Silverman & Ribisi Share A Million Laughs Making ‘A Million Ways to Die In the West’
Just like you wouldn’t expect comedy super-pros Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi to play straight-men to Seth MacFarlane in the writer/director/star’s Old West send-up A Million Ways to Die In the West, you can’t exactly expect straight answers from them at a press conference, either.
The duo play a pair of adoring sweethearts committed to staying chaste before marriage — mostly because she’s a saloon whore who’s bedroom is her business — and off-camera they struggled equally to stay committed to printable responses to questions about the film. Nevertheless, here are their thoughts on improving their craft, swiping wardrobe items, the singular genius of Seth MacFarlane and the obvious question about the ups and downs of life in the Old West as they specifically relate to the perfect temperature for testicles.
If you had to be actually transported back to 1882, what would you take back with you?
Sarah Silverman: I’ll start with, I would definitely bring floss, because death creeps in through the gums.
Giovani Ribisi: Dental floss! Yeah, and Band-Aids — and what’s the thing, the–?
Silverman: Universal remote?
Ribisi: Universal remote! [Laughs] Neosporin, for infections.
How much leeway did Seth give you to put your own spin on the setups and improvise some lines?
Ribisi: I have to say, a lot of the funny bits were improvised, and Sarah’s unadulterated genius — I’m going to say it, it was true — she was just coming up with so many things and so inventive on the set. And I think that really is, working with Seth, he’s open to that sort of — I was about to say “commiseration!” [Laughs]
Silverman: Giovanni improvises like crazy, and it’s so funny and everybody’s laughing. And then also, Seth would have a microphone from video village and be like, “Try this line; try this line!” It was a lot of fun.
Did you keep any of your Western wardrobe?
Silverman: I did! I kept the cross necklace and I wore it for a while. I really liked it, it looked pretty on me — and then I got some shit from a bunch of Jews! But that’s not what made me stop wearing it, because I wouldn’t do that. I just liked it. I like playing with symbols. And I like that it pointed to my boobs.
What’s one of the things you’d hate about living in the Old West?
Silverman: I mean, I guess I would probably hate being a woman, with the way — you know. Although Charlize [Theron], she has it pretty good, except that she’s married to a terrible man. Why didn’t she kill him? She’s such a good shot. I don’t like sensations or sounds or shapes, so I guess a lot of that would be hard. Too hot — I need temperature control. I’m like balls, in that I need to be at an exact temperature at all times.
Ribisi: You mean testicles? [Laughs]
Silverman: Yeah. Testicles, if you go in the ocean, they go really close to your body —
Ribisi: Yes, they do.
Silverman: — because they need to be warm; they have to be an exact temperature. And then, if it’s hot, they go lower because they’re like, “We need to be cooler.”
Ribisi: Totally accurate.
Silverman: It’s incredible.
Ribisi: They have a mind of their own. I think she hit the nail on the head.
You’ve both done comedy for some time, and worked with some of the great comedy minds of our day. What, in your opinion, makes Seth a one-of-a-kind comedic genius?
Silverman: I feel like he has the whole vision in his mind. When he’s writing, he seems to have the shot and the words and even the very music, very much all in his head, as part of a whole. He’s also a delight. There are a lot of nice directors, but there’s always a boiling point and stress — maybe it’s because he has all the money in the world, but he’s just always smiling. He really is happy — I’m sure he’s a miserable fuck in ways, as I’m sure he would say, but he seems happy-go-lucky.
Ribisi: I totally agree. It seems like it just comes natural to him to be able to conceive of the whole thing at any given moment, because he’s also acting in it. He works really hard, he works non-stop. He’s a workaholic. I think he was working on this for a good year-and-a-half.
Silverman: And one thing you can tell — I feel like when you watch a [Martin] Scorsese or a Quentin Tarantino movie, and I feel like it’s the same with Seth — is that you’re watching something made by someone who is a huge fan of films. He’s a movie fan! He’s a comedy fan! He’s a music fan! So when something’s made by someone who loves what they’re doing and loves other people in the same genre and grew up on these things that fortified him ,and then, now, this is what he’s made with what made him. It’s always exciting when you watch movies made by those guys, including Seth, because you know it’s made by someone who just loves what he does.
Ribisi: There’s also the thing of, he does push the envelope, as far as being humor and being risqué and all of that, but the filmmaking is really actually sophisticated — the editing and the music and the shots and the set-ups and the way the camera moves and all of that. And it’s not just, ‘Hey, let’s go to work and have a party!’ He’s really specific as far as what’s in the movie and what isn’t.
Silverman: And I’m a fan of comedy that isn’t afraid to be beautiful, aesthetically.