The Origins of Sarah Silverman's Dirty Mouth



When I was four I sat coloring a piece of typing paper during a dinner party at my Nana and Papa’s house in Concord. It was a white ranch house perched on a hill with long concrete steps leading up to the front door. The living room had bright turquoise carpeting under a long white couch. A blue-and-white candy-filled bowl rested on a thick-glass coffee table. Nana, a fashionable woman in her late fifties, who rocked hot pink lipstick under a swirly mane of salt-and-pepper cotton candy, came out of the kitchen carrying a tray of her famous brownies.

“Sarah, Nana made brownies for you!” she beamed in the third person.

I looked up from my drawing, glanced over to my father, who gave me the nod, then turned to Nana.

“Shove ’em up your ass,” I said.

The tide of the guests’ laughter quickly swept away any anger Nana had toward Dad. She had to smile. Remembering this very early time makes me nostalgic for the days when naked obscenity was enough for a laugh, and didn’t need any kind of crafted punch line to accompany it. It was good to be four.

It strikes me that, in this story of a little girl telling her loving grandmother to shove baked goods up her ass, I might come across as a monster. But allow me to place this anecdote in a cultural context: It was the 1970s. Countless friends of mine who grew up in that decade tell stories of their parents giving them liquor, or pot, or buying them Playboy magazines, or letting their boyfriends sleep over at very young ages. Or having “key parties” and orgies while they believed their children were upstairs sleeping. Like oversexualized retarded adults, the 1970s had the distinction of being both naive and inappropriate. For a naive and inappropriate girl to be born from it, it’s really not so crazy.

What I said to my grandmother yielded a strange kind of glory, and I basked in it. The reactions were verbally disapproving, but there was an unmistakable encouragement under it all. No meant yes.

Tags: Books