A Conversation With
Amy Sedaris
The comedic performer with the do-anything
voice explains why she takes money jars, rabbit
care, and her new book very seriously

Interview by Jason Adams
Photographs by Andrew Hetherington

When petite, 45-year-old Sedaris opens the door to her cozy apartment in New York City's West Village, she greets me with a warm smile and the sweet smell of baking cupcakes. You'd think that the person who wore a fat suit to play Jerri Blank on Comedy Central's cult series Strangers With Candy—Jerri, a self-proclaimed "boozer, user, and loser," decides to go back to high school 32 years after dropping out—would be a little, urn, scary. But she's about as threatening as the Foxy Loxy character she voiced in last year's movie hit Chicken Little. Tossing her legs over the side of a chair a few feet from her pet bunny, Dusty, who is lounging on the living room carpet Sedaris welcomes a spirited chat on a variety of topics: playing the most unhealthy character on TV; the cupcake and cheeseball businesses she runs out of her apartment; her equally famous and funny sibling, writer David Sedaris; her recipe- and humor-filled guide to entertaining, titled I Like You, due out this fall; and her latest film project Snow Angels, based on the novel by Stewart O'Nan—a drama about two small-town families connected by tragedy.

When I mentioned you, everyone told me, "You've gotta ask about the cupcakes."
When I got my first rabbit, I looked down at her and I said, "You, young lady, I if you're gonna live here, you have to get a job, bring in some money." So that's where it started. I named the company Tattletail 'cause that was her name. And all the money that I would make selling cupcakes at Joe's Coffee Shop up the street would go into a money jar for Tattletail, and that's how I would buy her hay and greens. And then when Tattletail passed away, I got my new rabbit, Dusty, and I said, "You, young lady, are not gonna be a trust-fund bunny." So that's when I started making I my cheeseballs.

Now that you sell more, do you spend the I money on anything other than Dusty?
Weed, baby, weed! No, you know, it's a money jar. When the blackout happened [in August 2003 a power outage left New York in the dark for 28 hours] I had plenty of money in my apartment. I just like to be prepared.

Did you have to be in good shape to play the very out-of-shape Jerri Blank?
Yeah. I had to wear a fatty suit, and it's hard to eat in that, 'cause it just felt like you're such a fat, fat, fat fatty. And it gets really hot, especially with the wig, the makeup, and the turtlenecks. It would have been difficult if I was out of shape.

So how do you stay fit?
I've always done some kind of workout, but I found a great new Pilates instructor so I go twice a week. It's expensive, but I don't trust myself to do it on my own. They make you do it. And I'm a walker—I do stairs more than elevators.

Do you ever diet?
My friend and I are on a fast. It's more about detox than weight loss. It's this weird thing where you take Chinese herbs. I never do this stuff, but she's kind of granola-ish and she's like, "Look, you're working on the book, you're really stressed out, why don't you try this with me?" So you take the herbs in the morning, and then you eat all the fruits and vegetables you want all day long. At first I thought, I'm never gonna make it. But I'm into my third week and I've never felt healthier. I've really got a lot of energy.

You clearly have a strong love for rabbits.
[Fondly glancing at Dusty] Yes. Look at her.

When did that start?
I just saw one in a window, and I didn't know anything about rabbits, I just always thought they were adorable. I brought her home, figured it out. And then a few years later, a lady from the House Rabbit Society came to my house to interview me and realized I was doing everything wrong for this rabbit. So she's the one who educated me. So now I'm a rabbit educator.

You mean you go to people's houses?
Yep, I'll go to their houses and I'll teach them about how to protect electrical cords, the right hay to give, how to clip their nails, and how to give them baths. I went to a school once on the Lower East Side [of Manhattan]. I was shooting something for MTV and the classroom had rabbits, and I noticed that they did everything wrong. So I called the principal and asked, "Can I come talk to the class?" And he said yes, so I came and none of 'em listened. None of 'em. The teacher was just insulted. I was like, okay, this is not working.

Besides rabbits, what else do you take seriously?
This book I'm working on, the hospitality book, even though there will be a lot of humor in it. I'm taking it seriously. Because the more I take it seriously, the funnier it is to me. It's the real thing, and it's honest. And I'd rather read something like that than some joke book that's just useless. And in a month I'm going to Canada to act in a very serious drama called Snow Angels.

Does your sense of humor have a lot to do with being one of six kids?
Yeah, I think so. Most kids think every­thing's funny, and then they grow out of it. Most everyone in my family, they just haven't grown out of that stage. I mean, I can look at a mushroom and laugh really loud. I have that kind of imagination where I can look at something and im­mediately put it in some funny situation. But at times I'm the only one laughing.

Do you find it stressful having a brother [best-selling author and humorist David Sedaris] who works in a related field?
No, we're each other's biggest cheerleaders—everyone in my family is extremely supportive of everyone else.

Do you two collaborate often?
We do plays, and we write them together. I mean he goes to the typewriter and knocks it out, and I tend to do things on my feet, and then we go back and forth through the writing process. But yeah, our minds get together and come up with an idea, and that's what feels so good about working with David. But we're entirely different. Writers tend to want to do things by themselves. They're kind ofloners in a certain way, and I can collaborate with other people. David has a harder time. He can collaborate with me, but that would be just about it.

You're single, right?
Yeah. I think relationships are really great. I just haven't had a boyfriend in maybe 3 or 4 years. And I really like it, just because I have always been in rela­tionships. I think, for me, I always tend to put that person up on a pedestal and it takes away from me. I like myself when I'm in a relationship, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it's kinda nice just being responsible for myself and Dusty. Now it doesn't even enter my mind. If someone asks me out, I'm like, What? Are you kidding me? [Laughs] Absolutely not.

If you were in the market for a guy, what kind of guy would appeal to you?
Well, you know, there's Ricky, my made­up boyfriend. I was shopping once about 14 years ago, and there was a Christmas stocking with "Ricky" on it. And I thought, that's it! That's my imaginary boyfriend, and he's perfect for me. Perfect! But, um, my perfect boyfriend would have to be someone who knows what to do with a tool kit and would appreciate a good hot meal when he comes home.

Speaking of hot meals, how is your book about entertaining going?
We're shooting the cover next week, which is really interesting because [the publishing company] wants a shot of me looking apron-sweet with frosting on my face. Now I'm the sort of person who always steers away from anything sexy or pretty; I always want to go opposite because I'm just not that kind of person. But now I'm like, you want to sell books? Put me naked on the cover with tan lines!


 

© April 2006 - Women's Health