Sarah Squirm on Her Grossest Gross-Out Comedy Moments
Saturday Night Live breakout star Sarah Sherman once described her image as “(like) Chucky went to Sarah Lawrence.” Somehow, that’s the tamest way anyone has described her comedy persona.
In a Vulture profile published yesterday, the comedian known as “Sarah Squirm” reflected on her ongoing relationship with the weird, the gross and the grotesque as demonstrated through the kind of chaotic, “alternative” (a label Sherman finds ill-fitting) humor that has been on display on the biggest stage in comedy since the beginning of Saturday Night Live’s 47th season.
Sherman’s exploration of the unsettling began long before she found herself accosting an exasperated Colin Jost on Weekend Update, and she was kind enough to share the grossest, meatiest and most anarchic moments from a career that make the “Meatballs” sketch look like a Jerry Seinfeld stand-up set.
Her approach to comedy is deceptively simple. “If someone’s a nurse and they’re going to the Comedy Cellar on a Thursday night and they paid $30 and a two-drink minimum to be there, give them a show,” she told Vulture. She takes that simple truth and drives it to its most shocking extreme in order to create something that audiences couldn’t forget if they tried — which, undoubtedly, they have. Sherman proudly recalled a particularly grotesque show in Portland wherein “my friend Tommy had to walk out in the middle to puke in the parking lot.”
The “Squirm” moniker came about during Sherman’s time performing stand-up in Chicago. Her uniquely gorey performances were found fit to share stages with noise bands and other assaulting artists. “I was doing basement shows with bands literally called Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan,” she explained. “I was like, ‘It can’t be Blood Licker, Piss Piss Piss Moan Moan Moan and Sarah.’” During this time, a recurring bit of hers was to declare, “Some women can be described as a tall glass of water. Honey, I’m more like a tall glass of clam chowder,” before chugging a lukewarm can of clam chowder.
Sherman’s fascination with the freakish extends through every creative outlet. She would paint pictures of baby bottles full of intestines. She made viral videos like “The Sarah Vaccine” that showed her drinking concoctions of gasoline, juice and “the special ingredient… piss.” Later during her stay in Chicago, she started a noise-and-comedy show called Helltrap Nightmare, the poster for which featured “a uterus where the eggs were eyeballs, the smile was an open vagina, the lips were made out of intestines and there was a severed finger as a tampon in it.”
By the time Sherman moved to L.A. in 2019, her stand-up set was full of jokes about having sex with her own dad and constant references to “pastrami-like pussy lips,” which caught the eye of SNL talent scouts. She performed in multiple showcases for Saturday Night Live adjudicators, eventually winning them over with her wonderfully profane performances. “I talked about tying my nipples together with my long nipple hair,” she explained.
Even at her most unfocused and unhinged, everything Sherman does onstage or on-camera is only possible through meticulous effort — such as when she painstakingly assembled a $30 meat suit for a show in Chicago, which, as she told Seth Meyers, “stank badly.” With the full creative force of 30 Rockefeller Plaza at her disposal, Squirm has the platform and resources to push her weirdness into the mainstream — albeit, a toned-down version that sneaks past the censors in ways her stage show never could.
Sherman becomes a more integral part of SNL with each passing weekend as audiences grow more and more comfortable with her delightfully disgusting sense of humor. And so, Sarah Squirm is here to stay. Grab a poncho and a barf bag, because it’s only going to get messier from here.