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May 23, 2018

A Show of Her Own

Comedian, actress, writer, and lifestyle pundit Amy Sedaris’s new show captures the wit and quirk of its host.

Brooke Carlock Miller
  • TruTV
  • TruTV
  • TruTV
  • TruTV
  • TruTV

As a girl growing up in North Carolina, Amy Sedaris loved watching cooking and hospitality shows.

She dreamed of having her own show in that vein, and after a diverse and rather unconventional career path that included performing in comedy troupes and on late-night talk shows, playing memorable roles on television and in movies, authoring two best-selling books and writing screenplays, and running a cupcake and cheese ball business, her dream finally became a reality when TruTV premiered the first season of At Home with Amy Sedaris in October 2017.

The show, a half-hour variety sketch show co-created by Sedaris and longtime collaborator Paul Dinello, features weekly themed episodes that invite the viewer into Sedaris's home (modeled after her own West Village apartment) where she hosts and shares hilarious D.I.Y. crafting and entertaining advice.

The show almost defies categorization -- Sedaris herself plays the recurring characters, including Patty Hogg, the Southern socialite, Nutmeg the strange neighbor, Ronnie Vino the wine enthusiast, and a hobo.

A steady stream of guest stars show up to join in the lunacy as Sedaris walks the viewer through storylines peppered with crafting segments and fake commercials.

On one episode, she demonstrates making ships with potato bottoms and cheese-slice sails, all while exclaiming that the paper separating the cheese slices is "a great way to get off makeup" as she dabs at her face. In another, she prepares a fish dinner while telling the audience that mercury-laden red snapper is "perfect if poisoning a loved one is on the menu!"

While Sedaris is well known for starring as Jerri Blank in the Comedy Central series Strangers with Candy, which she co-created with Dinello and Stephen Colbert, as well as her roles on BoJack Horseman and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, At Home with Amy Sedaris serves as a lifelong achievement for the idiosyncratic star. TruTV recently renewed the show for its second season.

You've been performing versions of yourself on late-night talk shows for years. How is it different playing yourself as the main character on At Home with Amy Sedaris?

It's so different, because on talk shows you have the audience for energy. It's not really your authentic self, because you're getting all of this energy from the audience reaction, so you're a heightened version of yourself. On the TV show, I feel like it's still me, but it's different because I read a monitor. You're talking to a camera and reading a monitor, so it's a different kind of reality.

Being able to play other characters on the show along with myself helped me decide how I was going to be. To me, after playing all of the other characters, I'm the odd man out. I'm the one that doesn't fit in. That gives me another little edge to play with … I'm the straight man to my other characters, and it's fun playing the straight man when you're not used to playing the straight man.

Do you have a favorite character that you portray on the show?

I like them all! Patty Hogg was fun because it was just a voice I was doing. We have a place in North Carolina at the beach, and I would do that character all the time. I'd give fake ghost tours of the island to my family. I was always doing the voice, but I didn't think to do it on the show, but it just happened that one night Paul [Dinello] and I were writing one night and I started improvising with that voice, and … BOOM!

She was a nice surprise, and she takes a lot of energy, and I love it. Hobo is also a lot of fun because I love doing a southern accent, and Nutmeg's fun because I've been kicking my legs up since I could walk. International Wine Lady's fun, too - she's a character I've had in my back pocket for a long time. So, yeah, I really like them all!

You've written two books on crafting and entertaining (Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, and I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence), and now you have your At Home show. Do you do a lot of crafting and entertaining on your own?

Not really, because once you write about it, you just burn yourself out. I just lost interest in it. Once in a while I'll still craft, but I've mostly been obsessed with jigsaw puzzles lately. Right now I'm doing puzzles that are covers from the New Yorker. I've done six or seven now, except my rabbit keeps chewing the puzzle pieces, which is driving me crazy.

As far as entertaining, I do mostly one-on-one entertaining. I haven't done anything in a while that involves me setting the table, getting napkins out, or chilling beer mugs.

So you chose to do a show centered on crafting and entertaining, but you don't really do much yourself anymore? Was that an odd choice of focus, then?

Oh, no … it's in my blood. I used to do all of that stuff, so I feel like it's authentic and it's the real me, I'm just making fun of it a little bit. But I'm allowed to, because that's who I am. I did cook a lot, I did craft a lot, and I did my two books - It's just after a while, you get interested in other things.

The show is true to me because it's everything I know. When I was little, Peggy Mann and the Bette Elliot Show were my inspirations. That's the kind of stuff I was drawn to when I was younger. When I was six, I said, "That's the kind of show I'm going to do," and I did it. That's what's funny to me - when I said it as six, I was right.

So, is it as much fun as you hoped it would be when you were younger?

Oh, I didn't ever think about that. I just thought, like a puzzle, piece by piece, we gotta do this thing. There was so much to think about the first season, like "What are these characters going to look like? How are we going to get this in, and that in, and figure everything out? What's the song going to be?" There was just so much to think about.

In the next season, it'll be nice just because now we know who everybody is, and now we can build on top of that. It will be a lot of fun.

On the show, some of the tips and tricks that you give are humorous but actually very handy. Then, of course, you have things that go horribly wrong. It's similar to the "Pinterest Fail" movement, where things don't turn out quite like people were expecting.

I know, but I'm not doing it on purpose! I really am doing the best that I can! When I made those potato ships, I wasn't being bad on purpose. I'm telling you, I have the energy of a crafter and the ideas of a crafter, but I'm not so great at making anything, and my food never looks presentable. I go into it 110%, and that's the good thing about my show -- it is really me. I'm doing the best job I can and not really going for a laugh, and that's what makes it so funny.

You had such amazing guest stars on the first season of the show. How did you decide whom you were going to bring on as a guest star?

When we were writing the "businessman" scene, I mean … We had always fantasized about Paul Giamatti. Paul [Dinello] and I had that scene sitting around for a while, 12 years ago, easily, and every now and then we pulled it out and rewrote it. In our heads, we always saw Paul Giamatti. It never occurred to me that he would say yes! So when he did say yes, that was a dream to me. I just idolize that guy. I could not believe that I got to work with him.

Once we got Paul Giamatti, we were like, "Let's reach for the stars!" We were just so lucky. We're friends with Justin Theroux, so he did me a favor. I had just worked with Chris Elliott, and I just knew I wanted to work with him again. When we did the murder episode, we were thinking of Michael Shannon, and it was shocking that we got him. Nick Kroll, Cole Escola, Jane Krakowski, Stephen [Colbert]… I mean, there were so many.

Is there anyone you're chomping at the bit to get for next season?

Oh my gosh, we have a huge list going of people that would be our dream to be on the show. We're just thinking outrageous thoughts … We'll see what happens!

You're accomplished as a comedian, and you've done so many different television shows and films. You've written two best-selling books and written screenplays. Is there a particular medium that you would say is your favorite?

I like doing it all. I like changing things up. I just like doing different things at different times, and it all kind of folds into each other. I just like being busy, but I also like having my own life. I like being able to go to the gym and to the grocery store, and having a rounded life like that. And then I like having a little thing that I'm passionate about on the side.

It's kind of perfect, staying under the radar and just being able to work and do whatever I want. I love that.

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