10 Questions for Sarah Silverman

The comedian talks about her new book, The Bedwetter. Sarah Silverman will now take your questions

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Robyn Von Swank

Sarah Silverman seen here with Duck, her dog, a chihuahua pug mix.

What made you want to write a book about such a personal topic as bed-wetting?Joe Valdivia, Santa Barbara, Calif.
I decided to write a book about personal things because that's pretty much what I talk about. As a comedian, you're kind of an open book. There were a few years when I was asked [repeatedly] to write a book, and I didn't feel like I had one in me. After years of doing stand-up, you really train yourself to boil everything down to the nut. With a book, it's the opposite. It took me a while to embrace that.

Did you get into trouble a lot as a kid?Cara Swanson, Lompoc, Calif.
I was a pretty well behaved kid. I never missed a homework assignment in my life. I really wanted the teachers to like me. I hated the thought of disobeying them. [Still] when I was 3, my dad taught me swears. It wasn't until I started doing interviews about my life that I put it together. When I would [curse], grownups would be shocked and amazed. I became addicted to that kind of shock humor.

Does your family think you're funny?René van Huyssteen, CAPE TOWN
I don't think they're blown away by me. My oldest sister is a rabbi, and she totally has a dark, twisted sense of humor, even though she's an angel. All my sisters and my parents are funny. My grandparents were funny. It's like coming from a vaudeville family, only we were in retail.

What comedians inspired you to go into comedy?Michael Lawrence, Nashville
Steve Martin. I was so in love with him. I read that he loved this painter David Hockney, and so I sent away for a calendar of David Hockney paintings. I was this little girl in New Hampshire with these paintings of gay men in swimming pools all over because Steve Martin liked them.

Has your gender ever gotten in the way of opportunities in the comedy business?Lucy Chau, Toronto
Probably. But it's probably gotten me opportunities as well. I think it evens out. We live in a world right now where the king of comedy is Tina Fey.

Can comedy be taught, or is it a natural gift?Andrew Goodwin, DUBLIN
I don't think that it can truly be taught. It's almost like a sickness. It can be a wonderful thing to be funny, but I think it comes from some kind of damage or some kind of need or means of survival. It's the fat kids who make the fat jokes before anyone else can.

Because of your profession, is it hard for people to take what you say seriously?Paul Hostetler, Washington
I think people expect that I'm going to be funny all the time. I do like to be silly — I'm not this brooding, serious person off camera. But [sometimes] I'm just trying to have a conversation. I'll say to a friend, "I love your dress," and they'll go, "F___ you!" I'm just trying to tell you I like your dress. People's defenses are up [around me] or something.

Have you ever held back a joke?Ju Huang, Stamford, Conn.
Sure. I might write something and try it and go, "Ohhh, that doesn't feel good." There's a balance. I tend to talk about things that are sad. So if they're not funnier than they are sad, then they're not worth doing. I get an ugly feeling in my stomach.

Have you ever regretted a joke?Jessica Rosado, San Juan, P.R.
Yeah. There were a couple of times when I talked about specific people in pop culture where I realized that they were real people who maybe were hurt. I never want to do that. I'm not interested in hurting anybody's feelings.

I would also like to f___ Matt Damon. Do you have advice for those of us aspiring to do so?Anna Okolnikova, Toronto
[Laughs.] I don't. It's not like I have his phone number or even his e-mail. We shot that video in four hours. Every once in a while I'll see him in something and he'll give me a nice little hug. But I don't know how to have sex with Matt Damon. You'd have to ask his wife.