Sarah Silverman Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman's career has come on like global warming. You hear about it and hear about it in the background, then suddenly it's everywhere. (A year and a half ago, she'd neared critical mass when a Simpsons character complained, "I'm sick of L.A. They got Bennifers, Brange­linas and that potty-mouth Sarah Silver­man!") In the last five months, she's hosted the MTV Movie Awards, pouted on the cover of

Maxim and got herself in dutch on MTV's Video Music Awards for calling Britney Spears' children "the most adorable little mistakes." (The contro­versy remains inexplicable to Silverman: "I only brought it up as setup for a joke about her vagina!")

On her hit Comedy Central series The Sarah Silverman Program (tonight at 10:30 pm/ET), Silverman, 36, portrays a dumber, nastier version of her­self, managing to find the wrong side of any issue: AIDS, religion, homelessness. A lovely young woman doing raunchy comedy that makes people wince: It's like a strange dish the chef whips up that turns out to be exactly what you wanted. But with the series in its second season, there's still so much we don't know about Sarah.

1) Her dad encouraged her to quit school. "I went to NYU for one year," Silverman explains. "But then my dad said, 'If you quit, I'll pay your rent for the next three years so you can focus on stand-up.' That saved him a ton of money. And then by the time I would have graduated, I was writing at Saturday Night Live."

2) She got fired. A lot. "SNL was the best boot camp," says Silverman, who wrote and performed for the show's 1993-94 season. "Then I got fired. So I went to L.A. and immediately got hired on a pilot. Right before we shot the first episode, I got fired. After that, I was so gun-shy. I'd wait until the last second to show up at any job, plenty of time for my manager to call and say, 'Don't show up, you're fired.' And then, little by little, I didn't get fired anymore."

3) A former roommate hunts terrorists. Silver­man lived with 24's Mary Lynn Rajskub for four years while both worked on HBO's sketch comedy Mr. Show. "I'm still able to get totally sucked in, even though I know her. To me, when I watch 24, she's Chloe O'Brian."

4) Sarah's been around. "I did a Seinfeld episode. I was Michael Richards' new girl­friend with the jimmy legs. I did a JAG, where I made out with JAG. And I did a two-part Star Trek: Voyager where I get kidnapped by — wait for it — Ed Begley Jr."

5) Acting isn't that complicated. "When I got that Voyager, I said, 'Oh, I'll take a private session with this acting teacher.' And we're going through the scenes, and I'm like, 'Well, what should be my emotionality for this?' And he looked at me and he said, 'Sarah, sometimes you just have to pretend you're running from a laser.'"

6) The two-comic household benefits every­body. Silverman and her boyfriend of five years, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, often share material. "I'll show him episodes of my show and it's always exciting when he laughs. He's not an easy audience — when he laughs, it's a real laugh, you know? He'll come up with ideas, so it's a good outlet for him. And I'm always excited if I give him a line and I see it that night on his show."

7) She's got a serious addiction. "Some­times you just wanna eat dinner, have fun and play Scrabble." Scrabble? "Jimmy and I are addicted to it. We end up playing an extra hour past the time that we say, 'This is ridiculous. We're not gonna be glad we played Scrabble till 3 in the morning.'"

8) Her TV sister and dog are her real-life sister and dog. "The best part," she says, "is that my sister Laura plays my little sister, but she's four and a half years older."

9) She doesn't think her act is controversial. "I never, ever think things are as offensive as they are. I just wanna be funny and silly. I'll make fun of a people, like blacks or Jews or Mexicans. But specific people I don't tend to do. My character is the best kind of a--hole. I think of her as a very arrogant, ignorant person. Together, that combination is magic. Comedy magic."

Oh, that Sarah! Get a load of The Sarah Silverman Program with clips in our Online Video Guide.

Get an exclusive look at Alex's reborn romance with "Jane Doe" on Grey's Anatomy in the Oct. 22 issue of TV Guide. Try four risk-free issues now!

Send your comments on this feature to letters@tvguide.com.