We here at OUTSIDELEFT are huge proponents of recycling - it's why we're dusting off this old interview with Amy Sedaris - star of stage, screen and her own cult television show, "Strangers With Candy." We're bringing it out of the archives and back on to the front page where it belongs.
The interview was conducted on June 15, 2000 just days before the second season of "Strangers" debuted. We were excited, she was excited, but who knew five years later, the obscure black comedy would develop into a feature length film? It's true, "Strangers With Candy" was just sold at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival last week and should be hitting your local megaplex sometime in the summer. Timely, no?
Thanks for waiting, Amy‚ the batteries on my recorder just died. How are you?
I'm fine. How old are you?
I'm in my late 20s.
You sound like you're in your mid-20s‚ really young.
I do? Oh, thanks. That's what they say. Anyway, this is a great honor because Strangers With Candy might be my most favorite show ever.
Really? Well, thank you.
Seriously, you're the only person I've ever really gone after to interview‚ you're a genius. I've done so many bad interviews with b-rate teen actors like Scott Caan and Shane West. Horrible.
Oh really? Stop it. [Laughs just like Jerri Blank]
Let's start out by talking about what's going on with the new season of Strangers...
Well, the season opener airs this Monday on June 19th, and so far we've written eight out of the ten episodes. We're still writing the others. And we start shooting next week.
Can you give us any details on some of the show's storylines?
The first three are going to be about me [Jerri Blank] getting sucked into a religious cult. It's a two-parter. It's a good cult though it turns out that Flatpoint High [Jerri's high school] is actually more of a cult than anything else though. Then we do an episode on money where I'm really poor and there are these sneakers that I want. Then of course there's the episode where I get an STD and I have to tell everyone that I've slept with that I got syphilis [laughs like Jerri again]. In real life, that would take Jerri hours. And then censorship‚ we're doing one on that. We're doing one on mental illness where Stew [the Blank family's meat delivery man] goes crazy...
Stew's coming back this season?
Yeah, I like Stew. He can be freaky though.
Will Orlando be coming back this season as well?
Oh yeah, we do an episode where I find out I'm part Indian. I'm part Shingo Beak and he's heavy in that episode.
Yeah, we just made it up.
Is Jerri going to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend this season?
Both‚ I get boyfriends and girlfriends this season.
A steady one or just a fling?
They're never permanent. They never last.
And everything looks good as far as Comedy Central keeping the show around?
Well, they only picked us up for 10 [shows] for now, and we won't know if they're going to pick us up again until after that. Anyway, with Comedy Central, different people come and go in the company so you never know what's going to happen, so we always go into each show thinking it's going to be our last one. We're just focusing on these 10 and not thinking too far ahead.
How was Strangers With Candy created? What made you come up with the ideas and characters?
Well, Paul [Dinello, who plays gay art teacher Geoffrey Jellineck], Steve [Stephen Colbert, who plays the closeted gay history teacher Chuck Noblet and is also a reporter for The Daily Show], and I did a sketch show called Exit 57 for Comedy Central a while back and then that got canceled because a lot of new people came in to the network. We've always had a good relationship with Comedy Central though, so when we came up with the idea for Strangers With Candy, we just pitched it to them and they liked it and they gave us money to shoot a pilot and we just shot it.
What about your brother, David Sedaris? You've done a lot of work with him in the past as well, right?
Yeah, David and I do a play every year except for last year because of the show and he went to France. But this year, we're going to do a new play in October at the Greenwich House [in New York]. So I always used to do plays and then some people from HBO were in the house one night and that's when they came up to the cast and said, "Hey, how about a sketch show?" So that's how we came up with Exit 57 and that's how that door got opened. But you know [Paul, Steve, and I] all worked at Second City and then I just did a lot of plays until this TV thing fell in my lap.
Is it true that you also moonlight at a local restaurant there?
Yeah, I still work at Marion's. I'm working tomorrow night as a matter of fact.
How do you fit a waitress job into your superstar schedule?
I just work there when they need me. It's kind of just like an on-call thing when I'm available. so this guy needs a night off tomorrow so I'm gonna work and I like it because now I make more money because of Strangers. People give me bigger tips so it really works to my benefit -- it's great. I'm going in from 6 to 2 in the morning and make some cash. Besides, what else am I gonna do on a Saturday night, you know? I mean, it's fun to waitress when you don't have to.
Do the people you wait on ever ask you to be Jerri, like in that episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 when Brenda was a waitress at the Peach Pit and she did that freaky character for her customers' entertainment?
[Oddly gets serious all of a sudden] No. No one's asked me to, and I don't -- people recognize me from the show and I'll do Jerri's face for them, whatever‚ but I don't do it in character.
Speaking of getting into character, how long does it take you to become Jerri -- physically speaking?
It takes 40 minutes for wig and makeup, and that's it. I'm done after that. Once I have everything on, everything just clicks.
Have you been getting a lot of calls or offers from movie companies?
Well I have a manager, and a lot of times he says, "Oh Amy, people call all the time, but I tell them that you're not available." But he never really tells me who's calling, so I have no idea. I just know when I do go on auditions, it's easier for me. People all know the show and everyone's nice and they take you first and stuff. But I can't really do anything else except for this show right now and waitressing.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actress when you were younger, or is it something that kind of just happened?
I always liked having an audience, and I liked doing different characters, although I didn't know what that was going to turn into. I used to want to be a cop, I used to want to be a social worker, I used to want to work in a women's prison in Raleigh [North Carolina], and then I started taking those classes at Second City and I thought, "Oh, now I know what I want to do."
What do you do in New York on your days off?
Well, I bake a lot. I make cupcakes and cheese balls and I read a lot, I'll rent a movie. Just normal stuff like that.
[At this point, her cell phone cuts us off without warning. She calls back within minutes.]
Amy? I thought for a second that you got bored.
[Giddy laugh again] Oh no, sorry about that, I don't know what happened, but I was talking to some guy who bought a cheese ball from me.
I see. I figured it was something like that.
But here's my dilemma: I sold him two cheese balls before, and I charged him $8 for each cheese ball when it should have been way more and he didn't even tip me. So my dilemma is, do I make him more cheese balls or do I call him and say, "Hey listen, I really undercharged you on those first two cheese balls and you didn't tip me so I'm including the tip now"?
Why $8? Were you doing it as a favor?
I just came up with that number in my head and then I was making it and I was realizing that it was really expensive and then I asked Steve [Colbert] and he said, "Are you kidding me? You charge $20 a cheese ball?"
Oh, I don't really know what the going rate for a cheese ball is, so I'm the wrong person to ask.
I'm just going to charge $20 and tell him that includes the tip.
How big are your cheese balls?
It's like the size of a, uh.
Yeah, but smaller. Like a pomegranate.
What, do you do eat it like an apple or something?
No, weirdo. You let it sit until it's room temperature and spread it over a cracker. Eat it like an apple? [Laughs] Who walks around eating a cheese ball as if it were an apple? You don't know anything about what you're talking about.
But I eat string cheese like that.
You eat string cheese like that? [Laughs harder with hints of mocking.] Yeah, right‚Äîyou eat it like a Vidalia onion‚Äî"I'm eating my Vidalia cheese onion now, hee haw."
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