We are all about Amy Sedaris here at The A.V. Club, whether she’s cracking us up as Jerri Blank on Strangers With Candy or as Mimi Kanasis on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or breaking our hearts as Princess Carolyn on BoJack Horseman this season. She’s also known for bestselling domestic-goddess books like I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence and Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People. Think of her as the anti-Martha Stewart; she even frequently stops by that show to break the news to Martha that most people don’t take the time to sift.
Now, finally, Sedaris has her own show, At Home With Amy Sedaris, where she is free to be her uninhibited self, as she tries things like making spanakopita blindfolded or crafting placemats out of coins and packing tape. Her tips include stabbing a potato with a fork “like you might a hairdresser who cut your bangs too short.” Her perfect ’50s kitchen set and rick-rack- and gingham-laden outfits only bely the mania that’s about to unfold, highlighted by guest stars like Jane Krakowski, Scott Adsit, and Stephen Colbert.
At Home With Amy Sedaris kicks off tonight on TruTv with two hilarious episodes starting at 10:30 Eastern: one about “cooking for one” (“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you can’t entertain without guests”), the other about cooking with fish (“a strange, cold-blooded, and limbless creature that thrives in the stuff we drown in”). She talked with us about her lifelong love of crafts, how to get her to cook for you, and landing those elusive final two Girl Scout badges.
Th A.V. Club: You are doing so much right now. BoJack, Kimmy Schmidt, and now your own show? How are you juggling all of this?
Amy Sedaris: This show made me super busy, and I’m recording BoJack, while I’m doing this. It’s been busy, but I’m better busy, so it’s okay.
AVC: What’s so great about your show is that so many of us want to be domestic goddesses, but we just don’t have the ability.
AS: Well, my level is more Girl Scout level. It’s more Junior Achievement. I went to the Girl Scout council when I moved to New York City, and there were two badges I never earned, and they sent them to me in the mail. It was the sign of the star and the sign of the arrow, the two big ones. I went through the book, and I’ve actually done all this stuff and I never got them back then, so is there any way I can earn them now? Because they’re really the two most important badges. And my sash is jam-packed with badges, but I need the two major ones. And they agreed, and they mailed them to me. How classy is that?
And I’m still drawn to the crafts I grew up with, and they’re simple and they’re good for me. I mean, I still use pot-holder kits, and I decorate lighters and make tissue flowers. It’s nothing too ambitious, but that’s what I’m drawn to, that’s what I like. But I just don’t have the skill to do some things, like if I see something I like in a Martha Stewart magazine, even if it’s a pipe-cleaner mouse, I just can’t do it. “I’m following the instructions, how come doesn’t mine look anything like yours?” There are people who can do that, I just don’t have that kind of skill.
So I do have little things I know I like to sell, like covering lighters and stuff like that, but a lot of it is outsourcing. You know, I have a friend who lives in Hawaii, and he did all the coconut crafts in the book. I like to think of that also as being a skill, knowing who to go to and who can do it right.
AVC: The show is not only crafty, but hilarious. Are you writing it as well?
AS: My writing partner, Paul Dinello, pretty much wrote the show. And a lot of it’s based on the book, which we created together, and though of course I contributed as well. And of course there’s pockets where I just improvise and do my thing, and had a hand in writing some of the characters I want to play. But as far as structure and the idea, y’know, Paul Dinello pretty much wrote all that.
AVC: Random stuff like the raccoon accountant?
AS: We found that raccoon on the internet, and we’re like, “Wow, he’s probably famous.” I mean, watching a raccoon do anything is funny, you know what I mean? So we just decided to give him his own little office.
AVC: With the holidays coming up, do we have holiday-themed episodes to look forward to?
AS: TruTV wanted us to do a holiday special, and I didn’t want to do one. Even in my books, I don’t do anything with the holidays because I always feel like you leave people out. And it’s such a big thing, like, it’s so personal, too. Paul Dinello was like, “Let’s do it.” We kind of put our heads together and came up with ideas that we’ve always wanted to do. And it’s one of my favorite episodes. It’s mind-blowing, it’s so good. And I feel good to be able to say that. I mean, there are a couple of episodes that to me stand out, and I’m just like, “That’s really, really good. Really funny.”
AVC: You’ve said that a lot of the stuff on the adorable set is based on your own apartment.
AS: It is. It’s based on my apartment. That is my dream kitchen. It’s a lot bigger than my apartment, and it’s a lot cleaner than my apartment, and it’s a lot less clutter than my apartment. But the color scheme is the same; the craft room is a lot bigger than my apartment. And a lot of the artwork is from there, and a lot of it my family did, and a lot of artists contributed to the show. Which meant the world to me. That’s what made the show to me, is reaching out to artists, and they’re like, “Yeah, you can put this painting up.” That was pretty special to me.
AVC: This seems like the perfect vehicle for you. One of the things that’s fascinating to watch about you whatever you’re in is that you’re so uninhibited. You just seem really confident, even if you’re messing up the pom-pom you’re making or whatever.
AS: I think it’s just being yourself, you know what I mean? And for those crafts, I’m just going to do the best job that I can. I mean, I’m not going to be bad on purpose, but just to play in the moment. Not play, like, an older person’s version of play, who says, “Let’s get in a room and play,” but the more you’re being yourself, the more you’re being in the moment and real. So I feel like if I am going to make a pom-pom, I’m going to do the best I can. And it’s going to look like shit, but at least it was real. As much as I love fake stuff, I don’t like phonies. That’s why I’m drawn to naïve art and folk art.
AVC: Now that you do so much of this stuff at work, do you still entertain and host dinners at home?
AS: It depends who it is. I used to entertain a lot, now it’s not so much. Now it’s more like a trade. If I’m going to have someone over, it’s going to be like, “Can you help me rotate my mattress? Can you help me pull up this rug?” And then I will cook for you, whatever you want. Steak, cocktails, smoke it up. That’s the kind of entertaining I’m into. Because I am single, I live by myself, so it’s more like, “Will you come over and help me clean out my closet?” And then, I cook for them.
But you know, Greek food’s always impressive. I’m really good at making anything Greek. You make a tray of spanakopita and people are always going to be impressed. Anything dealing with phyllo.
AVC: My husband does cool stuff with phyllo, but he uses frozen. Is homemade better?
AS: If you make your own phyllo, it’s just going to be thicker, and it’s going to be coarse. It’s like people who stay home and make their own Chinese food. Just go out and fucking buy it. You don’t need a wok in your kitchen.
AVC: I keep thinking about what you’re saying about the process. Like yesterday, I finally made pumpkin bars with my daughter, and when we were done, she admitted that she didn’t even like pumpkin. She just liked the baking part with me. I need to do stuff like that more.
AS: That’s what I like, I like the process, even with the cooking, even with the show, and even with the books, it’s all about that. I forget that people are gonna watch the TV show. I forget that people might not like it. I forget that people are going to judge it and review it. I always forget that, even with the books. When I look at the show, because we’re editing now, I can remember what I ate that day, I can remember everything about that day, shooting it. It’s all about that part for me. I forgot about that other part, like, “Oh, now you’ve gotta go sell it.” And that’s just a different animal.
AVC: What’s the main takeaway you’d like people to get from your new show?
AS: I just want them to be entertained in a kind of Lawrence Welk kind of way, kind of mindless, silly way. And then visually be stimulated, because even if you’re deaf and you’re watching the show, you can be inspired. Something’s going to trigger you to get off your couch and make something, or make your apartment nice, or to wear something. It’s just effort, and it just shows that there’s so much creativity, visually. And then, just something to laugh at.