by David Farley
Cupcake or cheeseball?
A few facts about Amy Sedaris: She once transformed herself into a foul-mouthed, white trash, pig-nosed freak in front of millions during Late Night with Conan O’Brian. Sitting next to her that night, a visibly-stunned Dick Clark could only utter, “TV ain’t what it used to be, is it?” She’s appeared on Letterman with a massive faux hickey on her neck and has been featured in major magazines wearing prosthetic limbs or with make-up that looked like she’s had the shit beaten out of her. In her brother David’s most recent book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, she is the subject of one of the most hilarious chapters, “A Shiner Like a Diamond,” which recounts the time Amy came home for the holidays wearing a fatty suit in order to torment her father, who has a habit of monitoring his daughters’ appearance “with the intensity of a pimp.”
Then there’s the legendary, now-defunct Comedy Central sitcom Strangers with Candy that Amy Sedaris wrote and starred in, along with Steven Colbert (currently a correspondent on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and Paul Dinello. As Jerry Blank, the show’s protagonist, Sedaris played a 47-year-old “junkie whore” who went back to high school. Part After School Special, part David Lynch film, and part Zucker Brothers (Airplane, Naked Gun), Strangers pushed the boundaries of television to new heights.
Sedaris’ most recent project (collaborating with her Strangers partners) is a novel called Wigfield: The Can-Do Town that Just May Not. The book tells the story of a journalist who travels to Wigfield — a small town in danger of being flooded by the government to restore a salmon run. While the writer’s purpose is to document the demise of the American Small Town, he runs into a small problem: There’s little worth writing about in the strip mall-laden community. Sedaris and company will be in San Francisco on June 12, 13 and 14 doing a series of performances based on the book.
But Sedaris is not just one of the most originally funny people on the planet – she’s also a fabulous baker. When I recently stopped by her Greenwich Village apartment to pick up an order, we got to talking while she frosted cupcakes.
The Wave: When did you start baking?
Amy Sedaris: Everyone in my family cooks and bakes. I have a lot of energy late at night and baking gives me something to do. But I started selling baked goods when I got my first rabbit, TattleTail; I wanted her to have a business, so I started a company called TattleTail Industries, selling cheese balls and cupcakes. I write down everything I sell in a book and all the money goes into a jar.
TW: How have you spent the money?
AS: I bought carpeting for her cage, and when she died and was cremated, the money jar paid for it. My new rabbit, which I haven’t named yet, gets two dollars from everything TattleTail sells.
TW: How can people buy your baked goods?
AS: You can get them at an espresso bar down on Bleecker Street and also at a French bistro on Hudson and James. As you know, I also sell them out of my apartment.
TW: What was going on with Comedy Central when it cancelled Strangers with Candy?
AS: It didn’t have the ratings that, say, South Park had. Also, the people who made the show happen left Comedy Central and the woman who took over wasn’t a fan of the show at all. So, she cancelled it. But we were okay with it because we had a great time doing it. I think the episodes may be coming out on DVD soon.
TW: So is Strangers with Candy completely dead?
AS: Some people want to give us money to do a Strangers movie, but it’s taken us so long to deal with the contracts that the longer it takes the less and less we want to do it. So I don’t know if it will happen or not.
TW: Let’s talk about the novel you recently wrote with Steven Colbert and Paul Dinello. Whose idea was it?
AS: I’m not sure who had the original idea, but the name was mine – I’ve always thought that “Wigfield” would be a funny name for a town.
TW: How do three people write a novel?
AS: It was just like how we wrote Strangers with Candy: We’d start talking about things and when we all laughed someone would put it down on paper.
TW: You’re going on tour to promote the book, but you’re doing theatre performances instead of a traditional bookstore reading. What’s the plan?
AS: We’re going to do an hour and ten minute performance that will have Steven narrating as the book’s protagonist/writer and Paul and I will be the characters from the book. It won’t have a lot of props or costumes or anything, but we thought it would be a bit more interesting than just standing up there and reading it off the page.
TW: You usually write (and perform) a play with your brother David every year — are you too busy to do one this year?
AS: Yeah, we both are. He has a book to finish, which I think should be out in about a year or so. Then we’ll talk about doing another play.
TW: When we interviewed David, he said director Wayne Wang had optioned his book Me Talk Pretty One Day. He also told us that he imagined Mathew Broderick playing him. Who would you want to play you?
AS: David also wanted Denzel Washington to play him. That would be good. David always said that Tori Spelling would play me, but I wanted that actor with down syndrome who played Corky to be me. They’re no longer going to make the movie, though – which is kind of good in a way because when a movie is made of a book, people stop reading the book, and I’d hate to see that happen with David’s book because it’s so great.
TW: Has there ever been something that you didn’t want David to write about you?
AS: No. Usually he’ll already write something about me and then he’ll call and say, “Oh, by the way…”
TW: Because David has become such a successful writer and your own fame has been more gradual, do you feel that you’re living in his shadow?
AS: People have asked him that before and he always says that I recently died in a terrible car accident. But we’re not competitive at all – maybe because we performed and played around the house together a lot when we were kids and he always did his thing and I did mine. When I was doing Second City in Chicago, he was writing books and we’d get together to write plays. So, really, we’re doing completely different things. In fact, I’m always happy when someone on the street asks, “Are you David’s sister?”
TW: What other tricks have you played on your father besides the fatty suit incident?
AS: I got off the airplane once with a huge fake scar across my face. I’ve also showed up in a wheelchair. But the fatty suit was the best one. I could do it again and he’d totally fall for it all over again.
TW: What’s the last thing you bought at Deyrolle – Paris’ famous taxidermy shop?
AS: Oh, isn’t that a beautiful store? I brought back a little bird. I have a taxidermied squirrel too, but I got that here. I had a little chick that I named Bill Downs – which is really the perfect name – but the mice ate its head off.
TW: You were recently a correspondent for The Late Show with David Letterman at the Grammy Awards. Letterman is notoriously hard to work with. What was your experience like?
AS: I was standing on the red carpet questioning celebrities for four hours, and they edited it down to a minute and a half, so viewers didn’t get to see much. But when I’m a guest on the show, I love it. Dave’s so good at what he does and you can really trust him that he’s not going to let you fall flat on your face.
TW: You have a strong cult following. Have you had any stalkers or weird incidents happen?
AS: Not really. I’ve heard that my address and phone number are somewhere on the internet, so I get mail – and I always try to write back. The only bad part is that sometimes people call late at night and that kind of sucks. David says that all my fans are ugly. He goes on a book tour and says he can always tell who my fans are.
TW: Who do you have a crush on right now?
AS: I’ve always had a huge crush on Ted Koppel because he’s so f*cking smart. There’s also something sexy about Jack Black. He’s really funny and I’ve never heard a bad thing about him – but I’d leave it at that and wouldn’t do anything about it.
TW: Have you ever offended anyone famous?
AS: One time I was doing Late Night with Conan O’Brian, and I was telling him how a make-up artist said I should get botox because I have this crease on my forehead between my eyes, which led me to mention that John C. Reilly has this awning hanging down from his forehead like a caveman. Then they showed a picture of him on the show and everyone laughed. But I hope I didn’t offend him because I think he’s really sexy. He’s one of the best actors in the world.
TW: What films have influenced your humor?
AS: I don’t really watch comedies. I like to watch serious stuff and try to find the humor in that. So, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Wizard of Oz, for example, were big influences.
TW: Which TV shows or channels do you find most interesting?
AS: I don’t watch too much TV, but I love the channel that shows surgical operations. I’ve always said that if I have to get major surgery, I’m going to call them to see if they want to film it. I also like Lifetime – I used to watch it to get plotlines for Strangers. I watch Sex and the City too, because I’m friends with Sarah Jessica Parker.
TW: What do you collect?
AS: I don’t have any big collections. But everything in my apartment has a story to it. Todd Oldham, who’s a good friend of mine, helped design my apartment. He built these shelves and he’s building a hutch for the rabbit. Also, I like plastic foods – like on the shelf over there is a baked turkey and there’s a large piece of ham. David did most of the paintings. He used to paint every Sunday when he lived in Chicago. He hated these and threw them out, but I took them.
TW: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
AS: Nothing too weird. Frog legs and stuff like that. I think that eating oysters is kind of strange actually.
TW: Would you ever eat dog?
AS: I probably have eaten dog, actually. I’m sure that when I was in Greece or somewhere I ate dog without knowing it. I bet we all have.
Rapid Fire Questions with Amy Sedaris
TW: Cheech or Chong?
TW: Taxidermied or real?
TW: War or peace?
TW: MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice?
TW: Ding Dongs or Twinkies?
TW: John or Paul?
TW: Crack or heroin?
TW: Captain or Tennille?
TW: P. Diddy or The Artist Formerly Known as Prince?
AS: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
TW: Airplane or Kentucky Fried
TW: Ginger or Mary Ann?
TW: Yoda or Emmanuel Lewis?
AS: [Laughs] Emmanuel Lewis.
TW: Kitties or snakes?
TW: The Riverdance or Cats?
AS: The Riverdance.
TW: Truth or Dare?
AS: That’s a good one. I like them both so much. Hmmm… truth.
Amy Sedaris’ Li’l’ Smokey Cheeseball
2 cups of shredded smoked gouda or smoked cheddar
2 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 stick of butter
About 2 or 3 teaspoons of milk
2 tablespoons of A1 steak sauce
Let ingredients sit ‘til room temperature. Blend together and then refrigerate for a while. Form a ball with mixture. Roll in crushed walnuts. Put back in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature, spread on Ritz Crackers.