Interview with Amy Sedaris


One of the biggest mistakes Comedy Central ever made was canceling Strangers With Candy. It was a show that made no attempt to be sensitive, nice or do the right thing by the standards of the after school special. If you missed out, too bad, because this interview will make no sense to you if you haven't seen it.

Why did Comedy Central cancel Strangers With Candy?
It was more of their quirky show. It was more like a cult show. The ratings weren't really that high. But they weren't willing to get behind the show either. They just expected it to you know...Paul, Steve and I could have hired our own publicist, if we wanted to, but I kind of liked the way it was more of a cult thing and those that liked it, liked it, you know what I mean? I like to do things like that anyway. So I think it was based on that and also because the people who made it possible were no longer at Comedy Central. And the particular woman who's job it was to renew it, I think she just wanted her own shows on TV. Which is all understandable, but Paul, Steve and I had the attitude of, "We did 30 and we probably could have done more, but it's kind of good, and we'll do something else.

As a fan, I felt like you guys were nowhere near the end of your run. But it sound like what you're saying is, "We were not done, but we were close to done."
I think we could have done more, and with each season it was getting better and better. And I think if we had done another season it would have been really great. We come from sketch comedy not 22 minute comedy, so we were still trying to figure it out.

I think comedy Central should be thrilled to have at least a cult hit, rather than no hit at all.
You would think so, but we would never have gotten the ratings that South Park got. I would think so to. But I really do believe that the woman who made it possible not to get picked up. I think it was more like a thorn in her side that it wasn't her show. She didn't bring it there. She brought the Man Show and she brought Strip Mall. And she wants her own shows on the network. That Happens all the time. In the last episode the two people that Cheri Oteri and Mark McKinney play are modeled after the people that canceled our show, and they weren't very happy about that.

So there's the next question. You guys leave almost no opening for a sequel or a follow up...
Yeah, we kept saying, "Let us know if we're gonna leave so we can write our last episode." But they would never tell us, that's why it's kind of an inside joke with the last episode. It's like tell us, and they turn the school into a strip mall, and they won't tell you and they won't tell you. Yeah we don't leave it open.

There was obviously stuff on the show that you wanted to do, that they didn't let you do.
We wrote one episode with a midget albino in it and they wouldn't let us do that. That was really it...and there were a few words we couldn't say, like I couldn't say "Filthy Jew Diary," but I could say, "Dirty Jew Diary." Like things that don't make any sense. I could say "pussy" but I couldn't say "faggot." They were never consistent. Oh, and we had a retarded lawyer in the blind episode, and they sad no.

In the last episode we see you for the only time not truly as Jerri Blank. I know myself and other people were thinking, "Hey she's hot!"
Oh Thank You.

Don't thank me yet because here comes the follow up.
OK good.

I know you do other characters, I know you do a weird pig character, you do this character (Jerri Blank). Is there something inside you, are you trying to piss off your dad, is there something about you that says, "I wanna look as ugly as possible."
No. I do it because I feel more comfortable, it's something to hide behind. But I always like to play ugly people who think they're pretty. I think that's what it is. It seems more real to me.

This is the part of the show where I insult the guest and tell her that her whole family is crazy. But this is Amy Sedaris, and a very good sport.

Let's talk for a second about something you get talked way too much about, and that's your much older brother David. After reading his book "Naked," I got the impression that everyone in your family, except Lisa, is pretty much crazy.

I'm getting the impression, that that is an unfair assessment.
Crazy in what way though?

Uh…David's obsessive compulsive behavior...
You just mean a little eccentric.

Well I'd say more eccentric for people functioning in society.
Well I think we're all funny. We're all alike like that. We have a spirit about ourselves. But I think we have our own little world we're in.

OK, let's talk about one more unfair assessment. I left the book, really despising your father, as the most insensitive, selfish, oblivious to the feelings around him... Is that fair?
Well, from "Naked," yes, but that was written more for my Mom. "Me Talk Pretty One Day," is more about my Dad.

But even with the sections with your Mom not in it, he's just horrible.
I know. David and Dad didn't get along too well growing up. I mean we all got along, but it was harder on David, because David wasn't going to be the son that Dad wanted. But now they're like best friends.

So what are you doing now.
I'm doing a lot more home stuff. I'm a real domestic person, and when I was doing the TV show, I was usually the first one there and the last one to leave. The hours were just unbelievable. We were also writing so... Our calls were like at 5:00 in the morning and I'm not getting home until eight or nine at night. I would look at my lines for the next day and then do it all over again. Then we would write. It was really a grind. So all I've been doing is I cook and I clean, and I entertain at my house a lot. I'm reading a lot, I do a lot of interviews, photo shoots. My brother [David] and I are doing a big play in March.

It sounds like now you're doing all the PR you should have done then for Strangers with Candy.
Yeah, probably, I mean I did during our lunch breaks I would do interviews. I feel like I'm being lazy. It's never been like this in my life.

How's the cheese ball business going?
Well, I still make cheeseballs and cupcakes. But that's pretty much local.

Let me ask you about the Jerri Blank Voice. I heard you on the Fresh Air Interview and most of the time you're just Amy, but when you talk about the Cheese Balls, a little bit of Jerri comes through.
Oh yeah, I've always talked like Jerri Blank. There's always some comment, always.

So this is something you did long before Strangers with Candy?
Oh yeah, the voice. I came up with that character, maybe 12 years ago. I just had the voice not the overbite and everything. I've used her in every play we've done. A lot of projects I've used her, and we've changed the background. You know those actors who aren't versatile. And they get a part, and "Oh I see this week I'm a drug addict, and the weekend after that I'm going to be a gang member." But they're always the same actors. They're not versatile. I think of that character like that, I use her in so many things, I just change her background. She's kind of like her own actress. And I wanna keep doing that. I'd like to do that character in the next play, but because I've done her so much on TV I'm hesitant, but then that would go against what I set out to do with her.

Once I get a thought in my head, I hate to let it go, but I've been stewing over your father since I read your brother's book, so once again I'll try to convince you that your dad is a horrible person. You wore fat pants to torture your dad.
Yeah, that story is in "Me Talk Pretty One Day." Yeah, my Dad is a little weight conscious. And I wore it home one Christmas. And he fell for it. I kept it up for like 2 days.

But Why?
Just to Fuck with him.

(I laugh)
My father and I have a very good relationship. We always got along. But I always scold him. And I still do that. I'd call up, change my voice, and he'd fall for it.

I think also why I got a nutty vibe from you is from the story where you're holding class when you're eight years old and you're the teacher...
Yeah, do you think that's crazy?

At that age? Yeah!

Not so much crazy, but at that age, you're either really freakin' brilliant, or you're crazy.
(She laughs)

And the reason why I lean toward crazy is because you're just so mean to the animals.
Oh, to my students, yeah. I have these certain things in my apartment in New York, that come alive at night. I have a rabbit, and a beautiful old puppet, and they all have characters and they all have names, they all come alive at night. But I always make it like they hate me or they make fun of me, or something really queer. It's a lot of fun.

And you don't find that crazy?
I don't find that crazy, I think it's crazy if you don't do that. Yeah. That, that, what do you call it. What do you call that thing, when you're sweeping something up off of the floor, and it goes into aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

Like a dustpan. I have one that looks like it comes alive at night. It's old, it's metal, it wings out, it's gorgeous. What's wrong giving it a life? I know it's not real.

Right, then you'd be really really crazy.
But it's fun to be able to play that.

Have you gotten anyone to do this with you?
Certainly, I'm friends with Philip Seymour Hoffman. And he came over, and he totally got it, and we laughed so hard.

Well Amy, you've been a great guest, now it's time for the lightning round. This is where I shoot something at you, and you shoot it right back.

Favorite Food? Oh my god, I don't get time to think?
Well you can if you want. My favorite kind of food is meat.
Favorite Sound? Any animal licking up water.
Favorite Taste? Chocolate
Favorite Touch? You mean where I liked to be touched?
OK --   I like to be touched on the face.
Favorite thing to touch? Other people's faces.
Boxers or briefs? I like briefs on guys.
Dinette Set, or trip to Europe? Europe, 'cause the dinette set is always a cheap piece of crap.