Actress, author, and comedian Amy Sedaris will be stopping by Akron’s Main Public Library on Wednesday, October 17. In honor of her visit, C-Notes jumped on the horn with the hilarious Sedaris – who’s Jerri Blank character was immortalized on Strangers With Candy – to discuss her book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, Stephen Colbert and why gay men love her. -- Denise Grollmus
Your press release says that you’re talk in Akron will be “hands-on.” How so?
I’m just gonna do a couple crafts from my book with some help from audience members and then a Q&A. I’m gonna make an eye burrito and a tissue paper ghost. It should be fun.
Have you always been an avid crafter?
I’ve always been interested in doing things with my hands, but I’m not that good at it, I just have good ideas. So I sort of try to surround myself with people who are good it, so they make me look good.
Will you be performing as the sort of crazy Eisenhower-era housewife character pictured in your book (I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence)?
No, I’m just coming as myself. I’m not gonna pull a Ruth Buzzy or anything like that.
What was the whole idea behind posing like a 50s Betty Crocker model? Are you poking fun at the campiness of it all? Or do you embrace that sort of character – that role?
I just wanted to look like I knew what I was doing. I wanted it to look like action, but, in reality, I wasn’t really doing anything. Like if you’re just standing next a tea pot, you’re not doing anything, but it looks like you know what your doing? I also wanted to look as good as I could.
You’re working on an new HBO series starring yourself as that sort of how-to housewife character, right?
I’m working on a pilot for HBO, but that doesn’t mean that it will go past the pilot. The budget is really low – it’s part of an HBO experimental program, that Paul Dinello and I are writing now and will shoot in January. It’s under the same umbrella as Flight of the Conchords. The tone is what were working on right now. It’s going to a be a hospitality show woman doing it out of her home. I haven’t really figured that out yet. I’d be like the lady on the local hospitality show, instead of Martha Stewart or Julia Child. They are true experts. I’d just be winging it.
In previous interviews, you’ve commented that you have a special connection with gay audiences, in particular. What’s up with the phenomenon of female comedians always attracting “the gays” – like Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin. Why not lumberjacks or thugs?
I think, as far as I go, it’s really been about the Jerri Blank character. I think a lot of the gay audience related to her, becaue she was such a tragic figure, just such an outcast, and they’re outcasts, and so they can relate to this. I don’t know what it is for everyone else. As far as the book goes, everyone has been into it. A lot of old people, I think, because it reminds them of the Old Betty Crocker books, and then there are the people who want to be entertained, like the people who don’t read but just want to look at the pictures – I really had my illiterate audience in mind.
Stephen Colbert has credited you with helping him “get off his high horse.” He’s often pointed to the time when you made him laugh during one of his sketches and sort of disrupting his obssession with perfectionism. How do you respond?
I’ve worked with him for longer than anyone else. I’ve worked with Stephen for twenty years and we’ve influenced each other greatly. I mean he’s influenced me. And we were always trying to make him laugh – like that one time, he was going to sign a song, and he was supposed to turn to me and I had these teeth in, and it made him crack up and he just lost it. His book, I Am America (and So Can You!), is going to be really, really funny. Actually, it comes out today.
You write, act, do stand-up – what’s your favorite medium?
I like theater. That’s my favorite, because it’s live and you get one chance up there. I like to be in the moment like that. With film or TV, you are always doing it over and over again. And with writing, you’re always editing. That’s why I like to do it out in front of a live audience.
Do you actually enjoy entertaining?
I like the overall planning, I like putting the events together. But anymore, I just entertain only a few people at a time, like if I need some work done on my house, I’ll invite friends over and cook for them, and then I’ll say “let’s rearrange my artwork.”
Any last hospitality tips you have for our readers? Anything good you forgot to put in the book?
Trust me, everything I know is in that book – that’s all I know about life, about anything, all 304 pages. Really, there’s nothing extra. It’s almost like I had to get it off my chest. And, no, I haven’t learned anything new. Really.