TWO OF A KIND

Singular sensation Amy Sedaris finally bags an interview subject worthy of her attention: herself.

A  question arose once it was decided that for this column, I would talk about my colorful theater history: Who would interview me? I knew it had to be a person who gets me, somebody pretty. It wouldn't hurt if they were charming and witty as well. A good physique? Definite plus. The answer was obvious: Amy Sedaris would interview Amy Sedaris.

I arrived at Amy's apartment clutching a fistful of newspaper clippings about the plays she wrote with her brother David and her many film and television appearances (Maid in Manhattan, Sex and the City, Strangers With Candy...). Amy arrived about 15 minutes late. She looked splendid in a black unitard. Her hair was as thick as golden taffy, arrayed in delicate sausage curls framing her fig-shaped eyes, which are the color of a root beer. It's true what they say, this "five-foot-ten Grecian spitfire" does indeed live alone. She offered me one of her homemade smoky cheese balls for $25, $30 with crackers. Cash only. I paid her the $30, which she promptly shoved into a small jar that she claimed was a fund set up in honor of her deceased rabbit Tattle Tail.

First of all, Amy, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you taking time to do this interview. You are so important and busy.
Well, that may be true, but I can always find a few minutes to contribute to the theater community.

Can you talk about your theatrical background?
Well, Amy, I could, but I'm afraid that might be a little dull.

Trust me, Amy, nothing you say will ever be boring or trite.
Thank you. I started in Chicago doing improvisational theater with the Second City. We performed improvisation, which can be very hit or miss. So I learned to not be afraid of failing on stage. I learned to embrace my failures.

I was wrong. You can be boring.
Really? I wonder how that's possible given the incredibly dull questions you're asking.

You look a lot older in person.
Maybe we should move on.

Whatever. What happened after Second City?
I'm not sure what you are getting at here, but those were baseless accusations, anyone could have set that boat on fire.

I was referring to your career.
Oh, well, after Second City I moved to New York and did plays with my brother David. We would spend a few months exhausting an idea. David would take notes and then type out a few pages outlining scenes. Then I would improvise in character, adding dialogue to whatever was already there.

I see. Do you have something to wash down all this cheese? It's starting to gum up the works. (She fetched me a Pineapple juice and we continued.) You've acted in several plays that didn't involve David.
Yes. Most Fabulous Story Ever Told by Paul Rudnick, Country Club by Douglas Carter Beane and Wonder of the World by David Lindsey-Abaire, to name a few.

What was that process like?
With David, I would create a character first, and the words would come from that character. With these other plays I would build the character around the words on the page. Usually, I would have to wait until the costume and wig arrived and I had spent a couple of weeks with the words before a character would show up.

I've seen a couple of your performances and it seemed that the character still hadn't shown up.
I was sick those nights, regardless of whenever they were.

If you were so sick, perhaps you should have called your understudy.
Perhaps my understudy was sicker.

Touché, Amy Sedaris, touché. Who are your theater influences?
Uta Hagen. Many years ago, she gave me a bit of advice that I never walk on stage without. She said, and I'm quoting directly from an earlier paraphrase of what I remembered to be her exact words, "An actor makes choices, a performer chooses to act."

Wow. That sounds so ... meaningful. What does it mean?
I don't have a clue, but if Uta said it, and there is a strong possibility that something similar came out of her mouth, then who am I not to follow it to the letter?

Amy, let's switch gears a little bit. I noticed, because you keep pointing it out, that you've appeared in a few films lately. What's the major difference between film and theater?
Well, there are many differences. In theater you perform in front of an audience, live. In film you perform in front of an audience not live, but on screen.

I see. What if somebody filmed a theater performance of yours, and then projected it on a screen? Would that theater experience be the same as the film experience?
(Long pause) If I understood that question, I would answer it this way... Why are you wasting my time?

How does if feel that the more your career progresses the more inconsequential you've become? To clarify, comment on the fact that instead of starring in your own local productions, you now have tiny insignificant roles in trivial films. You've moved from a force in theater to film where you are a big, fat Zero. A shriveled bitter troll toiling away in bit parts as your life spins out of control in a miasma of booze and pills. Respond.
(Slight pause, followed by a deep breath, followed by a lengthy pause.)
What film are you talking about?

Does it matter?
I think we're done here.

Are we?
Look, I have to be at the theater at 8, so if you don't mind...

Oh, you're in a show?
No, I'm selling cupcakes in the lobby.

© 2003 Show People
photo by Nick Koudis Studios

Amy Sedaris and Jerri Blank, photographed by Nick Koudis

 

 

"The first rule in opera is the first rule  
in life; see to everything yourself…"  
SAMUEL JOHNSON