She walked into the crowded SMG auditorium with a childish grin on her face and an excited wave. She wore a pair of jeans, a hoodie, and had a red backpack slung over her shoulder. If you didn’t know better, you might have thought Sarah Silverman a college student; but that would have been an easy mistake. The forty-one-year-old comedian, though a successful adult, is really just a big kid at heart.
Sarah and her sister, BU graduate Susan Silverman, joined College of Arts and Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro for a “conversation about growing up Jewish in New Hampshire and making the best of it.”
Sarah’s playfulness was clear right away. Only a few minutes into the night, while introductions were still being made, an audience member’s phone rang. Instead of ignoring the interruption, as many others would have done, Sarah mimed her own phone call and called a mocking “Hello!” into her hand. The gesture won a big laugh from the crowd. Just a few minutes later, while Dean Sapiro asked her first question, Sarah was busily playing with her microphone. The amused look on her face was enough to earn another laugh from the audience.
Susan, like her sister, was also hilarious; though, it was a bit more surprising coming from a rabbi and mother of five children who lives in Israel with her family. When asked how she discovered she was Jewish in an overwhelmingly Christian community, she explained that because her family was the only Democratic family (as well as being the only Jewish family), she thought that “being Jewish meant you were a Democrat.”
Sarah said that she realized that she was Jewish when people started blaming her people for killing Jesus – but she defended herself: “It’s not like we killed baby Jesus! He had a pretty good run.” Susan laughed at her sister and suggested her solution to such comments, telling accusers “If I killed your god, just imagine what I could do to you.”
The night then moved on to the sisters’ moves from their home to New York—Sarah attended NYU—and Boston. Sarah explained it as, “Before, I felt like a goat in a sea of…What’s another animal?…Dogs? I moved to New York and suddenly there were other goats.”
Susan compared her move to Boston to going to Israel for the first time: “So many Jews.”
She said of her decision to move the family to Israel: “Israel is alive.” According to Susan, life in Israel causes her children to think about life in a very serious way. Although Sarah says that a move to Israel is definitely not in her future, she does say that her “Jewyness” is still a part of her. She put it simply, “I’m Jewish in that it’s in my bones.”
The conversation reached the topic of Sarah’s sometimes-controversial language and subject matter. Sarah made no effort to deny such claims. Instead, she explained it happily. “Some people are looking for a fight,” she said. “Comedy is objective. People will be offended. [They] react to buzz words and don’t look at context.” The room fell silent for a serious moment, before Sarah added, “But I got famous from it!”
The night came to a definitive and meaningful close when a student stood up at the end with a question about finding the time for his faith, while keeping up with classes, extracurriculars, and the busy life of a student. Susan finished off the night with her quiet advice to him, “The worst Jew is no worse than anyone else. The best Jew is no better than anyone else.”