Arts & Culture

Sarah Silverman: Bedwetter/Memoir Writer

One of the functions of a public figure’s memoir is to provide the reader with a sense of origin. How did Barack Obama get into politics? How did Steve Jobs manage to change the world? How did Sarah Silverman get … Read More

By / April 19, 2010

One of the functions of a public figure’s memoir is to provide the reader with a sense of origin. How did Barack Obama get into politics? How did Steve Jobs manage to change the world? How did Sarah Silverman get so comfortable telling rape and pussy jokes in front of millions of people without batting an eye? It is this last mystery that is explored in The Bedwetter (Harper Collins), her new memoir, which, aside from being a funny series of anecdotes chronicling her ascension through the ranks of American comedy, is a sincere and heartfelt account of a woman who used to piss herself.  A ton. A prisoner in her own pee-soaked bed, young Sarah was subjected to a slew of potential remedies: therapy, hypnotherapy, an electric bed pad with an alarm triggered by moisture, her father dousing her with freezing cold water in the middle of the night, and eventually, diapers. Poor Sarah, sent off to a Jewish summer camp at which she already felt like an outsider, fully stocked with diapers to wear to bed, hammering home her profound humiliation. Her sense of humor and charisma gave her confidence and friends, but, "I was sleeping in dried pee sheets every night, so don’t worry about  me getting too cocky".

Growing up in gentile-fabulous New Hampshire, her high school experience was marked by depression and sixteen Xanax a day, but also by a first love – her best friend Kerry ("Kerry could make my day or break my heart"), whose confidence and life-affirming world view had a major impact on Sarah, allowing her to blossom into a smart, self-assured, sexually promiscuous adult by the time she got to New York to start her comedy career. In the book,  there is a recurring theme of Sarah-as-adorable-and-precocious-little-sister, unwittingly inviting various people – Louis CK, Garry Shandling, Al Franken, Kerry – to take her under their respective wings and shape her mind and sense of humor for the better. It’s pretty damn endearing. She regales us with tales of her one season writing for SNL – not getting a single sketch on air, feuding with the hoity-toity Harvard-grad writers with obnoxious names like Ian Maxtone Graham, stabbing Al Franken in the head with a pencil – before she was fired at the ripe old age of twenty-three. We’re privy to other unique struggles of a successful comic, such as: Which piece of derogatory slang should one use on the Conan O’Brien show – spic or chink? How many farts is too many farts for a single episode of television? If the censors won’t let you belch the word ‘rape’, will  they let you belch the words ‘Zach Braff’? Which term has greater comedic value – pee or pee-pee?  Not exactly Dreams of my Father, but worthwhile nonetheless. Sarah Silverman is one of the most prominent, competent comedians out there and The Bedwetter reveals her to be a total mensch. Gushing with love for her parents, her sisters, her Nana, her friends and colleagues, the book is sincere without losing its sense of silliness and contains moments of real insight, like how a youth filled with pee-stained mortification can properly thicken your skin for a life in stand up comedy.

Mazel Tov, Sarah, you little pisser.