Sarah Silverman is a realist when it comes to her prospects for achieving universal appeal.
To paraphrase in three words: Ain’t gonna happen.
Her startling takes on risky subjects such as racism, abortion and rape (to name a few), delivered with wide-eyed, smiley, faked un-self-awareness, have earned her near-equal amounts of antipathy and adulation. Either you get her, or you really don’t get her.
And that’s OK.
“The way I look at it is, I’m not for everybody,” she says. “I don’t necessarily set out to be for everybody.”
For Silverman, who appears at Durham Performing Arts Center Wednesday, fun is the No. 1 priority. If her startling satire and silliness appeal to you – that’s great. If not – fine. She’s having fun.
“It doesn’t pain me to not have a wider reach,” she insists. “I’m not money-driven. So I’m very, very free in what I’m able to do.”
Of course, finding her path involved taking some knocks. She experienced the tough breaks of the entertainment biz early on, when she only lasted one season as a writer and featured player on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in 1993-94.
Since then, she’s established herself with her unique stand-up act and Internet videos, as well as hilarious appearances on late-night talk shows, comedy roasts and in films and TV series.
Silverman’s a natural for TV, and her Comedy Central series, “The Sarah Silverman Program,” which premiered in 2007, was a brilliant success, on comedy terms.
“It was the best experience of my life,” she says. “I made my best friends there.”
Silverman starred as “herself,” a selfish, unemployed moocher who relies on her sister (played by real-life sister Laura Silverman) and a group of friends to get her out of bizarre messes. The show drew the usual mix of critical raves and razzes, and lasted three seasons.
Silverman says she may develop another TV show, but there’s no rush.
“You know, if the idea comes to me and I know what I want to do, then I’ll bring it somewhere and do it,” she says. “I love TV, but it’s hard, because there are networks and they’re selling soap, and it influences content. I just am not really interested in making content for a place that’s second-guessing what a 14-year-old boy might want to see.”
For now, Silverman’s taking some of her stuff straight to the Web.
Along with fellow comedians and actors Reggie Watts, Michael Cera, and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (better known as Tim & Eric), Silverman is involved in a new YouTube project called JASH, a channel where artists share comedy ideas with the world immediately and directly.
“It’s so fun for us,” she says. “It’s not necessarily some kind of money venture, but for people like us who like to make videos, it’s an amazing place where we can actually do that without coming out of pocket, or you know, owing the man.”
Silverman also plans to shoot a stand-up comedy special in May, to air on a premium cable network she can’t name at the moment.
She says she’s excited about coming to Durham, in part because she has family living in Raleigh, and looks forward to hanging out with them.
Overall, she’s happy about her career at the moment.
“I own my own apartment,” she says. “I own my own car I’ve had for 10 years. I’ve got it really good.”