Amy Sedaris has got something to say—again!
Ever since her cult Comedy Central series Strangers With Candy ended in 2000, Sedaris has been snatching scenes on television shows like Broad City, BoJack Horseman, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Now she’s finally back with her own series, At Home With Amy Sedaris, premiering tonight on truTV.
Co-created with Strangers collaborator Paul Dinello, the crafty scripted comedy hot-glues her passions for homemaking and hospitality. But whether she’s entertaining at home or on TV, Sedaris explains why the LGBT community is on the permanent guest list.
You’ve released two books, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. Is your new show essentially the TV adaptation of both books combined?
Pretty much, yeah, exactly. We used those books as the groundwork and built on that.
Not only is the show about entertaining, homemaking, and crafting, there are also a lot of wigs involved. Are you targeting the gay audience?
I’m not targeting anyone, but that is one of my favorite audiences for sure. If they accept the show, that’s really all that matters to me. They have the best sense of humor.
The show’s surreal, candy-colored aesthetic reminds me of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Was that an influence?
It wasn’t, actually, but other people have mentioned that to me. I do love Pee-wee. My inspirations go way back to Ernie Kovacs, Red Skelton, Lawrence Welk, Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet, The Galloping Gourmet—all those old shows. I also grew up in Raleigh with local hospitality shows where these women, who were on a set that you were led to believe was their house, would cook, craft, and have local people come on to talk about their successes. I was obsessed. They were very boring, but I remember wanting to do a show like that when I grew up.
Martha Stewart hasn’t been supportive of wannabe lifestyle mavens like Blake Lively and Gwyneth Paltrow, but you appeared as a guest on her talk show multiple times. Will she see At Home With Amy Sedaris as a good thing?
I don’t know. I’m sure Martha will think I was inspired by her, but I really wasn’t. She did a good job with her show, but I could just never relate to it. I didn’t have half the appliances she had, I couldn’t afford half the ingredients she used, and I didn’t have a farm upstate. My stuff doesn’t look like her stuff, you know? I invited her to my premiere, but she can’t come.
Your show feels surprisingly topical in light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal because it features male characters like a sexist businessman and a perv named Randy Fingerling. Was that your sly commentary that straight guys are gross?
Well, they are, but no, not at all. I always end up in bed with them on the show, so what does that say about me? Of course, I pretty much end up in bed with everybody.
Including female guests?
No, but I do end up in bed with a snake.
Your celebrity guests include Justin Theroux as a gay astronaut. What inspired that bit?
Justin was one of the first people we asked to do the show. He got the script the night before, and we didn’t know we were going to take the gay angle until that day on set. During a break he was singing a song that was so gay, and I said, “We have to put that in the show.” The song just sort of made his character gay.
You were the best man at his wedding to Jennifer Aniston. Did he owe you a favor?
Oh, he still does. He’ll owe me for years.
The show also has some lesbian representation with the recurring character Ruth, the Lady Who Lives in the Woods.
That was inspired by a show in the ’70s called Hodgepodge Lodge, and Paul Dinello gave it the lesbian edge. We figured out that these girls were unhappy because they were kept women on a weird compound. I love that segment. It’s a perfect PBS moment.
Cole Escola plays former pastry chef Chassie Tucker. Who’s idea was it for him to do the show in drag?
I’d seen Cole in this fake orange juice commercial online, and then I worked with him on Difficult People. It was never about getting a guy to dress up as a woman—Cole just had to play this woman. If Cole couldn’t do it for some reason, we were going to get a woman to play the part. There are so many funny kids coming up right now, and it’s such a breath of fresh air.
You’ve set pretty high expectations for yourself when it comes to being the perfect hostess. Does that add any pressure when you entertain in real life?
No, because I get a kick out of breaking the rules. Once you know how to do something, you can get away with not doing it. After I did my book on entertaining, I was done with entertaining. Now I do it on a one-on-one basis, or I’ll have small groups over and we’ll order in. Sometimes we’ll do a little home improvement project—especially if it’s with gay guys, because I know they’ll be like, “Sure, I’ll help you clean out your closet!”
Are there any special preparations involved when entertaining gay guests?
Two scented candles in the bathroom. [Laughs] Luckily, gay people have always been such a big part of my life—I grew up with an older gay brother—so I don’t even need to think about including them. They’re easier to talk to, and we just understand each other. I know some good straight people, I guess, but they’re not as fun.
You and your brother, writer David Sedaris, were guest judges last year on RuPaul’s Drag Race. What was that experience like?
Oh, my god. Highlight of my life.
Drag is a little like crafting, isn’t it? There’s so much glue, tape, and glitter involved.
It really is. And whenever you get a really good makeup tip, it’s usually from a guy who does drag. They have good tips on everything.
The queens performed a musical tribute to Jerri Blank, your Strangers With Candy character. Is there any greater honor?
Nope. That was so funny, and they were all so good. I don’t normally like to judge things, but David is a gigantic RuPaul fan, as am I, so it was fun to be there with him all day.
Looking back, why do you think the LGBT audience latched on so strongly to Strangers With Candy?
I’m not sure. Jerri Blank was such a misfit and an outcast, and I think people related to that. Those are the kind of characters I’m most drawn to.
Jerri was bisexual, and the show featured Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert as secret gay lovers. Has queer inclusion always been important to you?
I’m not even thinking about representing a particular audience, really, because those are just the stories and characters that appeal to me. But you can’t have a successful project without the homos. They make everything a little more beautiful.
Will & Grace is back, Full House is back, Roseanne is coming back… Have you given any thought to a Strangers With Candy reboot?
I wouldn’t want to do that. That show was so of its time, and then we did the movie—I like what it was and what it is, so I don’t need to do it again. And with everyone’s schedule? It would be too hard. But I still do Jerri Blank every day in my life. She just sort of pops up everywhere.
It was recently announced that Sex and the City 3 isn’t happening, which means there’s no chance you’ll get to reprise your role as Carrie’s book publisher.
I think America will survive, but it’s disappointing we won’t get a third movie. I do want some closure there.
Maybe you could replace Kim Cattrall as Samantha.
Oh, sure. Body double!
At Home With Amy Sedaris premieres October 24 on truTV.