What has Amy Sedaris been up to lately? We sent her a bunch of annoying questions to find out!
Mark Allen: I loved your books, I Like You and Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People. You’ve helped me rediscover googly eyes, politically incorrect ethnic food, elderly party advice, drunk guest tips and star wands. Is there a third book in the works?
Amy Sedaris: There isn’t a third book in the works, but there is a fourth book. I’ve learned a lot since I Like You and Simple Times. I need a new grieving chapter with a few ceremony recipes. Also, I need a chapter on dental care and how to treat stitches when they are in your mouth. Oh, and a whole new riveting chapter on taking care of your senior bunny.
You moved to New York in the 90’s doing live theater, then made a big splash on television with Exit 57 and especially Strangers With Candy. Then you were in lots of movies, more TV roles, made lots of really memorable talk show appearances. All the while you ran a homemade cupcake and cheese ball business out of your home, which seemed to have a big impact on people. Now you concentrate mostly on your hospitality and craft books. Are you going to continue on this path?
I seem to be on the same path. I don’t entertain at home as much. I no longer illegally deal cupcakes and cheese balls out of my apartment. I’m pickier about the talk shows I do now. I still do acting. I demand wigs for certain parts, I always liked playing older. Now that I’m older it’s funny to play younger. I still like “opposites.”
Do people ever “blame” you for the whole cupcake thing?
Am I to blame for cupcakes? Not sure, but no one sold them as cheap as I did. It’s hard to find a cupcake for $1.50. With personal touches like hair and Band-Aids.
You take the “hands-on,” Girl Scout approach to the things you do, like hand-decorated boxes or envelopes. I once read in an interview that you didn’t want to get a PO box to streamline your cupcake business because it would be “another thing you’d have to do.” Do you feel this approach slipping away in the Internet age? Will you be forced to change? I loved how Martha Stewart said going to prison finally forced her to learn how to cook with a microwave.
I hate that I’m such a grandma about certain things. I needed a new iPod and someone bought me an iPod Touch. That’s pretty new to me. I don’t own and never have owned a cell phone. I’m not even close to thinking about getting one. Whenever I’m in a situation I always take the time to think, “Would things have gone more smoothly if I’d had a cell phone?” Once in awhile the answer is yes. But when there’s a blackout all my friends end up knocking on my door to use my landline phone because theirs ran out of juice. I do have a G Pen.
I gather you aren’t exactly a “Just Say No” kind of lady. Would you ever do a marijuana cookbook or write for High Times?
I don’t like to cook with weed. I have friends that do and I enjoy what they make.
When your books came out you were dubbed by the media, “Martha Stewart on crack.” In fact, you joked about that on her TV show, commenting you didn’t do crack but “just sold it.” How did jokes like that go over with Martha Stewart’s daytime studio audience? Martha just kept looking down at the bowl she was stirring.
It went over their heads. The audiences for shows like that are odd. Everyone dresses in colors like canary yellow and chili pepper red, very bright. Very few men. They’re older, and look spaced out. I don’t know where they come from.
Did you ever think of doing a how-to TV show, like Martha or Paula Deen?
I have been trying for years to get a niche show off the ground. It was going to be based on the books. I just never found the right place for it. Maybe my head is the only place for it.
As a party planner and renowned funny lady, what did you think of Paula Deen’s fantasy about throwing a slavery-themed wedding for her brother, as a joke?
To tell you the truth, I missed the whole story. I haven’t looked at a headline, newspaper or TV since the end of May.
You’re always a riot on TV. I can’t believe some of the stuff you do and say on your talk shows! I’m curious what goes on backstage at these things. Do producers or hosts ever pull you aside and say, “Look, Amy…” or ask you to tone it down?
Never. Well one talk show producer didn’t want me to talk about marijuana. But then I went out there and the host brought it up.
Is there a line of acceptable taste you feel you’re balancing on in these mainstream environments? Or do casserole recipes and cleaning aprons mix naturally with quaalude addiction and vagina jokes in your mind?
I think it’s a nice mix.
I loved when you were on Chelsea Handler’s TV show and you demonstrated how to clean your vagina with that really graphic anatomy model designed by Todd Oldham. Do you feel you’re a good role model for girls?
I think you would have to ask some girls. I usually take what I do seriously. What I did with the vagina on Chelsea’s show was truly educational. I pitched my own educational show once. I watched learning shows when I was little. And I love a demonstration.
What about your TV commercial for Downy Unstopables? It was playing on a constant video loop at the end of an aisle at our local Walmart for a month. My boyfriend and I had a bet that at the end of the commercial you really wanted to say, “It’s like shoving a rainbow up your ass!” instead of, “It’s like shoving a rainbow up your nose!” But they wouldn’t let you. There’s $20 riding on this.
You lose. I never thought of that. Actually, I like doing those commercials a lot because it feels like a really crazy character to me. I like the audience that recognizes me from it. Like the post office loves me because of that commercial, and for being on The Good Wife. Nothing means more to me than being accepted by these employees. I like different audiences for different things.
The photo of you on your Wikipedia page, with the glasses I think it’s my favorite photo of you. Some other celebrity’s Wikipedia photos are terrible. Have you see Vince Vaughn’s or Kevin Bacon’s? Yikes! It makes me think their fans secretly hate them. Internet people seem to like you.
I haven’t seen the Wikipedia page and I don’t want to look at it now. I’m always afraid they got something wrong. I haven’t looked up my brother David’s either.
I remember watching one of those catty fashion shows where they showed a picture of you smiling on the red carpet were wearing a great country western-style dress with puffy sleeves and red piping. The hosts were like, “Ugh… no… what was she thinking.” I remember thinking they just didn’t get you.
I like homemade clothing and I like to dress myself. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about how I dress. It just doesn’t affect me at all.
What do you think of Carrie Fisher?
I am a fan of hers.
I see similarities between you two. You have a colorful, oddball public persona that seems to run against the grain of celebrity culture, but often travel in Hollywood-y circles. She has kooky stories and a kind of funny, blasé attitude about all the major entertainment players she spent her life around. Her fanbase is a little nerdy… she’ll do things like go to science fiction conventions and talk to an auditorium of fans dressed in Star Wars costumes about getting electroconvulsive therapy for her bipolar disorder. Her show Wishful Drinking was a big downtown hit.
Bipolar disease is in my family, so I can relate to her energy and stories.
I once saw a segment you did on Letterman where you roamed around your West Village neighborhood at 4 a.m. and pointed out all the wee-hours activities. So much of that neighborhood has changed. I can’t believe Manatus Restaurant is closing. What do you think of NYC now?
I ran into Tim Robbins in LA recently and he said he moved to LA because he got tired of running into investment bankers. I loved that. It’s so true. For me right now I still need the energy of the city because I live alone. I like the stimulation the minute I walk out my door.
I have to ask, I need to know: have there ever been plans for a Strangers With Candy reunion?
Do strangers still walk up to you on the street and quote lines from Strangers With Candy?
Yes. I don’t mind it at all. It’s when they say, “My mom watched that show when I was growing up!” There is a whole new generation watching that show.
Are you still close to Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello?
I see Colbert once in awhile and I see Paul all the time. I am the godmother to his son Giancarlo. I take it very seriously. I keep a list of all the wrong things I’ve done with him. The list is long.
You often have fun with macabre subjects and politically incorrect subjects. Is there anything you won’t make fun of?
Incest. Being deaf.
You reportedly left black eye makeup on from a photo shoot when you were a waitress at Marion’s and told customers you were “in love,” you had an imaginary boyfriend who was killed in a car accident, there’s a great picture in Simple Times of you humbly smiling with a huge burn on your face. Have you ever had a girl-who-cried-wolf situation happen in life? Like you got roughed up in a scuffle, or broke bad news about a personal tragedy to people, and they were like, “Haha, oh Amy you’re so funny.” And didn’t believe you?
Throughout your career you’ve had a fascination with over-the-hill, tragically glamorous women who have problems. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I don’t think that far ahead. In 30 minutes I’ll be downstairs taking my clothes out of the dryer.
Mark Allen is a writer and performer living in New York. Interview lightly edited.