December 3, 1999
by Jay Jimenez, photography by David Morgan

Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank
( click the pix )

It may not be "Bound & Gagged", which is Jerri's favorite magazine, but NEXT Magazine was able to hold her down long enough to extract an interview from her.

To: Me, From: Me

AMY SEDARIS: No Stranger to Her Fans

Amy, Strangers With Candy has been described as warped, sick, and a dubious take on the classically moralistic after-school specials. How do you describe it?
We wanted to do a take on after-school specials, like the old ones where they thought they could teach you something in twenty-two minutes--which was ridiculous.

The show's eccentricity seems to be a badge of honor for you and the show's other writers Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert. What's your response?
Well, as far as a badge of honor, I take it as we do have a sense of freedom working for Comedy Central as opposed to a network show, where I imagine my part would have to be played by somebody really beautiful. Our show's more naturalistic this way, I think.

How often in one week does Jerri ingest doobies, crack, cocaine, goofballs, amphetamines, and mood stabilizers?
She's really trying to play straight--although Jerri fell off the wagon in episode 10. I just fail and start all over. . . again. She really tries hard to stay off of that stuff.

Is mescaline--crumbled into an ether-laced tumbler--Jerri's favorite cocktail?
It's only one of her favorite cocktails. Tic dipped in PCP is Jerri's all-time favorite. Tic is just a name I just made up. [Laughs] Other favorites are heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, mushrooms...

How was Jerri identified as ground zero for the introduction of illegal drugs into Flatpoint's popular culture?
Flatpoint was pretty much a straight town until Jerri arrived. Suddenly things changed--people began dying, the kids were now getting drugs, pussy, whatever.

What's the active ingredient in Jerri's homemade drug "glint" that makes its user's lips and other body parts numb?
Preparation H, of course!

Jerri plays with her 'Share a Smile Becky' Doll that she got for herself for Christmas. Larc Spies plays Derrick Blank, Jerri's younger half-brother. Has Jerri ever caught Derrick choking the goose?
Oh yeah, all the time. He's caught Jerri doing it too. [Laughs] She just laughs and Derrick gets really mad and kicks Jerri out of the bathroom or wherever he's choking it.

Deborah Rush plays Sara Blank, Jerri's step-mom. Is menopause something Jerri and her might be able to share in upcoming episodes?
Yeah, we're going through menopause at the same time, but we're treating it like a first period. Menopause isn't even mentioned, but Jerri has a girlfriend who's having her first period and Jerri's just having her last. Meanwhile, Jerri thinks, "Maybe I'm pregnant!!" [Laughs] Meanwhile, we might kill Guy Blank so Jerri's step-mom can start dating. And we were thinking of having her hook up with a Chinese man.

Jerri rides her Lovin' Lamb. Jerri spends a lot of time talking to her biological mother. Was the mother pretty?
No, she's horrific looking.

Is she the one that looks like Mike Dukakis?
No, originally I looked like Mike Dukakis in the pilot.

Roberto Gari plays Guy Blank, Jerri's father. Despite Guy's catatonic problem, he manages to keep your step-family, Sara and Derrick, in stitches.
You really get the impression that he is just the most active catatonic in the world. Guy is quite a gamesman, too.

Jerri recommends RID as the gift that keeps on giving. Was Jerri secretly in love with the late, great bitch Poppy Downes, her high school nemesis?
Oh, yeah. She's in love with anything and everyone--even people she hates. If given the chance, she'd make out with all of them.

Why does Jerri have her uterus scraped so often and how regularly does she get an STD?
Jerri gets lots of STDs and has her uterus scraped about four times a year--she just accumulates a lot of black tissue down there. They're still trying to "drill" through it, still trying to get through that mass.

Why has Jerri been blamed for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
She was there.

Speaking of assassinations, does Jerri think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when President John F. Kennedy was killed?
Yeah, Lee definitely did it with somebody. I'm not saying who, but she was a beautiful woman--with an overbite.

Did Jerri make her own bed while in prison?
No, she had her bitch do it--her prison slave. She was 80 lbs. Her name was Tallulah Faggot and she was Jerri's love interest.Jerri enjoys her Hookah Bong. What are some of the things Jerri has discovered about her body since she's gone back to high school?
Well, the menopause thing will be the big deal pretty soon. We might even have an episode where people want to touch Jerri's body, teachers perhaps, and Jerri's got to deal with it. We're going to go through an illiteracy period where Jerri can't read. [Laughs] I know she's been able to read in past episodes, but we're going to treat each one as separate.

We all know that Jerri picks her butt and that--when angered by her step-mom--likes to smear fecal matter on the living room lampshades. What are some of Jerri's other endearing qualities?
Jerri wipes her ass on hand towels, just so she can laugh when Derrick uses them. [Laughs] She puts shards of glass in people's slippers for kicks, cactuses on people's heads.

Will Jerri graduate before she's fifty years old or will she be the laughing stock of Flatpoint High?
I think she's going to graduate before she's fifty. I think she's going to get tired and her teachers are going to keep passing her on. [Smiles broadly]

Does anything develop between Jerri and Mr. Jellineck, the art teacher?
No, she really likes Mr. Jellineck, but nothing will develop between them. But Jerri does run over his face three times in one episode--it's a hit and run. She runs over it, backs up to see what she's run over, realizes it's him and then does it all over again. Jerri feels terrible about it.

I think that Hillary Clinton could use this against Rudy Giuliani in November. When she's not shopping at the Comfort Zone, where does Jerri go to get her hair cut?
Jerri only shops at the Comfort Zone. She gets everything there. Her frozen foods, her dresses, her shoes--everything.

Where does Jerri get her hair cut? Because that's a fabulous do.
Oh, thank you! You faggot! [Laughs] I don't know the name of the place.
{Tony's Editor's Note: I suggest "Curl Up & Dye"}

I thought you looked fabulous at your "Poppy Downes Memorial Party". The outfit Jerri wore is perhaps my favorite one of all season. And that hair was so high.
Yeah, it was pretty fancy. Jerri likes hairstyles. I, however, like the prom show--episode 5--when they permed my hair for Bogie Nights. That was really funny. I really want another perm this season--a really tight-to-my-head perm.

Amy Sedaris, you're an accomplished "career waitress". What is the biggest tip you ever received?
The biggest one I ever received was from Susan Sarandon's boyfriend, Tim Robbins, who gave me a sixty-dollar tip on a fifteen or twenty-dollar check. He came with, like, a theater group and gave me sixty dollars.

When can your fans see you at Marion's, in the Bowery?
Now, we're writing and we start shooting, so I won't be back at Marion's until probably next year.

Where can stalkers send you mail?
Well, I'm in the phonebook. We get a lot of mail, a lot of e-mail at Comedy Central.

You played the Stage Manager in Paul Rudnick's hilarious play, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told at the New York Theater Workshop. How did you meet Paul and how did you get that role?
Two years ago my brother and I did a one-woman show in Aspen, Colorado that we wrote. Paul Rudnick was there and introduced himself. He was really nice and wrote us a big fan letter. David and I just love Paul Rudnick's stuff. We think he's so funny. So when he called and asked me to do the stage manager part I was like, "Oh my God! Yeah, I'll do it!" And I really love the part, too. The stage manager is a control freak--someone very close to who I am. [Laughs] Suddenly I could see myself playing the stage manager.

Your brother, like you, has established quite a career. Do you still collaborate?
We do a play every year, and we're going to do another one in October. We did Little Frieda and Incident at Cobbler's Knob. Those were the last two. That was two years ago. We've done seven or eight plays in New York.

You later relocated to Chicago with your brother, David, where you ultimately performed on the notorious Main Stage with the infamous Second City troupe. How did this all come to fruition?
I toured for two years and then did a residence show on one of the outer stages and then the Main Stage for a couple of years and then I left. The Main Stage at Second City was great.

What is your schedule like with Strangers With Candy right now?
Presently we're writing Monday through Friday from, like, ten to seven and some weekends.

What do your demographics include?
Oh, man! Everything--fourteen-year-old girls call me, fourteen-year-old boys call me, fourteen-year-old boys who sound like fourteen-year-old girls call me. A lot of gays and lesbians, too--which makes me very happy. I'm really happy to get that crowd as opposed to the crowd that will watch Friends, for instance. I like our audience a lot. Last night I got a phone call from someone from PETA wanting me to do an anti-fur ad. And right when I got the message, I was unpacking a taxidermied raccoon that I got off eBay. I'm not kidding.

Is Second City where you hooked up with co-writers Stephen and Paul?
Yeah. We worked together for twelve years--and Mitch Rouse, too, who helped come up with the idea of the show. He lives in LA now.

Where do you shoot Strangers With Candy?
We originally had an abandoned New Jersey school which we fixed up for the first season.

Do you look at these alternative jobs as positive things? Some people look at these things as jobs that sidetrack their careers.
That stuff keeps you grounded. If you just do TV and film you can lose reality. I'm a hard worker. I have dishpan hands and I'll get on my hands and knees and clean and find time to scrub my floors. That kind of stuff is really important.

What advice do you have for today's waiters?
Don't listen to the managers because they never know anything--especially when it comes to waiting on tables. Chances are, you being the waiter will know a lot more about waiting tables than the manager will ever know. As for me, I just don't let anything get to me. When people complain and bitch, all I do is think, "Oh, this is great!" Because you learn so much about somebody else and how you don't want to be when you go to a restaurant. [Laughs] Most importantly, don't take your job too seriously.

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