Though Amy Sedaris is perhaps best known for her character Jerri Blank, a middle-aged former prostitute turned high-school student from Comedy Central’s cult series Strangers With Candy (and its 2006 movie prequel by the same name), the New York-born comic actress has had a varied career beyond that role, both onscreen and off. In addition to her ongoing multitude of film and TV roles (Snow Angels, Wonder Showzen), she’s also a writer, cook, and hostess—three passions she combined for 2006’s “entertaining guide to entertaining,” I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence. Before she came to town to host the Lifeline Theatre Benefit, The A.V. Club talked to Sedaris about the next Strangers With Candy special and how David Letterman tortures her.
A.V. Club: Your book describes how to entertain lumberjacks, rich uncles, and the elderly, but how do you like to be entertained?
Amy Sedaris: I like to be the one in charge of everything. I’d rather be the one to do it and have people come over. I don’t mind cooking. But I like it if I need shelves built or have curtains made. I like to be entertained by watching them do that.
AVC: You’ve mentioned on the Late Show With David Letterman that Martha Stewart tortures you between commercial breaks when you do her show. How so?
AS: I get more torture from Letterman. He’ll ask a question when we go on break. One time he asked me if I’d ever done heroin, and I got a knitted brow and then, [announcer’s voice] “And we’re back!” Or he’ll ask me if I ever wanted kids. Or he’s invited me to Mexico. By the time I get a chance to answer it, the commercial’s up.
AVC: He seems very sweet on you.
AS: Yeah, he comes backstage and says hey, which he never does to anybody. I like him so much; I always feel eager to do his show. He has me on when I have nothing to promote, which is why I like doing his show. I hate it when you’re there to promote something. I just feel dirty.
AVC: Do you feel dirty doing his show since he produced the Strangers With Candy movie?
AS: No, that’s nice. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable going on there saying he produced it. I think that would embarrass us both. I’ve gone on there to promote movies I’ve gotten cut out of, and I felt fantastic about it. I got cut out of a No. 1 movie, or I’ve done a show where I actually had something that was coming out, and the people wanted me to show a clip, and I said no. I don’t want to take the time out from a show trying to show a clip I don’t even know how to set up.
AVC: You’ve said Jerri Blank is a starting point for your acting roles. Why are you so comfortable in her skin?
AS: I guess because I can make the face. I can rely on it and pull it out, and once you make the face you turn into somebody else. So sometimes if I’m reading a script, I read it as Jerri, and I find the natural pauses. I don’t have a problem finding that. Like if I went in for a voiceover, I wouldn’t know which words to punctuate until I did it as Jerri Blank. Does that sound crazy? I guess it also makes me slow down and look at it differently. But I just tend to use her as any kind of actress thing first.
AVC: Would you revisit her?
AS: We’ve been asked to do a Christmas movie, but [Stephen] Colbert is really busy right now with [The Colbert Report]. I doubt he’d be able to contribute. If Stephen couldn’t be involved, it’d be fun to open up with [his character, Charles Noblet’s] funeral. He died, and [Paul Dinello’s character] Jellineck meets Chris Meloni. They fall in love, and then the ghost of Noblet can haunt them. Jerri would be in some center trying to eat oatmeal.
AVC: She’s trying to eat oatmeal?
AS: Whatever they do in centers. Try to get coffee? Vending machine? [Laughs.] I don’t know. But I want her to have painted-on eyebrows and her hair to be like a coconut, scattered and brittle, like she just aged incredibly. Paul is who he is, and if Paul ever has a flashback, he can look like Andy Samberg. The flashback could be literally the night before, and it’d be like, “God, you’ve aged 20 years overnight, man!” Maybe Noblet was murdered, but the case would be about accusing me, but no one ever really investigates.
AVC: Like a Christmas whodunit.
AS: It could be set up that way, like, “Isn’t anybody investigating?” “No, no. Maybe next year.”