When HuffPost Entertainment caught up with Sarah Silverman on the set of an Orbit gum commercial she was shooting in New York last month, the comedian was past due for her lunch break and taking it out on a room full of journalists and publicists by singing "Party in the U.S.A."
By the time she planted herself on a couch in the hotel room in which she filmed an "Entertainment Tonight" interview, Silverman had already discussed Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” and who she wanted to win the Super Bowl (she didn't care). Little did we know it was just days before the premiere of the trailer for “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” the Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy that opens in May and co-stars MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Neil Patrick Harris.
"I play a prostitute in the Old West who won’t sleep with my boyfriend because we’re Catholic and we’re not married," she said of the film.
The role is everything Silverman isn’t. She and her boyfriend, comedian Kyle Dunnigan, split in December. (Since our interview, she's reportedly begun dating Michael Sheen.) Silverman labeled herself “very Jewish.” And she's obviously several decades removed from the Old West. In fact, “A Million Ways” didn’t even require her to adopt a period-appropriate accent.
"That’s the one kind of anachronistic thing, I guess," she said. "I don’t know how they spoke in the Old West, other than Westerns in the ‘70s. I just sound like this. I probably say 'like' less."
The rest of our conversation, beyond her praise for MacFarlane as a director, writer and “goofball,” had Silverman applauding Beyonce and discussing her infatuation with basketball. When asked about her newly announced role in PBS and HuffPost parent company AOL’s “Makers: Women Who Make America” series, Silverman launched into a nearly six-minute soliloquy about the qualities that constitute a “woman who makes America.”
"All that comes to my head when you say that is Beyonce," Silverman said. "I feel like if there was a royalty system here, she’s obviously royal. I love the vision of her as woman. She wears the high heels -- I can’t get my head around that. I'm not into jewelry or designer bags. I don’t get it. It holds stuff, get a backpack. You’re being ridiculous. But I don’t care because I love her. I mean, her songs and watching her dance and sweat her balls off and just be beautiful and so strong."
But what really makes a woman in America, beyond Queen Bey of course, can be seen on the basketball court. Silverman regularly plays at the Y and claims to know "all the pickup games in Los Angeles." It’s the gender politics of a co-ed hoops competition that taught her what it means to be a woman struggling to find her comfort level. Her younger female teammates feel added pressure to make baskets so they won’t face vitriol about women allegedly being subpar -- something she’s only recently eschewed.
"I just let go of that because I see men shoot and shoot and shoot and miss, and they have the luxury of doing that," she said. "As long as I’m not a detriment to the team and I know the mental game of it and everything, I just say, 'Fuck it,' and have fun and fuck around and talk shit, and it's just so freeing because I spent so many years proving that I was worthy to play with these schmucks.”
Now that she’s no longer out to prove anything, Silverman can rest assured she’s earned her spot on “Makers.” When the six new one-hour installments arrive this summer, she’ll appear alongside Jane Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres, Carol Burnett and a handful of other beloved comics.
"Listen, sexism is real, and preconceived notions are real, but 90 percent of it we put on ourselves," Silverman said after her basketball anecdote. "If we lift it off of ourselves, the possibilities are limitless. … Nobody could break the four-minute mile because they knew nobody had ever broken the four-minute mile, so people in their minds said, 'That’s not possible.' It took the one person to not know better and then everybody could do it."
Silverman's Orbit campaign launches in March.