Candy Girl

A sit-down with Strangers With Candy’s Amy Sedaris

by Dan Avery

For three glorious seasons, the beautiful Amy Sedaris donned fatty pants and beige turtlenecks to play Jerri Blank, a trollish 47-year-old high school freshman, on Comedy Central’s deliciously demented Strangers With Candy. A self-described boozer, user and five-time loser, Jerri was the kind of girl who used “Pee on me” as a come-on and made homemade drugs to gain popularity. The show, a spoof of those sappy after-school specials, was tragically canceled in 2001, but it’s making a comeback of sorts, with a new DVD of the first season and an upcoming Strangers With Candy feature film.

Strangers was a very “out there” kind of show. How did Comedy Central react to what you were doing?
They were really great. They pretty much let us do what we wanted, and they let us build up an audience over time. On network TV, they’ll cancel you after two or three episodes.

There’s never really been a character like Jerri Blank on TV before. Was it strange transforming into this person week after week?
Sometimes I watch the show and think, “Where did that come from?” The thing I loved about Jerri was that she was an ugly loser, but she always thought of herself as beautiful and popular.

Jerri’s very androgynous - well, masculine, really. Would you say she’s gay or straight?
She’ll take whatever’s available. “I like the pole and the hole!”

I loved the ongoing secret affair between Mr. Jellineck and Mr. Noblet, played by co-creators Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert.
That was something we always played with. Every school had those teachers who had something going on the side. Like the lesbian gym teacher and the gay English teacher who had a baby together. You’re like, “Huh?”

Was it strange looking back at those old episodes after all this time?
It was surreal. When we did the audio commentary for the DVD, Paul and Stephen and I just sat in the studio dumbfounded - until the producer knocked on the glass and said, “Uh guys, you’ve got to, like, say something.”

After Strangers was canceled, you worked on several theatrical projects, including Wigfield, which was a page-to-stage adaptation of your book, and you appeared in more mainstream projects, like Sex and the City and Maid in Manhattan. Is that where you see yourself headed?
I used to be resistant to that kind of stuff, but after Strangers ended, I felt like I had proven myself. Now I’d love to do all kinds of things - I’d love to do a commercial.

Would you star in a network sitcom?
I wouldn’t say I’d never do one, but when you sign on to something like that, you have to give up so much control. Ultimately, I like to be the one to come up with the idea and do the casting and all that.

Are there plans to release the other seasons on DVD?
I think they’re planning on releasing them sometime in October.

What’s in store for next year’s Strangers With Candy movie?
Well, I’m not sure because we’re way behind on the writing. We’ll probably get started a week after the script is due. There’ll be some things in the movie that are different from what was in the show, but there’ll be a lot of familiar stuff too.

What’s the one thing about Jerri Blank that nobody knows?
That she only owns two books: one on barbecue and another on hairstyles.

© 2003 Two Queens, Inc. & HX.