Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. ET
Ask Amy Sedaris
Friday, November 2, 2007; 1:00 PM
Amy Sedaris, star of "Strangers With Candy" and author of "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence," took your questions about her life, career, being a good host and anything else that comes to mind.
Sedaris was online Friday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. ET.
A transcript follows.
Sedaris is appearing at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 29. Tickets are $15 in advance, $25 at door, with group rates available. Tickets are available through TicketMaster or through the Sixth & I box office.
Richmond, Va.: I love you, Amy! Is it wrong that I listen to all the Sedaris family audiobooks and fantasize that you are my siblings instead of the people who are actually genetically related to me?
Amy Sedaris: Yes, it's wrong. You need to get a life.
Atlanta: Hi Amy,
My wife and I are huge fans. We loved the bit you did on Letterman where you gave the viewers a tour of your neighborhood at 4 in the morning. How much of that bit and your other hilarious appearances on Letterman are scripted and how much is off the cuff?
Amy Sedaris: With Letterman, a lot of it is off the cuff, because you don't know what he's going to ask you. The 4 a.m. thing was all off the cuff.
Baltimore: In social situations, what do you do when a guest is telling an engaging story to a group, but you notice the speaker has some unsightly spinach or other food-like substance trapped in his teeth?
Do you point it out or assume that it's part of his act?
Amy Sedaris: I point it out, and if it's part of his act, I say "good idea."
Fairfax, Va.: I haven't purchased the book yet, because I might need the money to fill my prescriptions. But before I make this decision I need an important query answered regarding this alleged poster mentioned on your Web site. Just how much exposed skin are we talkin' about?
Amy Sedaris: A gross amount.
Washington, D.C.: Amy, first off, you rock!
My question is, What are you looking forward to cooking during the holidays this year?
Amy Sedaris: I haven't decided yet. I always decide last minute if I'm going to cook something, and then invite a bunch of riff-raff people who dont have anywhere else to go. But I dont usually decide until one or two days before the holiday.
Asheville, N.C.: Amy, what person are you dying to meet and why?
Amy Sedaris: Well, I don't really have a list of people I'm dying to meet, but I just met Dolly Parton last weekend, and I wouldn't have ever thought to put her on a list like that, but she was great and it was really neat to meet her.
Washington, D.C.: I have always found one of the elements that made "Strangers with Candy" work so well is that the other students never acknowledged that Jerry was so much older than they were.
They certainly hated and ridiculed her for other reasons, but not her age. How intentional was this element? Thank you.
Amy Sedaris: It was all intentional -- we never wanted anyone to comment on her age and we never had her comment on it either.
Washington, D.C.: Amy,
I bought my wife your book while she was recuperating in the hospital from the birth of our second child, so she will always equate it with severe pelvic pain.
The photographs of you in the book are so seriously staged and filled with such incredible nuanced detail that I have to ask you -- how does staging those photographs for comic effect relate to other kinds of physical comedy?
Amy Sedaris: I didnt stage them thinking they would be funny, I just thought they would be interesting. I had all those props in my house anyway, and I just wanted it to be accurate. I didnt think it was hilarious or anything, I was just trying to tell a story.
And the food melting wasnt a choice or anything -- we shot it in the summer and it was like 105. I wanted everything to look as good as it could.
Which is pathetic.
Arlington, Va.: My question is a two-parter:
1. Did you know an anagram for your name is "AS is dreamy"?
2. And if that's not the pickup line you hear the most, what is?
Amy Sedaris: No one ever tells me things like this. I don't even know what you're talking about.
Reston, Va.: What kind of music do you like to have playing while you have friends over for drinks or dinner?
Amy Sedaris: I try to pick music that doesnt involve a lot of lyrics, so you're not paying attention to that. As long as it doesnt dominate the party, it should be more atmosphere music. When I'm by myself, I never play music. I have a lot of it, for a girl, but I don't listen to it a lot. I hate picking music out, I'm not good at it.
Washington, D.C.: Hi Amy,
I am a big fan and love your work. I live in DC and I am going to your show here next month. What will your show consist of? Is it Q and A, skits, Jewish history lecture?
Amy Sedaris: I believe it's going to be a live interview onstage, then I'll do a couple crafts, then there's a live Q-A. I'll take something from my book and teach the audience how to make it.
Washington, D.C.: Is that a fake ham behind Amy in the photo on The Post's Web site? I believe Amy is a pioneer in the recognition of the decorative value of fake meat.
Amy Sedaris: That is a fake ham and fake fireplace, and the taffy is old, old old -- i saved it because I like the box. I have a lot of fake food in my apartment, but I'm picky about it. Old plaster food, like from the '50s is really nice, hollowed out paper-mache food from old plays -- the new stuff just looks too good.
Michigan: Hi Amy,
I hate the holidays. Particularly Thanksgiving. But also Christmas. All holidays, really. Except St. Patricks Day.
In your opinion, is okay to treat all holidays as if they were St. Patricks Day, and being drinking at 8:15 a.m.?
Amy Sedaris: Oh, that's pathetic. I don't think the holidays need to revolve around drinking, but if you want to start drinking sooner, absolutely.
Natick, Mass.: Amy, My favorite image from "I Like You", was your plaintive "Dad Come Back Home" cake, with the words outlined in chocolate chips on a background of white frosting. As a dad, I was touched. What inspired you?
Amy Sedaris: Well, I made the sheet cake, and I was standing over it, and I was just going to write "hi dad," but it just came to me to write "dad come home" in little brown jimmy's. The same with the stepmother's cake. I was going to write "happy mother's day" but it was melting and I thought it was only good enough for a step mother.
Thats my favorite cake, too.
Anaheim, Calif.: How do you recommend being a good host, and what do you do with guests who don't pick up hints that it is long past time for them to leave?
Amy Sedaris: I always ask them to leave, I say "it's time for you to go." Or give a cutoff time, say from 7-10, and if you're party is going great, you can ignore it, but it gives you an out.
But if you have to ask someone to leave, chances are it's a pattern of theirs and they've heard it before.
Frederick, Md.: What are your favorite dishes to serve in the fall? Also, do you have any recommended fall cocktail/drink recipes?
Amy Sedaris: I'm not very good with drink recipes. If I'm entertaining, I like to come up with a house drink for the evening, one thing I'll make for the whole evening of the whole month.
As for fall, I like anything that goes in the oven. I grow vegetables and I like having my oven on as much as possible.
Columbia Heights, D.C.: Not a question, just a story I wanted to share: I was at your "Wigfield" performance at GWU a few years ago, and there was a guy towards the front of the theatre who let out this enormous, obnoxious laugh after everything that was intended to be even a little bit funny (and, I think, some things that weren't). I suppose he thought he had to prove to the room that he's the sort of person who gets jokes. About halfway through the show, you gave him a look, sort of daring him to laugh just one more time, and it shut him up for the rest of the night. I guess the point of my story is that you're an American hero.
Amy Sedaris: I don't remember that!
Ann Arbor, Mich.: What would YOU like us to know about your life growing up?
By the way, I love what you do!
Amy Sedaris: Nothing. What David writes about us is fine and usually pretty accurate.
Washington, D.C.: Hi, Amy!
My friend Chelsea in Boston is reading this today (she actually has planned her entire day around reading your chat). We both think that you are very funny.
My issue is that I am much funnier than Chelsea. Can you give her some tips on how to be funnier, so that I can be more entertained when I'm in her presence?
You might be the key to making this long distance friendship last. Thanks for all your help!
Amy Sedaris: Oh, I don't think you can. If anything, maybe she's just a good audience. Maybe that's what you're getting out of Chelsea. You can't really make someone funnier. Maybe you could get her some big glasses and a fake nose?
Atlanta: I LOVED "Strangers with Candy." I miss it now that it's over. Do you have any projects in the works with your collaborators from that show, like Dinello or Colbert?
Amy Sedaris: Yes -- Paul Dinello and I are collaborating on a script idea. Colbert is so busy right now with his show he's not working with us. It's for a TV show, but it's so early I don't want to mention any specifics.
College Park, Md.: I once had a (male) colleague tell me at a work party, just after I'd said some funny thing that got a bunch of laughs, "Just so you know, men really aren't into funny women." (He was one of those who blamed the fact that his own jokes got few laughs on his "very dry" sense of humor, which he believed was too subtle for most in his audience.) It's true, funniness has caused some problems in some of my relationships, usually with men who thought I was making fun of them. (Usually, I wasn't.) Have you found this a hard line to walk in your own life, being funny and also being viewed seriously as a romantic possibility/partner?
Amy Sedaris: I guess, I've heard people say that before, but I've always surrounded myself with funny people, and thats who I've dated, so I've never had that problem. But I can see how it could happen.
But you know, there aren't that many funny girls. Even at 2nd City when I worked there, there weren't that many funny girls. A lot of times girls think they're funny, but they want to pretty at the same time, and if you want to be funny, you have to be willing to get ugly.
Washington DC: Amy, you are, of course, startlingly attractive. Nevertheless you managed to create a rather gruesome visage as "Jerry." Did you ever have any trouble pushing down your ego sufficiently to do this?
Amy Sedaris: No, I always want to look unattractive, it's more fun. I think Jerry's audience was misfits and outcasts and ugly people, and I like that audience, I always try to get that audience. Plus Jerry thought she was pretty. I like playing opposites, people who aren't attractive who think they are pretty. That's always interesting to me.
Dupont Circle: How does a comedian draw the line between satirizing racism and prejudice and just telling 1920s era racist jokes? Seems like an issue that probably came up when writing for Strangers with Candy.
Amy Sedaris: Well, when we were writing with Strangers with Candy, we didnt intend to shock anyone, we just wrote in that character's voice. We just wanted to write things that were really funny, and we had a character and a characters voice to do that through, which I think moves that line around a bit.
dc: Did you trick or treat? How were you dressed? How much candy did you get?
Amy Sedaris: No, I live in an apartment building and no one comes by. But I had a friend bring her child by, and I put on a black wig I had from the Dolly Parton video and some black make up. But I dont dress up for Halloween, I'm too old.
As a kid, I always dressed up like a hobo.
Charlottesville, VA: Amy - how in the heck did you physically play your Jerri Blank character? The mannerisms/personality I got, but the exaggerated overbight and belly...
Any hope of a "Strangers" prequel/sequel?
Amy Sedaris: First of all, that belly was mine -- I wore a fatty suit from the waist down, and I just made the face. I like making faces and do things physical, because that way I feel like I'm the character.
We have no plans for any more Strangers with Candy. We've been asked, but dont have any plans.
Thompsonville, Va.: Thanks for taking my question, I'm a big fan. Do you want to go out with me the next time you're in D.C.?
Amy Sedaris: Uh, no.
Washington, D.C.: Dear Amy,
My wife and I live down the hall from someone who we think is insane. She wears her bathrobe around all the time, and her hair looks like what you'd get if you put Linus in the electric chair. It is very off-putting when we pass her on the way to the laundry room or the elevator. What would you suggest in terms of an ice-breaker or conversation jump-start device?
Oh, and when are you going to be on Letterman next? Thanks.
Amy Sedaris: I would embrace her -- you're lucky to have such a character in your building. I would embrace her and try to lure her into your apartment. I have a crazy lady in my building and I lured her into my apartment by using my rabbit. Offer to brush her hair or something.
I don't know when I'll be on Letterman, probably in the next month or so.
Frederick, Md.: What do you do when you're hosting a get-together in your home (less than 10 people), and someone wants to bring a guest... but you don't necessarily like the person that they want to bring?
Amy Sedaris: I say -- that's happened to me lots of times -- just say upfront that no one can bring any guests, if I knew there was the temptation this person might invite somebody.
New York, NY: Just wanted to say that I'm one of the twelve people who saw "Romance and Cigarettes" and I thought you were great! Although I didn't realize it was you until the credits. Great screaming there!
Amy Sedaris: I haven't seen the movie either, but I've the other 11 people who say it, I heard they really enjoyed.
A lot of times I won't go see the movies I'm in. I haven't seen "Someone to Eat Cheese With" with Jeff Garlin yet, either.
How's the Rooster?: That wedding story is one of the funniest things I've ever read. As I'm sure you know, your brother David ain't right.
Amy Sedaris: The Rooster is doing fantastic, I talk to him everyday. He decorated his house for Halloween, and he has one of those houses where cars slow down to look at it. He's doing really good.
Greenbelt, MD: Amy! I went to 2nd City Conservatory and am a struggling actress. What did you do to make a living before you made money as a comedienne?
Amy Sedaris: I waitressed, worked in resteraunts. I like working with the public, I like working with food, and I like making cash. I always liked waitressing -- it's hard work, but it's great for your timing.
Washington, D.C.: Would you vote for Stephen Colbert for President? Would you vote for "Stephen Colbert" for President?
Amy Sedaris: Yes, on both. But I guess he can't do it.
Dunn Loring, VA: I love the story about how you loudly told your brother "Good luck with the sexual assualt charges" as you got off the subway. Can you offer any similar lines that I could use to embarrass my friends?
Amy Sedaris: Oh, it was "hope you beat that rape charge." "Good luck at the clinic" always works. Or if you see a guy hitting on a girl -- "your wife called, the baby is sick." I just think of them as they come to me, but I always do it, it makes me laugh.
Resuce Me: Amy:
Please tell us you are coming back as Beth, the chief's daughter, next season.
What was it like working with Denis Leary?
Did you get to improvise a lot?
Amy Sedaris: We improvised a lot. I loved working with Dennis Leary -- he's very funny, and he's very chatty and talkative and his mind is always going. But I have no plans to go back to the show, I just did two episodes.
Sterling, VA: I get how to kick guests out - what do you do when they show up way too late? Like, 11pm at night when you're getting ready to go to bed?
Amy Sedaris: Ooohhhh -- I would shut the door in their face, and tell them they're way to late. But I'd rather they show up too late than too early. I hate that. It messes up your timing -- either you're not dressed properly, or that pill you took hasn't kicked in, or your stirring the sauce. The 15 minutes before a party is you're time -- I love that time, I just revel in it.
I don't get anxious before parties. I have it pretty down pat -- I just get eager.
Amy Sedaris: Oh, another thing I read in an old cookbook -- women used to lay down with their arms out before a party for like 15 minutes, just lay there and try to stay calm. That's weird right.
I love those old cookbooks -- I read so many working on my book. I just got such a kick out of them, how the color would be way off or fake looking. The cook books now look so much like magazines, you'll never make food that looks like that. I'd rather see it the ugly way than they way they do it now.
Wash, DC: Are men more intimidated by your looks or your success?
Amy Sedaris: I don't ever think that men are intimidated by me, I don't think of that stuff. I'm certainly not as pretty as you think I am. If anything they might be intimidated by my sense of humor or that I'm going to make fun of them, but I always mean it in a good way.
How about by my mustache? They're intimidated by my facial hair.
Topeka, KS: When was the last time you were too funny for your own good?
Amy Sedaris: Well, this isnt in a negative, but the most fun I've had recently when I felt like everyone was funny, and we had to do press for Shrek, and it was Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Cherie Oteri and me, and it felt good that to be around such funny girls, but for any outsider, it was no good because they couldn't get a straight answer, because we were trying to outdo each other.
Arlington, VA: Amy, should I buy a jar of apple sauce and a new spoon tonight? Or should I give this crazy love thing another try?
Amy Sedaris: Give it another try!
Amy Sedaris: Thanks everyone for writing in, and you should get back to work.
And -- drinking kills feelings. That's my holiday advice.
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