you describe a little bit your experience of what depression is and how that's different from being sad? 'Cause I think a lot of people don't understand that difference.

SILVERMAN: Yeah. I can only speak from my own experience, and I would say that the depression I experienced feels like a chemical change. When it came over me and when it comes over me, it feels like it's coming over me like a flu. Like, you ever just sit? And you're just sitting there, and you're fine. And then you just - the next moment you just go, oh, Jesus, I have the flu. You know, like, it just - it's that fast. And it felt like that.

And it was especially - when it happened in my - when it first happened in my early teen years, I was about 13. It was like the world - my perspective of the world changed about three degrees, and everything I saw was different. And I had been an extremely social person with best friends and the class clown. And all of that meant nothing suddenly. I didn't see any reason - being with friends felt like a burden. I remember just sobbing, and I was sitting on my stepfather's lap. And he was the first one - really the only one of my parents - who asked me what it felt like. You know, I hadn't been put in a position to say, like, you asked me just now, you know, what does it feel like? And I remember what I said because it really still stands. It's exactly - I would say that it's the perfect description. It felt like I was desperately homesick, which was something I was familiar with from going to camp in the summers. It feels like I'm terribly homesick, but I'm home. There's no way to satiate it. You know, and I don't know that I knew the word satiate at that time, but I don't know what I said specifically. But that was what I said, and that's what it felt like.

GROSS: When you were 13 and overcome by depression, did you have any context for understanding it?

SILVERMAN: No. You know, my mother suffered from depression, but I didn't understand that at the time. I just thought she slept all the time, you know (laughter) and wouldn't go to my games, you know. Of course, now I understand that she, too, suffered from - a great deal from depression, but I didn't. I didn't know anyone like this. I had a teacher. She wasn't even my teacher. She was just a teacher who took a liking to me, and I liked her. Her name was Mrs. Pope. And to give you an idea of how goyim a town I lived in in New Hampshire - Mrs. Pope. And she was so warm and lovely. And she said, you know, this happens to some people, and what you can hold onto is that when you come out the other side, you're richer for it. You know, or - and it was something I kind of was able to cling to.

GROSS: Were you medicated when you were 13?

SILVERMAN: I was medicated, and I tell the story in the book. I was sent to a psychiatrist who - this is a crazy story (laughter). I was sent to a psychiatrist who said, I'm going to give you a prescription for something called Xanax, and whenever you feel bad, you take one. And my mother dropped me off for my second appointment with him. And I remember being in the waiting room and reading an entire People magazine. And I thought, I've never read a whole People magazine. That must've been so much time that's passed, you know. And I didn't know where he was. And he shared an office with a hypnotist, who I also went to for bedwetting, which was - didn't help at all. And, you know, I was tiny. I was a bed-wetter 'cause I had, you know, my bladder was teeny tiny, I think. And he came down with no bedside manner for a 13-year-old girl and just - he was sobbing. And he just screamed at me that my doctor had hung himself.

GROSS: Oh, gee.

SILVERMAN: I know, it's really over the top. And I had - you know, this is before cell phones or anything - way before. And I just had to wait for the hour to be over for my mom to pick me up.

GROSS: Well, what kind of lesson did you take away from that? The guy who was supposed to be - the doctor who was supposed to be helping you is in such despair he kills himself. I mean, that's so reinforcing that, like, no, this isn't going to end. Life is terrible. The smart people who know better know how bad it is.

SILVERMAN: Yeah (laughter), it was weird because I don't remember it - and again, cognitive distortion, I don't know. I have no idea the truth of what I went through or processed. I don't remember crying or - I just remember - all I remember thinking was, because he had braces on his teeth. And that was something I noticed when I saw him - the one appointment I saw him. And then when that happened, I thought, gee, he didn't even wait to get his braces off. You know, because for a 13-year-old, that's, you know, when life starts is when you get your braces off. And I remember that perplexing me.

GROSS: So what happened after that? Did you go to another doctor?

SILVERMAN: After that - I did. I went - my parents, who just wanted to help me, you know, I mean, they found this woman who was a registered nurse in Boston. And so we would drive an hour to Boston before school. And I would talk to her, and she would just prescribe more Xanax, more Xanax. And her husband was a doctor, and he would write the prescription. I mean, really, this woman should be in jail. Ultimately, she had me at - by the time I was 14, I was taking four Xanax, four times a day.

GROSS: That's a lot...

SILVERMAN: Sixteen Xanax a day.

GROSS: That is really - especially for a 13-year-old. That's crazy.

SILVERMAN: A prepubescent, very small for my age...

GROSS: How did you function?

SILVERMAN: I don't remember being - I just felt kind of numb. And I...

GROSS: How did you stay awake?

SILVERMAN: In my gut I - I don't know. I don't know. I mean, I don't know anyone who can take - I don't know what the milligrams of each pill were, but it's certainly absurd. And I remember I - you know, my parents - especially at that time, you just trusted what doctors said completely. And I would keep the bottle, the empty bottles of Xanax in a shoebox. And I just thought, well, if somebody finds me and I'm dead or something, they'll know what was happening, you know. But I eventually went to another psychiatrist in New Hampshire named Doctor Santiago who was shocked and mortified at how much Xanax I was taking every day and said - very, very carefully got me off of it, a half a pill less a week. And it took about, I don't know, six months or something until I was completely off of it. And by that time, I was back. I was 16, and I was - felt like myself again.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Sarah Silverman. And she's known for her comedy. But in the new film "I Smile Back," she stars as a woman who is profoundly depressed. Let's take a short break here, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to my interview with comic Sarah Silverman. She stars in the new film "I Smile Back," a drama in which she plays a wife and mother suffering from profound anxiety and depression. When we left off, we were talking about Sarah Silverman's first bout with depression when she was in her early teens.

So when the depression came back when you were in your 20s, was it a different experience than when you were in your teens?

SILVERMAN: It was a different experience because it came over me as fast as the flu again, like a cloud covering the sun - that fast. And I recognized it. You know, the first time it happened, I had nothing to compare it to. And it was almost worse - I don't know if it was worse, but I recognized it right away. And, you know, knowing that the first time it lasted three years and - it was immediate terror, you know? And I had paralyzing panic attacks. And I had been hired at "Saturday Night Live" already and was working there, and I remember thinking I want to move home to New Hampshire. That's the first thing you think, you know, is, like, you just want to go home, and you don't want to do anything scary. And then I found a woman who put me on a pill called Klonopin that all it does is block panic attacks. And that really saved my life in that I was able to go to work at "Saturday Night Live" and exist through each day while I was figuring this out.

GROSS: When was the last time you had a depression?

SILVERMAN: I have intermittent, you know, downward spirals but nothing like I had in my early 20s when it was that kind of cloud covering the sun again, and it really mirrored - it was exactly the same kind of chemistry as that first time. I've since been put on - since '94, I've been on a low dose of Zoloft that, you know, has been a godsend to me, like, just - it was the perfect fit for me, and I feel like I can live life, you know? It wasn't something where, like, now I'm happy. I'm very lucky in that I still experience highs and lows. And I think those lows are important. But I am not totally paralyzed, and, you know, it keeps me from just complete staid paralysis, you know - and emotionally and really kind of almost physically (laughter). So I've been lucky. I have lows and, you know, everybody does. And I don't have people to compare it to. I'm a comedian and, you know, we kind of share the highs and lows to a degree. You know, most comedians share that kind of DNA or - but I kind of know how to handle it. I like to let myself wallow in it, I enforce it with terribly sad music, and it kind of pushes me through to the other side eventually. And I always know it's going to pass.

GROSS: So, you know, comics are kind of famous, as you've implied, for being prone to depression or, you know, to bouts of mania and depression. So I'm sure that you've had friends who've experienced profound depressions and that you've been in the position of the friend who wants to reach out and make contact and help but doesn't necessarily know what to do. Can you talk a little bit about being on that side of depression?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, I've lost friends and it's...

GROSS: To suicide?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, or drug overdose. And you just think I still really believe, you know, I could have - if I saw him, I could've said something or - you know, I have a very good friend who's sober - has been sober for 15 years now - and when he wasn't and I was trying to convince him to go into rehab, to take himself there, I feel like I did find that magical combination of words with him. And, you know, I said - he was using heroin, and I said, you know where you're going to find people who get it? - 'cause, you know, he was like, you don't get it. You can't understand, you know? And I said, you know who will? Everybody at rehab. You know, you're going to make friends there that are the only people in the world that know what you're going through. And they're going to be your friends forever. And I feel like that really - he went into - you know, he's been sober ever since. And I don't - I'm not trying to take credit for what he did for himself, but I think it - for better or for worse, I felt like I was able to find this magic combination of words that has now made it hard for me to lose people that way, you know?

GROSS: My guest is comic Sarah Silverman. She stars in the new dramatic film "I Smile Back." After we take a short break, we'll listen back with her to an excerpt of one of her standup performances from 1992 and get her reaction. And we'll talk about breaking into comedy in the '90s at a time when it was very male-dominated. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with comic Sarah Silverman. She's starring in the dramatic film "I Smile Back," in which she plays a woman suffering from depression. Silverman has starred in her own TV series, created comic videos that have gone viral and has a recurring role in the Showtime series "Masters Of Sex." She won an Emmy for her 2013 HBO comedy special, "We Are Miracles."

I want to play the earliest that I've ever heard you do comedy. And this is from 1992.

SILVERMAN: Oh, my goodness.

GROSS: And this is from the help of Mr. Internet (laughter). OK, so this is 1992, Sarah Silverman at the Improv. So let's listen to it, and then you can tell us where you were in your comedy at the time. Here we go.


SILVERMAN: Thank you very much. It's really nice to be here. You know, I was just back east 'cause my sister got married. And it was really neat, you know, they took each other's last names. They hyphenated it, you know? So now my sister's name is Susan Silverman-Abramowitz (ph). Yeah, but they're thinking of shortening it to just, Jews.


SILVERMAN: Oh, good, the Jews. They're good people. I like them. So I was home, and I saw my dad. I feel really bad, you know, 'cause when I was 14, I went out with my father's best friend. And, yeah, that's embarrassing, you know, my father having a 14-year-old best friend.


SILVERMAN: What a loser. So - and I saw my doll, Rosie (ph), too, you know? And I always treated her like a real person, you know what I mean? You ever have a doll and you treat her like a real person, you know, 'cause you're afraid if you don't, she'll kill you?


SILVERMAN: It's kind of scary. You know how it is, absolutely. So you look - you look like my friend Debbie (ph). That's really weird. Do you get that a lot or...


GROSS: That's Sarah Silverman in 1992. Sarah, how was that for you (laughter).

SILVERMAN: (Laughter) Wow, that was crazy. Oh, my gosh. Wow, I did have a doll, Rosie, my mom made me when I was 9. And she looked like me and was my size. And I think she was my first sexual experience, as well.

GROSS: (Laughter).

SILVERMAN: But - I - God, you know, it's so funny hearing that. I - you know, I can see - first of all, that I had this kind of affectation, like, I don't know what that is and also that I needed to fill all the empty space. You know, how it is, (laughter) yeah, they're good. You know, it's funny. It was a good lesson I learned, and I really learned it from Gary Shandling, who taught me that - to really embrace and have power in the quiet moments between jokes. And it's funny to hear the insecurity of - and the fear of any kind of quiet moment.

GROSS: In the '90s, when you were coming up professionally in comedy, comedy was - more than it is now, - a really male-dominated medium. And you were talking about sexuality and bodies from very much a woman's point of view and really making fun of how men talked about women sexually. And - at least that's how it strikes me. So I'm wondering if you got any pushback from comics or club owners or audiences when you started doing that.

SILVERMAN: You know, I remember a club owner telling me, you know, nobody wants to hear that from a girl, you know? But even then, I was just like, yeah, right, old man.

GROSS: (Laughter).

SILVERMAN: But I did take - I - you know, it very much was a male-dominated world. You know, despite a lot of great women comedians, it still was. And my mentors were male, you know, starting out, the people that influenced me and taught me. And I remember that the big thing that they would say - and I'd listen to it like it was OK and true at the time - which was they said, you know - and she's brilliant. But they said, Paula Poundstone is a real comedian because you can take her material and a man can do it, and it would be just as funny. She's not talking about tampons and stuff. That's what hacks talk about. And I really took that as truth. I just accepted it as the way things were and that that was cool. And of course, I do love Paula Poundstone. I think she's brilliant. But that that was the only way to be a real comedian, the fact that I accepted that, looking back, is so odd. And there was a conceit that you had to make the men laugh because the women were just there on dates, and they would only laugh if their dates were laughing. So you had to get the men to laugh. And that was, like, a real conceit, and it took years for me to realize, [expletive] (laughter). You know, like, comedy is talking about my own experience, and I'm a woman. And that's my experience. And just because it isn't yours doesn't invalidate it. It's so obvious now to even, you know, argue or talk about. But it was, like, a real thing, you know?

GROSS: Did you feel early on, when you started using words like vagina in your act, that it made men uncomfortable?

SILVERMAN: Yeah, but it didn't stop me. I - needless to say, you know, it's - some...

GROSS: And maybe it made women uncomfortable, too.

SILVERMAN: Yes. The world was a place where - and it still is, to a degree - there's so much shame around our own bodies, you know, and...

GROSS: Right, and I always feel like your material is trying to counter that in putting the words out there and putting experiences out there and...

SILVERMAN: Yeah, I like talking about things that are taboo because it makes them not taboo anymore, you know? And I grew up in a house where there were no taboos, so it came originally from a pretty innocent place where I was shocked at the things that shocked people. But I do enjoy and feel compelled to talk about things that are taboo. One, because I think I'm a troublemaker inside. I - if someone says don't say that, it's all I want to say, you know? And also, you know, something I learned in therapy, which is just something simple and beautiful my therapist said, which is darkness can't exist in the light. And then that made me think of something that Mr. Rogers said, which is if it's mentionable, it's manageable.

GROSS: I like that you quoted Mr. Rogers in justifying saying taboo things on stage (laughter).

SILVERMAN: Well, I - he is a hero for me.

GROSS: So you've been, in the past few years, doing some very funny videos. And some of them are for causes that you feel strongly about. You did a video, I think it was last year, for equal pay and reproductive rights. And you compared, like, what men and women get and what men and women are up against. And then in the final part, you're in a, like, a gynecologist's office with one of those examination gowns on. And you're getting up on the table with the stirrups. And you say, I have a solution. I know what I'm going to do. I'm becoming a dude (laughter). And that was just, like, hilarious. And I guess I'm interested in your decision to do political videos that are very funny, very subversive and have a mission.

SILVERMAN: You know, I never think of it as a conscious decision. You know, I grew up in a family that was always politically active. You know, I'm from New Hampshire so, you know, all the candidates come to New Hampshire. And, you know, really, like, a quarter of a mile from our house, they all - was the hotel where they all stayed. And, you know, my mother was a photographer for the McGovern campaign. And our family worked for Jesse Jackson's campaign. And, you know, Bruce Babbitt, I'm sure nobody remembers, you know, slept in my sister's bedroom in New Hampshire when they stayed there. And, you know, my oldest sister, Susie, always said she thought being Jewish meant being a Democrat because, you know, we had - we weren't religious. My parents are agnostic at best. But we were kind of different in our town, and she just thought that meant being a Democrat (laughter), you know? But, you know, we grew up - my dad raised us to respect taxes and know that it's an honor to pay taxes, and it goes to people who need it and highways and schools. And that's what makes our country great. And the more successful you are, the more you can put into the ante, into the middle, to help make our local communities and our bigger communities great, you know? And it was just - I grew up like that. My dad owned a clothing store. That's why people say, what was a Jewish family doing in New Hampshire? And I say, well, even New Hampshire needs retail, you know? My dad had a - owned a discount women's clothing store. And there was a vestibule, you know, like, a door - you would walk in the first pair of doors - you know, 'cause it's so cold in the winter - you know, and then there's the pair of doors that go into the store. And he would leave the outside doors open in the winter and keep the vestibule heated for homeless people to sleep in at night. And so now I'm in a position where I can make a funny video. And I think comedy is the greatest way to open minds or change minds or get information out.

GROSS: Let me reintroduce you here. If you're just joining us, my guest is comic Sarah Silverman. She's starring in a new dramatic film. It's called "I Smile Back." Let's take a short break, then we'll talk some more. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is comic Sarah Silverman. She stars in a new dramatic film called "I Smile Back," and she plays a woman who is profoundly depressed.

I want to ask you about your mother. I'm so sorry. She died in August. She was 73. I read an obit about her, and it said that she founded a theater company in New Hampshire, which I hadn't realized. How old was she and how old were you when she founded it?

SILVERMAN: Maybe I was 10, which would make her 40.

GROSS: So did that mean a lot in your life, in terms of becoming a performer eventually?

SILVERMAN: Probably, you know? Yeah, I always wanted to do that. She was always, well before that, passionate about plays and theater and every part of it, the costumes and the sets. And so she went back to college when she got divorced, and that's where she met her husband, John, who was her logic and philosophy professor and gave her her only B, I think, you know? And they didn't have a theater department, and she started one there and - the New Thalian Players. And, boy, she got everyone in the community involved, and they probably - I think they did 50 plays. And at her funeral, it was so moving. There were - so many of her actors, you know, came and gave teary eulogies. And one guy I never - you know, I didn't know, he came up, and he said, you know, I was working at Applebee's. You know, this is Manchester, N.H., you know? He said, I was working Applebee's, and Beth Ann was sitting at the table I was waiting on, and she said, you're tall and handsome. Do you sing? Do you act or sing? And I said, I don't know. And she said, why don't you come on down to the audition and see? And he said, that year, I played Curly in "Oklahoma!".


SILVERMAN: And he had been a part of the theater company ever since. And she really kind of collected these people that didn't know what they had inside them. And she gave so many people such self-esteem and opened their eyes up to such a totally new world, people from all sorts of jobs and lives that were never exposed to theater before that - this became their home and their community. And, you know, I remember being 12 and everybody calling her mom and being so mad because she was my mom. And, you know, now, I have, you know, 20-year-old comedians in my life that call me ma, and I love it because of that, you know?

GROSS: Oh, how lucky you were to be able to hear them, at the memorial, talk about her that way.

SILVERMAN: It was amazing. It was just really - it was such a great funeral. I don't think I've ever cried so hard in my life where the next day I looked like I had two black eyes and such a headache just from, like, bursting blood vessels, but also laughs. And, you know, the funeral home people said, we've never heard so many laughs in a funeral, you know? But it's interesting, you know? Grief is something that is - it takes so many shapes. And, you know, my oldest sister, Susan, who's a Rabbi and, you know, really took the reins of arranging the funeral and everything along with my Aunt Martha, my mother's sister and best friend. And I think she was so in charge. And she was - she surprised herself that she didn't cry at all. And she didn't cry for a while. And she got an e-mail out of nowhere from a friend, and it just said, you don't think you're grieving, but you are, and that was the first time she cried. But I just - when she told me that story, I was so moved. And it is so true that grief takes so many shapes and you just - it's not something that you fail or succeed at, you know? It takes care of itself, you know?

GROSS: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing some memories of your mother. One last question, and this gets back to how we started the discussion, which is about depression. And you were talking about how depression is really different from sadness, and it's really different from grief. But when you were grieving for your mother, particularly in that period immediately following her death - and, you know, you talked about just being surprised at how much you sobbed during the funeral. Did that threaten to bring on depression, or is depression, like, so different than grieving that you could grieve without worrying that you would be sent over to the other side?

SILVERMAN: No, yeah. No, it's so different. In fact, crying at the funeral was so cathartic, and it was such a group situation, you know, where, you know, the actual funeral and the days of being home in New Hampshire were cathartic and were kind of wonderful, you know? Everyone came home. All my stepsiblings and my siblings and my dad and my stepmother were, you know, with her when she passed. And so, we were with just this group of people, all home to celebrate, you know, this woman's life and to cry and laugh. So it was, like, this amazing experience. And then, what I realized is the real hard part is going home to regular life, to everyday life, where you're not surrounded by people who are going through the same thing. And, you know, there were - there was a while, at first, where it was like everybody I saw, I was afraid I was going to say my mom died, you know? Like, it was harder - that was harder, in a way. And it comes and goes in waves, you know, because I keep wanting to call her or having that knee-jerk reaction to calling her. I sent, like, a group family e-mail a couple weeks ago, and Suzy said, do you know that you sent - mom was in that - you know, you e-mailed mom? And I didn't. I didn't even feel it, you know? But especially now that I'm doing press for this, and I just did "Inside The Actors Studio." And between that and doing FRESH AIR with Terry Gross and talking about her and her life and her career, I mean, she would've just - not died, I guess. She would've just been blown away - totally blown away, you know? And she's, like, kind of this one person in my life that is so into this stuff, so it makes me miss her, but yeah.

GROSS: Well, I'm sorry for your loss.

SILVERMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: She sounded like a wonderful person. I want to thank you so much for talking with us and for sharing what you shared.

SILVERMAN: Thank you. What a depressing conversation. I hope this was entertaining in some way to people. But you're always wonderful to talk to.

GROSS: And you're wonderful to talk to. And I think what you said is very nourishing because it's so true. So thank you very much.

SILVERMAN: Thank you, as do I - you.


GROSS: Sarah Silverman stars in the new dramatic film "I Smile Back." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

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