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Operatives And 'Lies' In Ridley Scott's New Thriller

David Edelstein reviews Body Of Lies, a new spy thriller directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Set in Iraq and Syria, the film charts a young CIA operative's growing disillusionment with his superiors in Washington.



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Other segments from the episode on October 10, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 10, 2008: Interview with Louis C.K.; Review of Raphael Saadiq's, “The way I see It;” Interview with Sarah Silverman; Review of the film "Body of lies."



Fresh Air
12:00-1:00 PM
Comedian Chews Up Midlife Foibles


This is Fresh Air. I'm David Bianculli of Broadcasting and Cable Magazine and sitting in for Terry Gross. Our first guest today, comedian Louis C.K., has a new standup special called "Chewed Up." It premiered last weekend on the Showtime cable network and will be released in December in both CD and DVD formats. Here's a quick taste.

Mr. LOUIS SZEKELY (Known as Louis C.K., Comedian): Kids are like buckets of disease that live in your house, and you get sick from them all the time. I got some - last week, I had a flu that I caught because my daughter coughed into my mouth, just hit me right in the back of the throat. Why thanks, honey, I'm sick right now. I can feel it already. She did this, by the way, because she was trying to tell me a secret, and she thinks you tell secrets into people's mouths. She takes her whole face, which is inconsiderate, brutal, and retarded behavior, if you ask me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And by the way, she's five - five years old. What secret does she have that I really need to hear? Like, she's going to tell me a secret, and I'm going to go holy (bleep), are you serious? Oh my god. Honey, I won't tell anybody. That is (bleep) up seriously. She got an abortion on Christmas Eve? Oh my god.

BIANCULLI: Louis C.K. from his new standup comedy special "Chewed Up." Before going solo as a comic, Louis C.K. wrote for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Late Show with David Letterman," and "The Chris Rock Show." He then starred in his own sitcom, HBO's short-lived "Lucky Louie." He's currently on a national tour of an all-new comedy act called "Louis C.K. Hilarious." And next year, he'll appear in the movie "This Side of the Truth" along with Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Terry spoke to Louis C.K. in 2006 and asked him about his early work writing for other comics.

TERRY GROSS: How did you end up in comedy? Your first career, I think, was working as a mechanic.

Mr. SZEKELY: I do. Well, yeah, it wasn't really a career. I just - I did it while I was doing comedy at night. I would go working in garages, fixing mufflers and brakes and stuff. And I loved fixing cars. I actually did think at one point that that's what I want to do because I was able to do it. But I just loved stand up my whole life. And I grew up in Boston, and they had - I heard something on the radio about open mic night at a comedy club, that anyone that wanted to could go in and try it.

And I - just as soon as I knew that existed, I went and tried it. And I was very bad and unfunny, and I bombed. And I tried it again, and I was bad again, but I just kept at it. And yeah, it was an obsession with me. And when I was in junior high school, I did in a lot of drugs, and I got in a lot of trouble. So I think that when I started doing that stuff, my mother was unbelievably supportive. I lived at home at some ages that I shouldn't have. I would leave and then come back, and she was always very helpful because I just wasn't any longer a criminal charge or a drug addict. She was so happy that I was doing anything legal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Eventually, David Letterman hired you to be a writer on his show, and this was after you were a guest on his show. Did you so impress him as a guest that he hired you as a writer?

Mr. SZEKELY: No, it was kind of the other way around because I had written on Conan. Conan - I was there from the beginning of the show. Me and a bunch of guys got hired as writers before it was on the air, so I got to launch that show as the first writing staff, which was a singularly great experience. And after I was gone from there, I'd been there for two years, and I left.

And then the Letterman show kind of heard that I was sort of one of the good writers on Conan, so they wanted to snap me up, and they offered me a writing job. And I said, you got to let me be a stand up on the show first because that was my dream, to do stand up on Letterman. So they let me do stand up on the show first, and the following week, I was hired as a writer.

GROSS: Well, let's talk about being one of the first writers on "Conan O'Brien" show and launching the show. You know, just to refresh everybody's memory, when "Conan O'Brien" show started, everybody thought he would fail. Like, who is this guy, and why was he chosen to get this prestigious late night spot that everybody wanted. So what were some of the things that you tried to think of as a writer to help establish, like, who he was and what the show's identity was?

Mr. SZEKELY: It's funny. We didn't really think that way. We just were - we were very young. I mean, everybody was young. When I met Conan, he was 30, which amazes me now. And Robert Smigel, who is the head of that show, was 29. And I was 25, I guess, and the writers ran the range between those ages. But anyway, we just were trying to be really funny.

And Conan, what I really admire him more about anything was how much courage he had then because he really was an unpracticed, uncertain performer, but he tried bits that I've seen really veteran comedians and broadcasters walk away from because they're just too risky and too strange. But he'd go, sure, I'll try that. For all of his greenness, he was like, I'll try that completely ridiculous bit that will probably bomb, and he would stand there and sell it. That was...

GROSS: Can you give us an example?

Mr. SZEKELY: Yeah, there was last night on "Conan O'Brien," and then we'd show this really lush action sequences that we - that would make it look like Conan's show is like "Dallas," with cliffhangers at the end of every show. And we had, like, cars going off cliffs that we, you know, that we borrowed footage from like, you know, stock footage companies. But, yeah, him - and they'd be having fist fights and, you know, women dressed in, you know, gowns yelling at each other and stuff. That's the first, actually, pretty easy to laugh at, pretty fun.

But then I'd hang Conan out to dry on other stuff like, oh what's a good example? I remember it's kind of that - it's kind of an important thing for a writer to go through to watch somebody bomb with your material and feel that empathy for them and realize the positions you put them in. We did a show, a thing on Conan that I created called Actual Items, where we do the thing where you show small town news, and you're amazed that how silly the items are, and you say how they're real. But we would make ours up so they'd be ridiculous, you know. We had one that I wrote that was for coins. Sometimes in like "TV Guide," you see old coins for sale that you can mail away for.


Mr. SZEKELY: And the things - the things said these coins are so old that you could buy slaves with them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And, you know, awfully offensive joke. And he didn't really want to do it, but I said, come on, don't be a baby. And he did it, and it got roundly booed. And he sat there with the big smile on his face, and he just took that boo. And I was sitting safely by the doors, nobody was clobbering me. I learned at that moment, like, it's just not fair to make other people bomb with your stuff, as cute as you think it is.

GROSS: You - you used to write for the "Chris Rock Show," his HBO variety kind of show. And I think people are probably very surprised to hear that because so much of Chris Rock's humor is about being black, and you're not black.


GROSS: So did you have - did you end up writing sketches that are - or writing monologues that were about being black. And if so, what's that like?

Mr. SZEKELY: Well, it's funny, when I started writing at "Chris Rock," I think a lot of us, the white writers, were conscious of it. And at one point, Chris said, stop thinking of this is a black show. This is not a black show. Just write the weird stuff you did at Conan and write it here. Like we had two fake PSAs, like those Latter-Day Saints PSAs, a black guy and a white guy see each other on a dark street, and they're both scared. And you hear their interior monologue, you know, what is he doing in my neighborhood, you know. Is he going to rob me? Those were always funny to me, too, because, like, the black guy is worried the white guy is going to rob him? You know, come on now, really? So the black and the white guy meet on the street, and they're both kind of scared, and they say, what do you want? You want something? Maybe I do want something. And then also they start making out, like just kissing, really.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And we got this inter-racial gay couple to shoot this with us. And then the voiceover says, gay sex brings men together of all races.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And that is like, you know, gay sex, whatever. It was brought you by the Latter Day - Church of Latter-Day Gay Sex. That was HBO. You could do that. Anyway, that got about four minutes of sustained laughter and screaming from his audience. That was one of my favorite moments of my life, probably. It's only for a show that - to Chris' audience. And they just went berserk. It was great.

BIANCULLI: Our guest today is comedian Louis C.K., who's currently on tour with a new standup routine. Here's another piece from his standup act "Louis C.K.: Chewed Up," which premiered on Showtime last week.

(Soundbite of TV special "Chewed Up")

Mr. SZEKELY: So I'm driving to Walgreens. It was night time, and I'm driving, and then I see a deer. And (bleep) I hate deer. I hate them because they're everywhere up there. I used to live in the city, and I loved deer then because I was this liberal in the city. I'd see deer, and, you know, you drive with your friends out to the country, and you see a deer, and everybody is like, turn off the car. Don't scare the deer. It's just so beautiful. Look at the beautiful deer. Look how he looks around. It's just so mysterious and beautiful. God gave us a gift. Everybody just enjoy it and just enjoy the gift of a beautiful deer.

But now I live - and deer are in my (bleep) yard everyday, and they suck. They're just rats with hooves. They don't matter. They have ticks that give you lime disease, and they (bleep) everywhere. And they make a noise, did you know that? They go (noise). I go out every morning and throw rocks at them. And I try really hard to hit them on the head with rocks.

BIANCULLI: Terry spoke with Louis C.K. in 2006 when his HBO series "Lucky Louie" was on the air.

GROSS: What were some of the sitcoms that you grew up with, the ones that you particularly liked and one that you particularly did not?

Mr. SZEKELY: I always liked "All in the Family." I loved, and I always loved "The Honeymooners." When I would see it in reruns and stuff, even more so later in life, "The Honeymooners." But I just thought "All in the Family" was such an awesome show. And I also like "Good Times" and also "Barney Miller," which doesn't have much relation to this show except for that - the people in "Barney Miller" are very ordinary. You would never see a guy like Jack Soo being the star of a sitcom today or the dude that played Bojo Howitz (ph), you know. Those were just average Americans. And - so there was a lot I loved about that show, too.

I didn't like shows like - and this is just personal, subjective. I don't judge these shows. They just didn't hit with me - shows like "Cheers," when I started getting older, and "Frasier" and those shows and "Friends." I just don't connect with those shows. They're very slick, and they're very perfect. And the people are pretty, and they're shot very nicely, and they stopped feeling like these raw theatrical productions that I grew up watching, these Norman Lear shows where people are just dropping wild, wild statements in front of an audience, and you just feel the kinetic energy of this kind of honesty. That's what I thought that sitcoms where supposed to be, so when they became this kind of trading of Harvard-written-writerly lines and, you know, cuteness, I stopped being interested. That's just personal.

GROSS: The thing is, you know, you're talking about these working-class type of sitcoms that you're really related to and not relating to the more, you know, middle class or upper middle class ones, though "Cheers" was officially working class...

Mr. SZEKELY: Officially, right.

GROSS: But, you know, your character, Louie, on the sitcom is a part-time mechanic. Your parents met at Harvard, from what I read. So if they met at Harvard and were going to school there....

Mr. SZEKELY: Well, my mother was from Michigan, and she went to school in Michigan, but she went to Harvard for her summer school one year. And that's where she met my dad, who was a Mexican migrant student, I guess you'd call it. He was going to take some grad school classes there. They're not like two well-raised rich people that went to Harvard. My mother sort of saved and got it - bought herself some classes at Harvard. My dad came up to try to finish his schooling there.

But my dad is - I mean, when I was growing, he was still trying to pursue a degree, I think. And my mom raised us. She'd taught school part-time, and she worked as computer programmer, which she still does today. And so she really supported us. And actually, my parents were divorced when I was about 10 years old.

So I was really raised by my mom, single mom, with four kids in a half - we had rented the lower half of a two-family house with - cramped little place. And so, we didn't have anything. When I was growing up, we had no money. And one memory that my sisters and I always laugh about is saying to my mother, mom, I'm hungry. And she'd say, well, make yourself a baloney sandwich. And I'd go, well, I don't like baloney. And she'd say, well, then you're not that hungry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: So, that's how we were raised. And notice that I'm making myself the baloney sandwich. My mother never made us any. We had a microwave, which meant she never - we made our own meals. And it was just that we fended for ourselves. She worked all day. She had a huge amount of work to do raising us, so everyone had to sort of pitch in and - so I watched her go through a lot of times where there wasn't a lot. And she educated herself. She went and got herself computer experience and started to do that.

GROSS: But when you were getting raised by your mother, and she had four kids and worked all the time, were you sympathetic to that? Were you like angry with her because she wasn't like cooking you dinner, or were you sympathetic there or helpful to the fact, you know, to her because you saw that - how difficult it was for her?

Mr. SZEKELY: I did, absolutely. That - I always thought of that. She never made us feel guilty or anything, but I always felt like - we all felt like we're in the effort together. We'd go shopping together, you know. And my mother tried - you know, she was very kind. So, like. if you've got to go shopping with her, it was great because she would always just - when she - she'd open - get a bag of cookies and open them while we shopped, and we'd eat them while we shop.

So, you know, I liked her. I liked my mom. She's nice. So, yes, I did sympathized her, and actually, I didn't go to college because she had three girls in college when I graduated high school. And she was really struggling mightily because, when Ronald Reagan was president, and he didn't care what you're coping with, you just had to pay on your own.

So when I graduated high school, I was such a lousy student that I thought, I can't just go like some of my friends that have more money were just going to college just to go drink because that's what you do next. But I really couldn't see doing that because I knew she couldn't really afford it. So I just passed and didn't go, didn't continue school because I didn't want to cost her the money. I guess that was the one thing I did that was the most sympathetic.

GROSS: One of the things that your character is dealing with in your show "Lucky Louie" is, you know, trying - he's trying to make friends with his neighbors next door. They're an African-American couple. He wants to be their friends. He's also very self conscious of the fact that they're black, and he's white. So in wanting to do the right thing, he often does the wrong thing. Can you talk a little bit about trying to right that relationship and what issues you're trying to raise there?

Mr. SZEKELY: Well, that comes out a lot of reality in my life because it's just - my generation was segregated from black people. And I grew up in - near Boston, which is a very segregated city. There was zero black people lived where I lived, and they were in our school, and I used to just awkwardly sit at their table because I wanted to know them. And eventually, I did make friends with a lot of them, but it had to be done awkwardly, that the races are still segregated amazingly, and the only way to actually come across and make contact is to do it self-consciously, kind of racistly, you know.

Because you're really saying, I want to know you because you're black. There's just no other way to do it, and it is important to me that my daughter know black people. I wanted her to know everybody - I don't want her to have this - so I have to make this dumb effort. So that story became really important, and actually, the part that I tell in the pilot is a true story, that a black fellow...

GROSS: You describe the story, yeah.

Mr. SZEKELY: We were living, actually, in Upstate New York at a time and black guy - there's nobody black where we were up there - black guy came to fix our refrigerator, and my daughter really bonded with him over the course of the day. You know, she was like two, and when kids are that age some - knowing somebody for a day, it's like she's known him forever, you know. She just really liked the guy and he - she would say refrigerator, and he'd say, yeah, refrigerator, refrigerator. And then we came to New York City, and we're on the subway, and she pointed at the first black guy she saw and said refrigerator.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And I was so shocked and horrified, and I thought, oh my God, I have to get this little girl around some black people. This is not cool. So, it's, yes, it's weird. Because of the segregation, you have to make these awkward unnatural efforts.

GROSS: You're a father of two kids?

Mr. SZEKELY: I have two kids, yeah.

GROSS: Has it been hard for you to be the authority figure and set limits for your children because it seems to me that when you were young, you were probably the kind of kid who was always violating those limits and defying the authority figures in your life.

Mr. SZEKELY: Yes, that's - I don't know how you picked up on that, but that's true. No, it is weird to be saying, now, don't you do this because I identify with anybody who does something they shouldn't be doing, including my daughters. And, you know, part of you wants them to build that strength, too. Like part of you, when your daughter is screaming at you because she doesn't want to put on her shoes or whatever crazy thing, you want to, you know, throw her in a garbage bin, but at the same time, you're proud of her, and you're happy that she's building the strength and the skill to stand up for herself, you know. I mean, it's just, there's so much drama in just trying to do the simplest thing with your kid.

Every time I tried to discipline my kid, my wife would - will undercut. Like, I would be locked in a battle of wills with my daughter, and to the point, here's the point that it got to - I was giving my daughter a bath, and I said, it's time to brush your teeth. And she said no. She just refused to brush her teeth. And I said, OK, if you don't brush your teeth, then no books tonight. You're not going to get any books. And she said, yes books and no brush my teeth. She's like a monkey, you know, that just learned to talk. I'm like, no no. No brushing teeth, no books. It's that simple. Yes books, no brushing teeth. And so - and then she said, you brush my teeth. This is how it goes, see, it's like really tricky. You brush my teeth. And I'm thinking, is that compromise? Am I giving in by brushing her teeth? And I just made a quick judgment, I said, no, you brush your teeth or no books.

And then my wife said from the other room - my wife was listening, and my wife said, can you please come in here for a minute? And my - and I go, no, I can't. And then my daughter said, yes, go talk to Mama, go talk to Mama right now because she knew what's going to happen. So I go in the other room, and then my wife says, it's not a good idea to use books as a weapon. They are important to her. And also, I brush her teeth sometimes for her, and you should do that. And I go, no, that's not the point. The point is you - it's I'm right no matter what. You have to go with me. You can't do this to me. And so I go in the other room, and she says, what did mama say?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SZEKELY: And I'm like, nothing. She didn't say anything. No yes, she said that I don't have to. She said I don't have to like she knew it.

BIANCULLI: Louise C.K. speaking to Terry Gross in 2006. His current TV standup special, "Louise C.K.: Chewed Up," is available on Showtime on Demand, and it will be released in December on CD and DVD. He's currently on tour with an all new routine called "Hilarious." I'm David Bianculli, and this is Fresh Air.
Fresh Air
12:00-1:00 PM
Saadiq Revisits R&B Past In 'The Way I See It'


This is Fresh Air, I'm David Bianculli. Raphael Saadiq's first success came in the late '80s as part of the pop-soul group "Tony! Toni! Tone!" Since that time, he's worked as producer for such diverse acts as Joss Stone, the Roots, and Snoop Dogg and has put out two solo albums. His new one, called "The Way I See It," is Saadiq's homage to earlier eras of rhythm and blues. Rock critic Ken Tucker says it's that and something more.

(Soundbite of song "Keep Marchin'")

Mr. RAPHAEL SAADIQ: (Singing) Well, there's nothing you can do,
Well, there's nothing you can say
Because ain't everything going to go your way.
If you're feeling kind of strange,
and you want to lay it down
It is hard for you to keep your feet on solid ground.
You better keep, keep on,
Keep marching,
Ohhh keep marching on,
You just got to keep on, keep,
Oh yeah, keep marching,
Keep marching on,
Keep marching on.

KEN TUCKER: It's not a stunt. It's not a wallow in nostalgia. Raphael Saadiq's new album "The Way I See It" is the way he hears it. His deep soul grooves have been part of his music for a 20 year career. Over that time, these rhythms have been plastered with different labels, Neo Soul, and remember New Jack Swing?

In recent years, there have been a number of artists trying to recapture the sounds of Motown, Stacks, and Philadelphia International R&B, but the results have been predictably banal. You can reproduce variations on melodies and rhythm, but without an emotional commitment, it's all tedious pandering to baby boomers. For Raphael Saadiq, there's a glowing vibrancy in soul music that allows him to work out themes and ideas.

(Soundbite of song "Sure Hope You Mean It")

Mr. SAADIQ: (Singing) Do you mean what you say
When you say that you love me?
With all honesty
I think I love you.
If everyday I think about how special we could be,
And how your love is everything to me.
In my mind I can see no one but you,
Like in my dreams I know I'm holding you.
So now tell me the truth 'cause I need to know.
See, I want to take control but you got to let me know.
Don't pull me baby.
Sure hope you mean it,
Sure hope you mean it, girl
Show you,
Show that you love me girl.
Don't pull me, baby...

TUCKER: As far back as his work with Tony! Toni! Tone!, Raphael Saadiq has been a singer of doubt, of psychic wounds, of romance undergoing a test. On that song, Saadiq is waiting for a positive sign from the object of his affection. No blustering love man, he croons, I want to take control, but you've got to let me know. This could've been the confession of a wimp, but that's where the authoritative snap of Saadiq's music gives him a bracing strength. He's in this for the long haul or a fast burst. Like this one called "100 Yard Dash."

(Soundbite of song "100 Yard Dash")

Mr. SAADIQ: (Singing) Girl I try to run but couldn't get to far,
My heart is pumping but still running in place.
No matter how hard, I try to ditch your touch,
When you're away too little will count as too many,
But every time I want, I made it
Oh so bad.
But I'm running to get my heart beating so fast.
I heard that you could make a man change his place
That's why I'm running fast,
I'm running the 100 yard dash.
I ran for the hills.
Oh girl, there you were.
How you appear.
You see I'll never know.
I told her parting words about me at temple base,
Then light me a smoke
So I can sing some jazz.
Now here comes the late...

TUCKER: The first thing I thought when I heard that song was, what a great propulsive melody it has and how achy-breaky Saadiq's voice is. It was only afterward that I then thought, and, oh yeah. It's also a brilliant take on Smoky Robinson and the Miracles. Like many first-rate soul songwriters, Saadiq takes an unorthodox metaphor, love as a fast race that can make a man's heart burst, and he earns it by the variations he sustains verbally, increasing the tension in the song. By the time we reached the end of "100 Yard Dash," all he has to do is groan oh, oh, and you know you've heard a very good song reaching a great peak.

(Soundbite of song "100 Yard Dash")

Mr. SAADIQ: (Singing) Oh, oh, I need some loving
I want you lovin...

TUCKER: Saadiq fills out his album with a few guest stars, Stevie Wonder, Joss Stone, and Jay-Z bow in to provide some more emphasis and punctuation. But they're not really needed. The sheer joy with which he summons up the Four Tops or The Temptations in a song like this.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. SAADIQ: (Singing) Did I mention,
We have a shop.
I'm so good now when you kiss me,
I didn't planned this and that's why.
I'm so grateful
I feel the sun shine.
Girl, you changed my…

TUCKER: Invoking 40-year-old genres like that is rendered up to the minute with the timeless message of the chorus, quote, "falling in love can be easy, staying in love is too tricky." Too tricky, he says, almost as though the effort isn't worth it. But like all excellent soul men, Raphael Saadiq knows that the illusion of agony is what rendered so much music of this kind so pleasurable.

BIANCULLI: Ken Tucker is editor at large for "Entertainment Weekly." He reviewed "The Way I See It" By Raphael Saadiq.
Fresh Air
12:00-1:00 PM
Silverman Shocks Her Way To A Third Season


The third season of "The Sarah Silverman Program" began this week on Comedy Central. It's a sitcom that likes to define topics which even in these more permissive days of comedy are considered fairly taboo and then to tackle them head-on. AIDS, abortion, sexual predators, religion, the physically or mentally challenged, it's all fair game for satire, and sometimes, that game can make for some intentionally uncomfortable comedy.

Sarah Silverman recently won two Emmies for her video short, the title of which includes the name Matt Damon and a verb I can't say on the radio. She has a recurring role as an obsessed neighbor on the TV series "Monk" and has provided voices for characters on "Robot Chicken," "Futurama," and "Crank Yankers." Terry Gross spoke to Sarah Silverman in 2007 during the second season of the Sarah Silverman program.

TERRY GROSS: Let's hear a clip from an episode from last season called "Not Without My Daughter," in which - it's a kiddie beauty pageant episode, and there's this Little Ms. Rainbow Pageant, and you always wanted to win it. So even now as an adult, you're still auditioning for - even though you're totally much too old for it. And right before you're disqualified, you're doing your dramatic monologue on stage hoping to become Little Ms. Rainbow. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite of TV show "Sarah Silverman Program")

Ms. SARAH SILVERMAN (Comedian): (As herself) November 9th, 1942, Peter found some crackers. Mama says we mustn't choo-choo louder, the Germans may hear. To think we were once Germans ourselves. Well, Hitler's taken our nationality, and he's taken our humanity. But he's not going to take our rhythm.

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

Unidentified Man: Sarah, stop.

(Soundbite of tap dancing)

GROSS: Sarah Silverman, did you write this monologue?

Ms. SARAH SILVERMAN (Comedian, "The Sarah Silverman Program"): It's basically from the "Diary of Anne Frank." But...

GROSS: Wait a minute, Anne Frank didn't say, but Hitler couldn't take away our rhythm. That's not from "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Ms. SILVERMAN: Yes. It's - well, let's say it's inspired from "The Diary of Anne Frank," and we used a little poetic license with it - creative license because then it goes into, of course, a tap routine.

GROSS: Right. Why did you think that this would - what give you the idea of borrowing from "The Diary of Anne Frank" for this audition piece for the pageant?

Ms. SILVERMAN: We wanted something that was inappropriate, you know, and did not go well with a tap routine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, I guess that was it.

Ms. SILVERMAN: So, yeah. That presented itself and was kind of the perfect choice, the least tasteful choice.

GROSS: I think most of the episodes end with your character in bed, and before she goes to sleep, she reflects on the day and what she's learned, her lessons learned. And she talks to her dog, Doug about, you know, what's happened to her that day. So I want to play an example of that, and this is at the end of an episode in which you've tried and failed to become a lesbian.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And you're talking to your dog Doug about it.

Ms. SILVERMAN: (As herself) I don't know where to start with this one, Doug. I mean, I failed at heterosexuality. I failed at homosexuality. I guess I just have to stop thinking that the right person is just going to come along, you know. I have to be the right person. I have to come along. I'm a me-mosexual. Well, anyway, goodnight, Douggie. I hope you die in your sleep tonight. Nah, I'm just kidding. But if it had to be one of us, I hope it's you.

GROSS: That's a scene from "The Sarah Silverman Program." Sarah, how did you come up with the idea of talking to your little dog Doug at the end of each show?

Ms. SILVERMAN: Well, we - when we first thought of - conceived of the show, we thought it would be one full day that starts when I wake up and ends when I go to sleep. And most of the episodes are that, but we didn't - we decided not to like marry ourselves to that because we didn't want to sacrifice a good story or something to some rule, you know, of the show that didn't make it better or worse or anything. It was just kind of a convention that we thought was interesting.

So, we still - we do almost always and with going to bed with Doug and figuring out what we learned, and, of course, what I learned is never, never very - about morally valuable, and it just seemed like a good way to kind of book-end the show and to make it all one complete piece, and it was also, you know, we used my real dog.

GROSS: Oh, I was wondering about that. Really?

Ms. SILVERMAN: Yeah, that's my dog, and his name is actually Duck, D-u-c-k. But in the show, it's Doug, which was just a complete whim that I just thought it was funny that we all had our own names, but, you know, Duck is Doug to protect his anonymity.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SILVERMAN: Made me giggle, but no, I'm constantly explaining, and those who have known Duck forever is like, is it Duck or Doug? And then I have to be like, no I have a -alright. So - but it's because it's just my dog. He's not some specially trained dog or anything. We tried to make it pretty easy for him. So the goodnights are perfect. He just lies in bed like he does with me anyway at night, and we shoot him for a second while I talk to him and go, hey puppy, look away here, you know, and have some good cut-aways. And the second episode this season, actually - he's got the A story, so it was a really fun episode, but I don't think I would want him that heavy in a show again because I really felt like a showbiz, a real scummy showbiz mom or something like, you know - just get through this, and I'll give you a treat, you know. You know, he's just like, I want to go home.

GROSS: Your dog is so cute at the ends of the show. He puts - it's something like he puts his head on your leg, and it's just adorable, and you're telling him all these ridiculous...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SILVERMAN: He just kills me.

GROSS: All this ridiculous stuff.

Ms. SILVERMAN: Something about his face that looks like he's hearing what you're saying and yet is simultaneously kind of dead inside, which is I find compelling and sad.

GROSS: One of the things that you've been doing lately is hosting award shows. You hosted, like, the Video Music Awards on MTV or VH1, I forgot which one it's on. You hosted the Independent Spirit Awards, the Independent Film Awards on the Independent Film Channel, and you're really hysterical. What - you know, you're hilarious when you do the award shows.

But you sometimes say things that really get you into trouble. Like on the Music Video Awards, you said something about Paris Hilton, and she was in the audience, and the camera had a close up on her face as you were talking about her. She looked quite pained.


GROSS: Did you know that the camera was going to be on her?

Ms. SILVERMAN: I didn't. But I'll tell you, I don't think that Paris was upset by my joke. I think what was upsetting, which made my heart sink for her personally, was when I set up the joke and said, you know, Paris Hilton is going to jail in two days, the crowd cheered for a minute. You know, like, it was just like a solid minute of cheering, and I felt bad for her at that point because I was looking right down at her, and there's a 50-year-old, you know, cameraman in her face, and my heart sank for her because I just thought, wow, this is her example of adults. you know, this is her like - these are her role models.

But I went on with the joke because it's a joke, you know, and I was there to be funny and to talk about all the topics and all the things that were going on in pop culture and the MTV world. And with the VMAs, the Britney stuff, I did a couple of jokes about Britney because I followed Britney. I was put on immediately after her, and then I went on and did a whole bunch of jokes, and they were completely overshadowed by the entree into the monologue which were, you know, how about that? There was Britney Spears, you know, and a couple of jokes about that. I don't think that I said anything different than any late night talk show host has before and after that, but I just - I was first, you know, and I kind of got - I kind of got scapegoated. Surprise, surprise, the Jew is the scapegoat.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SILVERMAN: God forbid she rehearse or whatever, Not stay out till 7 a.m. I'm the bad guy. It's, you know...

GROSS: You're one of those people who has managed to kind of create a career on your own terms, You know, by doing like stand up and then doing your own very unusual movie and having your own really eccentric TV show because it's not like other people were writing roles that would have suited you or not that they were giving them to you.

Ms. SILVERMAN: No. Yeah. I've been really lucky. I mean, the ability to write and to generate and to kind of be the creator of what you do, you know, is such a benefit, you know. If I were just a straight actress, I'd be screwed, you know, because - you know, I've been in movies, and I'm pretty much am cast as the bitchy girlfriend before the guy finds out what love can be.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SILVERMAN: Or the, you know, the sassy or bitchy or roomatey friend, roomatey, I guess if that's a - that not really a right adjective. But, you know, I had a realization, and after this last season of my show, and I don't know how long my show will last or if it's, you know, not long for this world or whatever, but this is what I love to do. I love - I'd still like to be in a movie, sure, but I don't have that need anymore. I would much rather be in my show that I love or do stand up than play the friend. I just, I have no use for it anymore. It doesn't do anything for me spiritually or career-wise or...

You know, I got a script sent to me from one of my agents, and it said, you know, on the cover letter like so and so is set to play the role of Rebecca. Please look at the part of Sue's, and I just laughed because I just thought, I don't want to be Sue's anymore. I just have no desire to play Sue's, you know what I mean? Like, the quintessential friend that is written, in lieu of good writing, you know, it's - the part is solely to be the exposition of the main girl character, you know. And I just - a good writer will write that in the actions and the dialogue of the main character, but to have a best friend part solely to be the exposition of the main character, it just doesn't do anything for me. It's killing my soul. I don't want to be Sue's anymore.

GROSS: How did - your sister is your co-star in the "Sarah Silverman Program."


GROSS: But how does your extended family feel about it because your character is so inappropriate all the time. Are they on the wavelength to kind of get it, or do you have friends or family who are kind of embarrassed about the whole thing?

Ms. SILVERMAN: No. They love it, and they're completely supportive. And it's funny because I know I'm talking about how this - I'm talking about this character I play like she's this completely different entity, and I know that she's probably a lot more - I'm probably a lot more like her than I want to admit to myself, but I have to somehow because it's funny.

I don't know if I told you this the last time I was here, but there's a book called "Drama of The Gifted Child" by Alice Walker - Alice Miller rather, Alice Miller, sorry. And I was reading this book that Laura had given me, my sister, and I'm like, this is unbelievable, you know. It's all about me. You know I related to it so much, and I was talking about it to my other sister Jody and her friend, Kathleen, and I said, oh, this book is amazing. Have you read "Drama of The Gifted Child?" And Kathleen said, oh, by Alice Miller and I said, yes, yes. And she said, you know, it's a funny story that Alice Miller originally titled that book "Drama of The Narcissistic Child."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SILVERMAN: But she knew that no one who needed to read it would buy it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: That's really funny.

Ms. SILVERMAN: And yeah, that was very funny and little bit embarrassing.

GROSS: Sarah Silverman, thanks so much for talking with us.

Ms. SILVERMAN: Thank you. Oh, my gosh, did we do it?


Ms. SILVERMAN: Whew. That was fun.

GROSS: Yes, it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BIANCULLI: Sarah Silverman speaking to Terry Gross in 2007. The third season of "The Sarah Silverman Program" began this week on Comedy Central.
Fresh Air
12:00-1:00 PM
Operatives And 'Lies' In Ridley Scott's New Thriller


In Ridley Scott's new thriller, "Body of Lies," Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe operate in the shadowy world of spies and deceit in the age of terrorism. DiCaprio plays a Mideast CIA agent on the ground, and Crowe plays his boss back at Langley. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

DAVID EDELSTEIN: "Body of Lies" is a so-so thriller, but it's fascinating as the first American war-on-terror movie to weave its anti-U.S. politic so deeply into the narrative that the characters don't need to make big speeches. The politics are snuck in under the cliffhangers. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Roger Ferris, an idealistic Mideast CIA operative constantly undermined by his chummy Langley-based boss Ed, played by Russell Crowe with 20 or so extra pounds.

Ed doesn't intentionally screw up Ferris' mission. He's also committed to wiping al Qaeda off the map. It's just that he's arrogant. When Ferris forms an alliance with the head of Jordanian intelligence, Hani Salam, to do surveillance on a terrorist's safe house, Ed plays his own spy games on the side out of habit. The situation is so abstract for him. He can kiss his kids goodbye at a Virginia school while talking tactics to Roger, whom he always calls buddy on his headset.

(Soundbite of movie "Body of Lies")

Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) Listen, you want me to run Amman? Let me run Amman, all right? I had made promises to Hani Salam. Do you understand that?

Mr. RUSSELL CROWE: (As Ed Hoffman) Uh-huh. What's your point?

Mr. DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) We have to respect what he wants.

Mr. CROWE: (As Ed Hoffman) I do respect him. What kind of thing?

Mr. DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) You were going to blow this entire Amman operation.

Mr. CROWE: (As Ed Hoffman) I'm just trying to back you up, buddy. It's a dangerous dangerous world out there, you know.

Mr. DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) Well, don't back me up because I don't need it, all right?

Mr. CROWE: (As Ed Hoffman) All right. Whatever. You're ready to go?

Unidentified Child: Whatever.

EDELSTEIN: Whatever is right. To Ed, everyone is expendable - frightened informants, contract employees, agents. He's not evil. He's not good. He's meant to embody American callousness and American incompetence, too, because even though he understands intellectually that al Qaeda has shunned technology and is playing a ground game, he's not on the ground where it matters. "Body of Lies" turns on an emerging terrorist leader called Al-Saleem and Ferris' plot to smoke him out by creating a fictional terrorist, the idea being that Al-Saleem's ego will be threatened by a rival.

It's a good gimmick and well-orchestrated in the novel by "Washington Post" journalist, David Ignatius, who knows the territory. But the movie script by William Monahan is un-gamely. And director Ridley Scott lets nothing interfere with his liquidity-split pacing, including the need to slow down and hit some basic narrative beats. The moment Ferris hatches his scheme is missing. The moment he realizes how he's been used is murky. The payoff is muted. The movie is intense with a harrowing climax, but it's not witty or memorable. If you've seen Joel and Ethan Coen's "Burn After Reading," you might giggle at genre tropes the brothers burlesque, here played absolutely straight.

DiCaprio is fine, as usual, but the role has no color. The casting of Crowe is a bit of a stunt, one of the most physically intense actors alive as a man so removed from the consequences of his actions, from the real world, that he doesn't even seem to be connected to his body. Because he's a star, we watch him attentively. But Ed remains a caricature.

What keeps "Body of Lies" from being a non-event is a turn by the British actor Mark Strong as Jordanian spy master Hani. He looks a little like Andy Garcia. He's sleek, darkly handsome, immaculately dressed, his posture relaxed yet somehow coiled. His words to DiCaprio's Ferris are measured yet momentous.

(Soundbite of movie "Body of Lies")

Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) Now, you've recently discovered a large Al-Saleem safe house and training cell here in Amman. I would need your help for surveillance, sir. Now, this is what we know so far.

Mr. MARK STRONG: (As Hani) This is unusual. Your Ed Hoffman would rather have less information than to share with you than me?

Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Roger Ferris) Well, this is not Ed Hoffman. This is not my predecessor. This is me, sir.

Mr. STRONG: (As Hani) I have one rule if we are to cooperate, my dear, never lie to me. Understand? Never lie to me.

EDELSTEIN: It's fitting the actor playing the Jordanian should walk away with the movie because the thrust of "Body of Lies" is that his character has far more understanding of how things work than the Americans do, a bitter assessment of U.S. chances in the war of terror. The movie is one of a new breed of thrillers that reflects a new national mood, a rejoinder to the myth of American omniscience. It says, we don't know nothing.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for "New York Magazine."
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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