Amy Sedaris Interviewed by Amy Sedaris
Portraits by Leeta Harding
Other photos by Todd Oldham
We love her exuberance, her zest for self-satire, her grotesque characters. She's the bad friend your parent never liked. She started at Second City, wrote plays with David, did downtown theater, stormed Comedy Central. Now Amy's bringing Strangers With Candy to the cineplex near you.
[I recently spoke with me in my West Village apartment in the West Village.]
AMY: Hello. I'm so sorry I'm early. I can come back.
AMY: Well, you were already here.
AMY: Yes, you are.
AMY: Oh, I'm so excited to meet me, I don't know anything about you. You are so pretty in person... and pore-less.
AMY: Thank you, so are you.
AMY: So, do you enjoy living in the city?
AMY: Yeah, it's great, I'm two train stops from Brooklyn.
AMY: What's that smell?
AMY: ah, that's my rabbit.
AMY: What's his name?
AMY: Her name is Dusty. She's a Mini-Rex. Top shelf. Touch her fur, doesn't she feel luxurious? Now smell your hand. She's working on her winter coat. I thought it would be a funny idea for a children's book to open with a rabbit getting skinned alive and tossed in a pile with other skinned rabbits, but she survives and goes on a journey to the city to find the woman who is wearing her coat.
AMY: I don't think you could start a children's book with a rabbit getting scalped.
AMY: Look, I don't want to fight, I don't want to fight, okay? Maybe a sly fox coaxes her out of her coat and sells it to some hoodlums in the city. She has to get it back before she goes home because her mother will skin her alive if she comes home without it. And, you know, hilarity ensues.
AMY: Well, seems like you've got a lot going on in your head right now, so I'll make this brief. As you know, this is the film issue. I'm sure this won't take too long because I don't really associate you with film.
AMY: What do you associate me with?
AMY: You just finished filming a movie based on the TV show Strangers with Candy. What was the movie about?
AMY: About an hour-and-forty-five minutes. With laughs, one-thirty.
AMY: Please cooperate, I hate it when people act "on."
AMY: Lighten up. You want a hit of this?
AMY: I'm forty-two. I'm a little too old to be smoking pot.
AMY: Don't judge me.
AMY: What? You don't judge people?
AMY: It depends. I wouldn't judge you if you told me you'd stabbed somebody a couple times, but if you were wearing a toe ring I would.
AMY: Was it hard to revisit the character of Jerri Blank after a few years?
AMY: Yes. I had an apicoectomy a week before shooting started, so I had stitches in my mouth for the first two weeks. That was hard because, well, I had stitches in my mouth. I always smelled like bloodworms. I didn't want to take my painkillers while I was working on the movie - I saved them for when we wrapped. You appreciate them more. I kept them in a Goofy Pez dispenser. See?
AMY: Oh, that's a great idea.
AMY: I thought so. Can I get you something to drink? How 'bout one of these?
AMY: That looks a little strong for me. I'll just have water.
AMY: Suit me-self.
AMY: So, did you enjoy your experience on the film?
AMY: Yeah. We wanted to make it different enough from the show that it didn't seem like we were repeating ourselves, but not so different that we were betraying our audience. We're faithful to the fans of the show. You know that feeling when you think, or a small group of you thinks, that you've discovered something that you're loyal to, and then everybody catches on, and it's not the same? You feel like the original thing you loved so much has changed, but also you've changed, and the new audience who wasn't there in the first place just doesn't get it - they didn't discover it, you did.
AMY: Sure, sure.
AMY: Does that make any sense?
AMY: You're asking me?
AMY: Why don't you take another hit?
AMY: Were you intimidated by any of the actors?
AMY: When I saw Sir Ian Holm come to set in a cobalt blue t-shirt with bassett hounds on it, it relaxed me. I yelled, "Good lord of the rings!" He was amazing. Everybody was. I was the weakest link. Paul had to shoot around me.
AMY: When you say Paul do you mean RuPaul?
AMY: No, Paul Dinello directed the movie. He also plays the art teacher, Mr. Jellineck, alongside Stephen Colbert who plays the history teacher, Chuck Noblet.
AMY: Is Deborah Rush in the movie?
AMY: People always ask me that question. She plays my stepmother. People are crazy about her. She's a lot of fun.
AMY: Would you ever get naked for a part?
AMY: For a laugh I would. I love to see naked people anywhere. I would love to do a movie with Will Ferrell and Jack Black where we are all naked because I don't know anyone else who would do it.
AMY: For a laugh?
AMY: Laughter through the tears, baby.
AMY: What else makes you laugh?
AMY: Everything. I was talking to my brother Paul last night and he told me that his mother-in-law's cat got into the shed and swallowed a fishing hook. She didn't want the cat to suffer so she shot the cat in the back of the head with a gun. Seeing mushrooms or toadstools makes me laugh. People crying while driving, monkeys, skin disorders, men in fur, sound effects, the Alan Partridge show. When people complain or snap. People falling down. is always funny. I was at the U.S. Open last week working with a stiltwalker who told me that the only time she ever fell off her stilts was when she was hired for a party at a bank. She was walking around on the marble floors and slipped on a black olive. During the recent hurricanes in Florida, my friend's mother, who is very very religious, was outside praying for the hurricane to stop, and her wig blew off her head. Can't write that shit.
AMY: What makes you sad?
AMY: The things that make me laugh are the same things that make me sad. I'm drawn to drama and tragedy and pain and suffering. I like to think, "Okay, what's funny about that?" It doesn't mean I don't feel anything, it's just that pain and suffering inspire me. Real situations.
AMY: Have you seen any films lately?
AMY: Maria Full of Grace. I loved watching that bathtub scene where they were shitting out all those drugs. I've never seen that before.
AMY: I should go.
AMY: No, stay. Ask me some more questions. This is fun.
AMY: Okay. Do you tip a cobbler?
AMY: It would take a heel not to?
AMY: What do you hate?
AMY: When somebody comes over and you ask them if they want something that you are trying to get rid of, and they want it but say, "Do you mind if I get it later cause Josh and I are going to Film Forum to see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and we're not going straight home." I hate games, sweetened tea, camping, political songs, when you're staring off into space and someone waves their hand in front of your eyes - it's equivalent to someone stopping you from yawning. Cockroaches, bamboo, rides. I hate it when sales people say, "Wear it with jeans," when you can only chew on one side of your mouth, the way straight guys sit on the subway, "high-fiving," Mylar balloons, empty ice cube trays, pantyhose, insect bites, polyester dinner napkins, litter bugs, cinnamon in food, homemade soaps, hot sauce, people in health food stores (they never look healthy). I hate it when people toss their change in a tip jar - that's not a tip, that's just you getting rid of your change. I hate phony people, "What's good?" when you're taking someone's order, when shop owners put things out that aren't for sale, the price of butter. I hate construction, gourds, hard plastic packaging on things you can never open, classical music. I hate returning phone calls, Styrofoam peanuts, change on the floor, people just sitting still in a rocking chair. When someone calls and says, "Hey, turn on the TV real quick, I want you to see something." Or, "Hey, listen to the words in this song." I hate being stuck behind somebody when they are writing a check, futons. I hate constipation, and when people say "because." Because everything after because is always bullshit.
AMY: Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt because what you're saying is absolutely riveting, but is that a Todd Oldham couch by La-Z-Boy?
AMY: Yes, I love the shamrocks on it.
AMY: Are you friends with him?
AMY: Well, we're not on speaking terms right now. He owes me a lot of money. Print that! Maybe the fucker will pay me. But he has done a lot to my apartment. He taught me that when you are choosing a color for your walls, you should pick colors you look good in. Last Thursday he made this cabinet for me at one of my Crafty Beaver meetings. I asked him to make the handles out of rope so it would look like I couldn't afford handles. Do you remember when you were in school how the poor people would put broomstick straw or a piece of string in their ears instead of gold posts right after they got them pierced?
AMY: Oh yeah...
AMY: I always loved the way that looked. I tried it once and my ear got infected.
AMY: Todd has spent a lot of time in this apartment making things for me.
AMY: What do you do for him?
AMY: At least three times a year I make donations in his name to my vacation jar which he loves.
AMY: Did Todd make this?
AMY: Todd can do anything. It's like having witchcraft. I ask him for anything, and it happens. On my last birthday I asked him if he would make me five BLT sandwiches out of expensive felt. Or if he couldn't do that, ten halves. I had them in a week. I can't wait to put them out for the fall.
AMY: Do you like fall?
AMY: Yes. I love falls, too. I have three. I love that back-to-school feeling. It gets dark early, which motivates me. You know, the liquor stores and chocolate shops change their window displays. Meal planning is different - root vegetables and stuff. In the fall I bring out my little animals that live here. They all have names and occupations. They come alive at night. I don't get a wink! Watch out, that chair you're sitting on comes alive at night as well as the dustpan. He's a pain in my ass. [To the dustpan] Things are gonna change around here pan face!
AMY: Okay, you just talked to a dustpan.
AMY: Well, he swept me off my feet.
AMY: So, how do you get work?
AMY: It's tough for me to find stuff to work on because people don't know what to do with me. I'm not an actress, I'm not a comedian, and I'm not a comedic actor. I'm terrible at auditions. I tend to be too broad. My test for everything is, can deaf people enjoy it? Is it visual enough for someone who speaks another language to follow it without relying on the words? I'd rather show it than say it. I've been dragging around the same characters since I was five years old. I keep reinventing them, just like we all reinvent ourselves when we meet new people. I hate constipation, so I generate my own projects. I'm fortunate. I really do do what I want to and love.
AMY: You just said doo doo.
AMY: That sounds like something that would come out of my mouth... I'm sad... hold me. You're my best friend.
© Nov/Dec 2004 Index