Confronting taboos has been Sarah Silverman's stock-in-trade for the past 15 years.
Through her stand-up routines, television shows and film appearances, the US comic has tackled subjects such as Aids, the Holocaust, rape and race with eye-watering directness. Expertly phrased, politically incorrect one-liners such as "I was raped by a doctor. Which, for a Jewish girl, is so bittersweet," are delivered with a Pollyanna-ish smile, and have frequently landed her in hot water.
In her autobiography, Silverman turns her mordant humour on herself, revealing with almost masochistic detail her troubles with bedwetting that went on well into her teens. "I was a late bloomer all round," she explains. "My period came late, my ability not to go off like a fucking lawn sprinkler every night came late, and sex came late. Essentially, everything to do with the general flow of traffic in my vagina came late." It's with more discernible melancholy that she discusses the depression that enveloped her at 14, and led to her being sent to a series of therapists. The first, Dr Riley, prescribed a hefty dose of Xanax and told her to come back after a week. When she returned she was informed that he had just committed suicide.
Despite the sadness of Silverman's formative years, this is no misery memoir. Silverman serves up plenty of the daredevil humour for which she is notorious. Descriptions of the backroom banter on Saturday Night Live, and on her own show, The Sarah Silverman Program, offer gleeful insight into the baser instincts of some of America's greatest comic talents. Meanwhile, email transcripts of her dealings with her publishers boldly and brilliantly bite the hand that feeds.
But Silverman takes the demystification process too far when she attempts to fend off criticism of her most controversial outbursts, notably on the MTV awards shows where she delivered scabrous gags at the expense of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. It's whiny, self-indulgent and at odds with her previous remarks about the pointlessness of defending one's own material. The fall-out after her use of the word "chink" on a talk show, leading to an apology from host and network, is approached with a more level head. It was an unrepentant Silverman who had the last word. "I don't care if you think I'm racist," she remarked. "I just want you to think I'm thin."