Comedy Maverick Does It Her Way

by Chris De Benedetti

Each week, myprimetime.com seeks out those who live and work the individual adventure. They're celebrities, business people and (extra) ordinary folks whose work is their play.
This week: Faced with the riches and glory of TV stardom, comic actress Amy Sedaris responds with a decisive, "Who cares?" As actress, playwright, writer and co-creator of Comedy Central's "Strangers With Candy", she is as versatile as artists come and as eccentric, too.

Sedaris tosses aside her naturally good looks and plays her character Jerri Blank armed with a fatty suit, ugly wigs and bad makeup. She also still waits tables for the "fun of it," even though she makes plenty of money from the sitcom. This offbeat courage to follow her artistic and personal vision explains Sedaris' success.

We caught up with Amy at her home in New York City:

Do you see yourself as a maverick in TV comedy?
More people have said that they feel we are, but we've (co-creators Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello) worked together for so long that we just write what we think is funny. People say, "The show's so different, we don't see anything like this on TV." I don't watch TV so I'm like, "Really?" I'm kind of surprised. We just don't think that way.
And if Comedy Central doesn't pick up our show, then we feel confident we'll come up with something else that we'd enjoy doing. We're doing what makes us laugh and Comedy Central is letting us get away with it.

Most actors make themselves look as good as possible onscreen. Why do you do the opposite?
Because I think the character herself thinks she's so pretty. And most of the people that play beautiful on TV, I don't know if they like themselves really. But Jerri Blank does.

You make plenty of money from the TV show, so why do you still wait tables?
It's a way to stay grounded. I look at it like a privilege because I get to meet all these characters that come in. Also, I just always have that work mentality. I think, "I should be doing something. I could be making money right now." But, it's always nickel-and-dime stuff. I don't think big-scale.

Is the process of making the show as fun as it looks?
Yes. Paul, Stephen and I are improvisers. We come from sketch comedy so the script totally changes when we're in front of the camera and that makes it more fun for us and the crew. There are people on the crew who have given me lines to say and ideas that I've used that have been some of the funniest things we've done. It's real open like that. I feel like it's everybody's show.

Is that family atmosphere part of the show's success?
I think so, I really do. It's always part of the process. If the process is fun, then the product is always going to be good. We grew up thinking that way, and it's true.

Do you have any advice for artists like yourself seeking to go their own path?
First thing, I've always made sure I had other interests going on and I still do. That's why I love to waitress and to bake and sell my stuff. I was never one to hit the pavement with my headshots looking for an agent; I just always did what I did. My brother David (a best-selling author/humorist) and I write plays together, so I always had something going on. Luckily, the plays have always been pretty successful and that's how I got an agent. My advice is just do it and don't get so caught up in how you're going to make it. If you really like performing, then perform and don't think about the money. If you like it, do it.

 
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