Strangers With Candy's Amy Sedaris

By Michael Alarcon

06.16.00

Any introduction for Amy Sedaris would probably sound like just one big, long ass-kissing session. But how do you describe a chick who stars in her own twisted sitcom (Comedy Centralís Strangers With Candy), works at a hip eatery as a waitress in the Village for fun (Marionís Continental), and caters parties in her spare time (she specializes in cheese balls and cupcakes)? You just canít help but act like a dumbstruck retard around her. Sheís Americaís newest sweetheart, the coolest chick to portray a junkie whore ever, and itís always an honor to kiss an ass as talented as hers.

Thanks for waiting, Amyóthe batteries on my recorder just died. How are you?
Hi, Michael, Iím fine. How old are you?

Iím in my late 20s.
Umm. You sound like youíre in your mid-20sóreally young.

I do? Oh, thanks. Thatís what they say. Anyway, this is a great honor because Strangers With Candy is my favorite show on TV ever and there are a lot of people at SYNGE that think youíre incredible.
Really? Well, thank you.

Seriously, youíre the only person Iíve ever really gone after to interviewóyouíre a genius. Iíve done so many bad interviews with B-rate teen actors like Scott Caan and Shane West that it isnít even funny anymore.
Oh really? Stop it. [Laughs just like her character Jerri Blank]

Letís start out by talking about whatís going on with the new season of Strangers.
Well, the season opener airs this Monday on June 19th, and so far weíve written eight out of the ten episodesóweíre still writing the others. And we start shooting next week.

Can you give us any details on some of the showís storylines?
The first three are going to be about me [Jerri Blank] getting sucked into a religious cult. Itís a two-parter. Itís a good cult thoughóit turns out that Flatpoint High [Jerriís high school] is actually more of a cult than anything else though. Then we do an episode on money where Iím really poor and there are these sneakers that I want. Then of course thereís the episode where I get an STD and I have to tell everyone that Iíve slept with that I got syphilis [laughs like Jerri again]. In real life, that would take Jerri hours. And then censorshipóweíre doing one on that. Weíre doing one on mental illness where Stew [the Blank familyís meat delivery man] goes crazy...

Stewís coming back this season?
Yeah, I like Stew. He can be freaky though.

Will Orlando be coming back this season as well?
Oh yeah, we do an episode where I find out Iím part IndianóIím part Shingo Beakóand heís heavy in that episode.

Shingo Beak?
Yeah, we just made it up.

Is Jerri going to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend this season?
BothóI get boyfriends and girlfriends this season.

A steady one or just a fling?
Theyíre never permanent. They never last.

And everything looks good as far as Comedy Central keeping the show around?
Well, they only picked us up for 10 [shows] for now, and we wonít know if theyíre going to pick us up again until after that. Anyway, with Comedy Central, different people come and go in the company so you never know whatís going to happen, so we always go into each show thinking itís going to be our last one. Weíre just focusing on these 10 and not thinking too far ahead.

How was Strangers With Candy created? What made you come up with the ideas and characters?
Well, Paul [Dinello, who plays gay art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck], Steve [Stephen Colbert, who plays the closeted gay history teacher Chuck Noblet and is also a reporter for The Daily Show], and I did a sketch show called Exit 57 for Comedy Central a while back and then that got canceled because a lot of new people came in to the network. Weíve always had a good relationship with Comedy Central though, so when we came up with the idea for Strangers With Candy, we just pitched it to them and they liked it and they gave us money to shoot a pilot and we just shot it.

What about your brother, David Sedaris ó youíve done a lot of work with him in the past as well, right?
Yeah, David and I do a play every year except for last year because of the show and he went to France. But this year, weíre going to do a new play in October at the Greenwich House [in New York]. So I always used to do plays and then some people from HBO were in the house one night and thatís when they came up to the cast and said, "Hey, how about a sketch show?" So thatís how we came up with Exit 57 and thatís how that door got opened. But you know [Paul, Steve, and I] all worked at Second City and then I just did a lot of plays until this TV thing fell in my lap.

Is it true that you also moonlight at a local restaurant there?
Yeah, I still work at MarionísóIím working tomorrow night as a matter of fact.

How do you fit a waitress job into your superstar schedule?
I just work there when they need me. Itís kind of just like an on-call thing when Iím availableóso this guy needs a night off tomorrow so Iím gonna work and I like it because now I make more money because of Strangers. People give me bigger tips so it really works to my benefitóitís great. Iím going in from 6 to 2 in the morning and make some cash. Besides, what else am I gonna do on a Saturday night, you know? I mean, itís fun to waitress when you donít have to.

Do the people you wait on ever ask you to be Jerri, like in that episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 when Brenda was a waitress at the Peach Pit and she did that freaky character for her customersí entertainment?
[Oddly gets serious all of a sudden] No. No oneís asked me to, and I donít. People recognize me from the show and Iíll do Jerriís face for themówhateveróbut I donít do it in character.

Speaking of getting into character, how long does it take you to become Jerrióphysically speaking?
It takes 40 minutes for wig and makeup, and thatís itóIím done after that. Once I have everything on, everything just clicks.

Have you been getting a lot of calls or offers from movie companies?
Well I have a manager, and a lot of times he says, "Oh Amy, people call all the time, but I tell them that youíre not available." But he never really tells me whoís calling, so I have no idea. I just know when I do go on auditions, itís easier for meópeople all know the show and everyoneís nice and they take you first and stuff. But I canít really do anything else except for this show right now and waitressing.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actress when you were younger, or is it something that kind of just happened?
I always liked having an audience, and I liked doing different characters, although I didnít know what that was going to turn into. I used to want to be a cop, I used to want to be a social worker, I used to want to work in a womenís prison in Raleigh [North Carolina], and then I started taking those classes at Second City and I thought, "Oh, now I know what I really want to do."

What do you do in New York on your days off?
Well, I bake a lotóI make cupcakes and cheese ballsóand I read a lot, Iíll rent a movieójust normal stuff like that.

[At this point, her cell phone cuts us off without warning. She calls back within minutes.]
Hello?

Amy? Oh good. I was so depressed. I thought for a second that one of my idols hung up on me.
[Giddy laugh again, but itís Amyís laugh.] Oh no, sorry about that, I donít know what happened, but I was talking to some guy who bought a cheese ball from me.

I see. I figured it was something like that.
But hereís my dilemma: I sold him two cheese balls before, and I charged him $8 for each cheese ball when it should have been way more and he didnít even tip me. So my dilemma is, do I make him more cheese balls or do I call him and say, "Hey listen, I really undercharged you on those first two cheese balls and you didnít tip me so Iím including the tip now"?

Why $8? Were you doing it as a favor?
I just came up with that number in my head and then I was making it and I was realizing that it was really expensive and then I asked Steve [Colbert] and he said, "Are you kidding me? You charge $20 a cheese ball?"

Oh, I donít really know what the going rate for a cheese ball is, so Iím the wrong person to ask.
Iím just going to charge $20 and tell him that includes the tip.

How big are your cheese balls?
Itís like the size of a, uh...

A cantaloupe?
Yeah, but smaller. Like a pomegranate.

What, do you do eat it like an apple or something?
No, weirdo. You let it sit until itís room temperature and spread it over a cracker. Eat it like an apple? [Laughs] Who walks around eating a cheese ball as if it were an apple? You donít know anything about what youíre talking about.

But I eat string cheese like that all the time.
You eat string cheese like that? [Laughs harder with hints of mocking.] Yeah, right-you eat it like a Vidalia onionó"Iím eating my Vidalia cheese onion now, hee haw."



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