Do you remember when Sarah Silverman was a member of the "Saturday Night Live" cast? If you do, you're in a minority. It's hard to imagine Silverman getting lost in the shuffle, but that's just what happened on "SNL" during what proved to be a transitional season -- the last for veteran cast members such as Phil Hartman and the breakout for Chris Farley, David Spade and Adam Sandler. Instead of launching Silverman to fame and fortune, "SNL" spit her out -- freeing her to make a name for herself with a different sketch-comedy program, the future cult classic "Mr. Show."
Nowadays, Silverman is famous enough to land a plum assignment on a Disney animated film. In "Wreck-It Ralph," out Nov. 2, Silverman plays Venellope von Schweetz, a character from a "Mario Cart"-type racing game who is banished because of a glitch in her programming code. She befriends another outcast from a different game, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), and the two embark on an adventure to save their respective games. Ahead, Silverman talks about how she developed Venellope's voice, her time on "SNL" and "Mr. Show," and why she decided to make those viral political ads.
Sarah Silverman: Sorry! It's Sarah. I had to pee.
Mike Ryan: Oh, no problem. Also, I have the hardest time coming up with questions about animated films.
"Remember that time you were in that race?"
The go-to is always, "Were you with anyone else from the cast?" And the answer is usually, "No."
Yeah, yeah -- I got to record with John C. Reilly a lot.
Oh, that's good.
We got to record together and look in each other's eyes and play the scenes and overlap and improvise and go into bizarre digressions. I think it gave like this nuance-y dynamic to our characters that we wouldn't get if we were just alone in a booth.
Was that voice your creation? Do they know what they want or do you come in and go, "I know what I'm going to do"?
We never talked about it. And I got there the first day and, honestly, it was just like I knew. I was a little girl, so I made it really high, and she's so scrappy that I added a permanent cold.
A permanent cold?
Just in my mind.
Can you get as much satisfaction out of doing voice work as you would with something like "Take This Waltz"?
It is more similar to regular movies than you would think. Yeah, they only extract our voice from it, but it's not like you just stand there with your arms at your side. Even if you're on the phone with somebody, you're pacing and moving around and talking and moving your arms. You know, we were flailing around and it takes a lot of movement and, dare I say, actual acting to convey these lines. But, you can also just roll out of bed, put on some sweats and put your hair in a bun. So that's nice.
I do that all the time on phone calls.
Yeah, but you don't do it for the other person. You're doing it because you're conveying something -- you're emoting.
This movie is interesting because there's a real tonal shift around 30 minutes in. Once we get to your character, the cameos from characters like Sonic the Hedgehog become a lot less frequent.
Right. Because Wreck-It Ralph is on this journey and you get to go to Game Central Station and it's so totally satiating for anyone who has played video games. It is funny -- you forget that video games have a history, because it still kind of seems so new, but it's been around for 30 years. And in technology terms, that's like 200 years. So, there are just so many familiar faces for so many generations. And, yet, it's a completely unique movie. And then, yeah, the story starts.
I get all of the references, but will kids get them? Will they know who Q*Bert is?
They'll recognize, to them, the old timey-ness -- you see the change in pixels and stuff. It has many layers to it, you know? Like any good kids movie, there's a whole other layer for adults. And this is no exception.
What was the biggest difference going from "SNL" to "Mr. Show," other than the live aspect?
Well, "Mr. Show" ... we recorded it live with an audience and pre-taped other things. I mean, I'm a huge fan of both, obviously. But I was in slightly different places in my career. You know, "Saturday Night Live," I was a kid -- I was not yet defined as a comedian. I was just this up-and-coming stand-up. And I was there one year and I never really broke out with anything. I wasn't the character actor. You know, I literally went from the stand-up clubs to being on "Saturday Night Live." And I was young. "Mr. Show" was like a collaboration of friends. I watched Bob and David work out the sketches in clubs and in small theaters -- and then they got the deal for the show. And I was lucky to be one of the friends that they called on. And it was much more like guerrilla style -- you know, they were stealing locations and running when people came. And I am attracted to that kind of thing. But they're only comparable in that they were sketch shows -- they were just so totally on completely different scales.
I feel like you were on "SNL" in a weird year. As in, if you came a little later, things may have been completely different.
It was a bizarre year! Because it was like ... it was that the old guard was still there, but the new guard was coming in. It was a crazy cast. Al Franken -- you know, Senator Al Franken -- Julia Sweeney, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, [David] Spade. It was a crazy mix of people and I think a very different place than it is, I would guess, now. They all seem to be buddies. You know, I mean, I was not at a place where a Tina Fey would be the head writer [laughs], do you know what I mean? But I was madly in love with the head writer, Jim Downey. He's still there. He's awesome. He's been there since day one and he's so, so funny.
I always forget that you were in "There's Something About Mary."
Me, too! And someone just told me that. It must have been on TV. But it's like, "Hey! I know that sassy friend character."
When did you decide to start doing political ads for this election season?
When I started getting mad.
Are they difficult to put together?
You know, people always volunteer their time there. They just care, you know? It's funny because I'm genuinely most famous, by far, for things that I've done for zero money. Like, I'm the poorest-to-famous-ratio person, non-scandal. Not that I care. I'm happy. I'm a big proponent of "keep your overhead low." But I love doing that stuff -- it's important to me. And all of the different people, you know, I've got people who fund it and I like to make sure the editors get paid and people who can't really donate their time. And it's tons of time -- nobody works harder than the editor on those things, because it just makes the video shitty or great.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.