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Below is my first interview with Amy, about her book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (2006). Also check out my interviews with her from 2008 (about her first dramatic turn in the movie Snow Angels), and 2010 (about her book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People).

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Amy Sedaris Rocks.com Interviews....
Well, Amy Sedaris

By Katie Richardson
September 16, 2006

I suppose that this is normally where an introduction would go. But since you've already made your way to this Amy Sedaris website, you probably already know who Amy Sedaris is. I sat down with Amy on the living room floor of her kitschy West Village, NYC apartment to discuss her [then forthcoming] hospitality cookbook, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, indoor garage sales, creepy fans and the joys of rabbit rearing.

amy sedaris

Katie (amysedarisrocks.com): This is the second time you've written a book, but the first time you've gone at it completely on your own, so I'm sure it's been entirely different from when you worked on Wigfield with Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert. What have you learned from your experience? What was the hardest part? What was the most fun or rewarding part of doing it? Would you do it again?

Amy Sedaris: I don't know if I'd do it again. The truth is, I did think I could do it on my own because I thought, hospitality/entertaining--I know that. How hard can it be? When I sat down to write it, I realized I couldn't do it alone. I'd send what I wrote to Paul [Dinello] and I'd go, I don't want it to be funny--I want it to be a serious book. So, a lot of the humor came from Paul commenting on the fact that I was trying to take something seriously. I'd write everything first, then I'd show it to Paul, then we'd hone it, rewrite it, or think what was funny about it. Then, his friend, Antonia Xereas, who did the costumes on Strangers, was the woman's touch. The three of us would meet, I'd show them what I came up with, and then we'd write it. So, I didn't write it by myself. It says me, but in the acknowledgments I credit Paul and Antonia. So, that was interesting that I couldn't do that on my own, because I'm not a writer. I can [think] on my feet and I'm really good with ideas, but it was all over the place. They were really good at just helping me shape it. Also, I learned that this process was no different from directing a movie, and I was a director. I hired a craft team and I knew exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it. It was my idea--pictures and everything. And then no one else worked on it after December, and I took all of that, plus the writing, and I went off on my own with these two kid designers in an editing room and put the book together. So no one has even seen the book since we worked on it. It's no different from a movie. You might go to a movie and realize, oh, my part got cut. So, that's exactly what it was like, and I enjoyed that part of it.

What are your favorite cookbooks? What are some specific books that influenced, or were inspiration for I Like You?

Well, the old Betty Crockers--visually. Or those old cookbooks--how pretty they were. I have a lot of cookbooks, but I don't ever follow recipes. I like to own them and I like to look though them, but I never follow anything.

Do you have any favorites?

Fanny Farmer is my favorite. Joy of Cooking was always a little bit over my head. Julia Child was just too complicated. But I noticed that when I went back and looked at some hospitality books, they're all the same. The do's and don'ts. The chapters will be different, but the intro to my book is pretty much standard information--to me, anyway.

Was there anything that you wanted to put in the book but couldn't because of time, budget or page count constraints?

I had to cut 25 pages from the crafts section. A lot of it was instructions, so now it's more like, "You figure it out." There are things I look back and wish I'd thought about. Like, if you're going to sublet your apartment, or if someone's staying in your house to watch things. But everything else pretty much went in.

You say that this is not a joke cookbook, but everybody knows you for your comedy. So, how much of it is tongue-in-cheek, and how much of it actually you being serious?

It's really a good combination. I didn't put any joke recipes in there. When I first sat down and made a list to do the pitch for the book, I put myself in all of the different situations in which I would have to entertain somebody. Like, I wanted to write something about hot lunch. So I thought, who eats hot lunches? Lumberjacks. I wasn't trying to be funny. I was like, okay, that would be challenging--a hot lunch for a lumberjack. Or a dinner for four white-collar guys would be challenging. We don't have much in common, it's TGIF, fish night, what if someone doesn't eat fish? So, I just came up with chapters by seeing how challenging that situation would be. I hate brunch, but I put brunch in there. How to entertain for old people--how challenging that would be, or people on drugs--how annoying that is. Depressed people--that's a challenge; children. So I just thought of it more like, the humor would come from the different situations because I hate gimmicks, I hate games and I hate theme parties, so I went the other route with it.

What's the one most important thing that you want people to get out of your book?

If you don't entertain, that's okay. It's how to be a good guest. I think that's important, and I hope they get that from me.

What are some recipes in your book that people absolutely need to try--besides Katie's Smack Snacks for Rabbits?

Yeah, definitely! Chicken of the Taverns, definitely. My brownie recipe, my spanikopita recipe, these butter cookies--Susan & Gracie butter cookies--that are really amazing. And Greek beans.

If you could throw any kind of party, for any reason, and there were no limits, what would it be like or what would you do?

Well, if I've wanted to do it, then I probably have done it. That's a hard question. I mean, I guess I do what I want to do during my parties. I like the last minute planning of it, and usually I like a craft. Like tonight when we get together, I'm going to make a porterhouse steak and a salad, and then we'll sit around and make these fake cakes. I usually I do my display table. I turn that table into a 25 cent sale. So, if there's something I want to get rid of--like, let's say I want to get rid of this hand cream--this will go on the sale table for 25 cents. Any pharmaceutical goods, dish washing detergent, CDs, DVDs, I have an iPod for my next sale--

You're selling an iPod for a quarter?!

Yeah. It's brand new, someone gave it to me. I wanted a good sale, and I'll cater that sale to my audience. It's about the transaction. And it's a great way to get rid of stuff.

You're selling an iPod for a quarter?!

For 25 cents. A brand new iPod with speakers. But I mean, it's good because I want a good reputation for the party, too. Everything usually goes. I do keep in mind--like, if I knew you were coming, and I thought, "Okay, Katie's gonna want this," I'd be hoping you would buy it, so I would lure you to it. And usually, everything goes. So, I'm really obsessed about that display table. You can have your picture taken with Dusty (Amy's rabbit) for 25 cents, so I really think hard about that stuff.

So are you going to charge me a quarter later if I ask if I can take a picture of Dusty?

No, I won't do it today, but I take my display table very seriously. That's usually a big hit. I have a box in my bedroom now, and whenever I'm cleaning my apartment, I think, "What do I want to do with this? Oh, I'll put it out for my next sale." So, I'll plan a party and be like, I've gotta get rid of this stuff. That's a good, fun thing to do. Everybody should do that. I don't know why they don't. But I don't want to charge more than 25 cents because it's laundry money, but it's the transaction that I want.

----ABOUT THE NEXT 5 QUESTIONS---In June, Filter Creative Group asked if I'd be interested in promoting the Strangers With Candy: Complete Series DVD by hosting DVD give-away contests on amysedarisrocks.com and my other site, flatpointhigh.com. Entrants submitted a response to the question, "If you could ask Amy Sedaris one question, what would it be?" (for this site) and "If you could ask Jerri Blank one question, what would it be?" (for flatpointhigh.com). A friend of mine chose the two winners for each website, and following are Amy's responses to the winning questions, as well as one honorable mention that I just couldn't pass up. I received a lot of good entries. Many thanks to everyone who entered!

amysedarisrocks.com winners: If your apartment was on fire and Dusty was safe, what one thing would you want to rescue? (Janice Headley from Seattle, WA)

Oh, Sophie's choice... Well, the first thing that came to mind was ashes from my first rabbit, just because they're in a special box and I have personal things in it. But I know there's going to be something else that's valuable to me. I mean, everything in here is personal to me and has a story behind it.

Is that the box that Dusty chewed up?

Yeah, she's nibbled on it. But it's because of what's in it. It's a very personal thing. Not just the ashes, but some other stuff I have in it. And maybe next would be letters from my brother, David. I have them all in one box.

If some obsessed fan wanted to stalk you, and I don't mean me, where are 3 places you could easily be found? Be very specific. Days and times are helpful. (Ariana Viswanathan from Baltimore, MD)

That's funny, because someone has asked me questions similar to that--like where do I eat. I never go out to eat. You'll probably find me in one of the grocery stores or see me hanging out at the post office around the corner. I go there a lot. Um... They wouldn't... I never leave my apartment unless I have to. I just don't. It's the truth. It's so pathetic.

(*Honorable mention) What's the most elaborate prank you've ever played on anybody? (Holly Thorpe from Lansing, MI)

Well, the fatty suit with my dad. David wrote about it in Me Talk Pretty One Day. Definitely. That was a good one.

Okay, the next two questions are for Jerri Blank...

Out of all your past mistakes and dalliances, which disaster do your consider your greatest triumph? (Jon Leslie from Ventura, CA)

(In Jerri voice) Ramon... That's all I'm gonna say... Ramon... (as Amy) Because it's like, what is it? Who knows? That's all that Jerri ever says... Ramon... The donkey... So it would just be Ramon.

It's like, God, it's a donkey... You probably don't want to know any more.

Yeah! That's what it is. You've gotta use your imagination.

Fast forward 10 years to Jerri Blank's high school reunion: where will she be and what has she become? (Jamie Hawkins from Mequon, WI)

Well, Jerri would still be in the same situation. She'd never move forward. She'd still be in school. At one point we talked about doing either an episode or the movie about being at a class reunion and all the teachers would assume that Jerri would be, like, a teacher. It would be like, yeah, I'm back in school... Oh God... Poor thing, you know? But in real life, I guess she'd do what Florrie Fisher did--went around and tried to talk teens into not doing drugs.

Florrie Fisher's scary.

Isn't she scary? Yeah.

I love that, though. And it's great because she just sits there and smokes.

Yeah, I know... And looks like Mike Dukakis.

Okay, those were the contest questions. The rest are just for you. So, Strangers With Candy was the first time you actually headlined a movie, and you had to do the press junket, all of the interviews and public appearances to promote it--all of that stuff--more than ever before. What was that experience like?

Well, because it was Letterman's company and because it was Paul [Dinello] and Stephen [Colbert], it made it easy to do because I like them. That always makes everything easier because I'm bad at that kind of thing. Or the pressure--where people want you to be funny--because I hate stuff like that. I'm not a stand-up and I don't consider myself a comedian, so I always take things like that seriously. It was interesting, but I had 2 days where I had 25 interviews back-to-back each day. And it was like if somebody was doing this on your forehead (pokes herself on the forehead repeatedly)--the same questions over and over and over again. The second day, it was around interview #12, and I had 13 more, and I just left my apartment. I couldn't take it anymore and I walked out. I walked around my neighborhood and I came back, and they rescheduled them for different times. I just said I can't do this. I was about to pull my hair out. And that's why I liked the TV show [Strangers With Candy]--because you had to discover it to be a fan. We weren't out there pushing it in your face, and I like things like that. So, I did learn a lot. I also found myself thinking it's okay to repeat yourself because they're asking the same questions. Some of them aren't even listening to what they're asking. They'll say, "I didn't see the film, I'm not familiar with the series, but what was it like going from TV to film?" You're like, come on, man. I learned that if I'm on the other end and I'm interviewing somebody, it's important to do your homework.

Yeah, I was going to say is--because I read all of those interviews, of course--it seems like they just go online--

Yeah, they redo interviews.

Like, they'd just go online, read other interviews and ask the exact same questions.

Yeah, but I can see why some of them would ask the exact same questions. But, you try to make it sound fresh. So then Paul [Dinello] and I started doing interviews together and that was fun because we had each other to work off of. That made it a lot more fun and entertaining. You could say, "Yeah, Paul," and just put it off on that person. So I enjoyed doing those, but it was hard to do that. One thing I do like about Strangers is that it's not for everyone. I enjoy talking to the people who didn't like it just as much the ones who did, and a bad review doesn't bother me. It's not for everybody. That's okay. So, that was a good thing--that I didn't get wrapped up in worrying whether someone's gonna like it or not. Same thing with the book. I don't care what anyone else thinks about it. It matters how I feel.

You mentioned in an interview that you did for Venus magazine that people often perceive you the wrong way. You said that you'll be in the grocery store and someone will come up to you and try to relate to something you said or something you talked about on TV, and you're standing there thinking, like, "No, you've got it all wrong." So, what are some of the most common misconceptions that people have about you?

I think that some people think that I make a lot of money and I don't. I don't have any money. I think that sometimes people come over and expect me to be a junkie whore and I'm not. Or they say, "Oh, I'm so surprised you're doing this hospitality book." But if you know me, you know that this is so me. And that's true of everybody, which is why I don't like to be put in a box. I don't call myself an actress or a comedian, because then you'll expect that from me and I'll have to deliver it. So, I think just the fact that you can go from Strangers With Candy to doing a hospitality book, people just think that's weird. But that reminds me, it's like today, I was in the grocery store and I wanted to come up with a cocktail for this evening's festivities. So, I was like, ugh, what am I gonna make? And I was looking at all these juices, and so I asked the guy next to me, excuse me, do you think if I took lemonade and cranberry and this blood orange juice, that would be too... So we had this conversation--

No, that sounds good!

That's exactly what he said. He goes, That sounds good. I said, well, there will be vodka in it. He goes, yeah, I know, that sounds good. I said thank you and he goes, "Oh, by the way, I'm a huge fan." But it's so funny because I was thinking that I bother people more than they bother me. Because Jerri's such a disguise kit, I never get stopped. I am oblivious to that happening, because I don't get recognized a lot. So, the more you put yourself out there doing something straight like Letterman or whatever, then I'm like, oh, they see me.

You often talk about how much you love eBay. What's your favorite thing you've bought on eBay and what's the most unusual thing you've won on it?

Hmm.. I'm not into eBay... When I first learned about it, yes, but now I very seldom go on eBay. Clothes and shoes never work on eBay. It's always a major disappointment. I think it's funny when you get something and you open the box and it reeks of cigarette smoke and it's supposed to come from a smoke-free home. And the size is never the same. So, I'm not on eBay much. But the last thing I got off eBay... I got it for Paul Dinello for his birthday... It's an Indian--how to do an Indian paint set for your face, so it's kind of racist. You know, they've got the yellow... It's like a picture of an Indian, with the different paints, and it's how to do your face as an Indian. I got one here at a thrift store in New York and Paul loved it but I didn't want to give him mine, so I got one for him. You know, eBay is kind of cheating, too. I'd rather find something and discover it on my own. The paint set is the last thing I was really crazy about and I know Paul will freak out when he gets it.

CONTINUED>>


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