Amy Sedaris Interview – Simple Times
As soon as I laid eyes on Amy’s new book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, I knew I had to grill her on it. I chatted with Amy about her latest masterpiece, and also asked her some questions from, well, you guys!
Interview by Katie Richardson
All photos by Danielle St. Laurent
“Nothing ruins a lazy afternoon of crafting quite like being struck by a cottonmouth snake. Be sure to line the baseboards of your craft room with professional grade snake snares.”
-Simple Times, written by Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello
Katie (AmySedarisRocks.com): Well, first of all, Simple Times. I just love the book so much, but itâ€™s soooo much more â€œout thereâ€ than I Like You. Itâ€™s just off the wall. How did you come up with this stuff? What was your inspiration?
Amy Sedaris: When I worked on the last section of I Like Youâ€”the pantyhose crafts and good ideasâ€”it was fun to have that little crafts section. It wouldâ€™ve been bigger, but I didnâ€™t have room for it. Thatâ€™s why the instructions werenâ€™t there. So, I knew in the back of my head that I wouldnâ€™t mind pursuing this. Maybe thereâ€™s a craft book down the road. But I Like You just wore me out, so I was like, whatever. I might do the book; I might not. Thatâ€™s where it kind of felt like I wanted to keep going with that section. Then I took a year to just think about the craft book, the ideas, and how I wanted it to be laid out, because craft books are really boring. You canâ€™t even steal from them; theyâ€™re so boring. I didnâ€™t even finish one. I just didnâ€™t know how I was going to divide the book up. So, then one morning, I woke up and thought, â€œOh, crafting for Jesus!â€ And I knew I liked the idea of crafting with disabilities, and that excited me a lot. Thatâ€™s when a red flag went up and I thought, â€œOkay, the whole book will be on that.â€ But it just turned out to be a really long chapter. So, crafts Iâ€™m interested in, I just kind of figured out what chapters they would be. Like, sausage making. I wanted to do that because I wanted to make a real sausage wig, which we ended up not doing. We ended up making that log cabin instead. The only reason the chapter is in the book is because of [the wig].
When I was reading the making love chapter, I remembered when I Like You came out. You said that your dad was mortified by the section on vaginal cleansing, and the picture of the naked woman. I canâ€™t rememberâ€”when he gave the book to people, did he tear the page out, or put a fig leaf sticker over the drawing?
He put a fig leaf sticker over it.
So, I have to ask. Your dad was so embarrassed by that. What does he think of this entire chapter that looks like something straight out of an old edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves?
He wonâ€™t have as hard a time because itâ€™s not as graphic, except for the little illustrations that Justin Theroux did. Those are the parts that look dirty. I donâ€™t think heâ€™s going to have an issue with the pictures because weâ€™re wearing robes. I mean, itâ€™s different. But Justinâ€™s drawings are a little risquÃ©.
It was funny, I read that and thought, â€œOh, I have to ask what her dad thought.â€
He hasnâ€™t seen the book yet. Heâ€™ll be here next week.
So, what was the process like for putting together Simple Times compared to when you created I Like You, since the books look quite a bit alike? Was it easier this time, since you had a better idea of what you were doing? And I know that Paul Dinello worked on the first book, but was this more of an equal collaboration, orâ€¦?
It was very different. I Like You is a little bit more personal, and Simple Times felt like a second child, I would imagineâ€”when people talk about that. Like, I did know the ropes, I kind of knew what was happening schedule-wise, I was little bit more relaxed in certain situations, and a little bit more open to suggestions, and things like that. So, I had some input. And Paul Dinelloâ€”we co-wrote Simple Times, and we co-wrote I Like You, too. But a lot of times in Simple Timesâ€”I donâ€™t know anything about making love. I know nothing about it. I completely asked Paul to do that chapter. I think I contributed a couple words to it, and of course I did all the crafts, but I gave him that whole chapter to do. We would work together on some of the things, and he would just do some things all alone. And then, I wanted it to be the exact same size and everything as I Like You. I wanted it to be like a part two. Itâ€™s the same amount of pages and stuff.
What are your favorite crafts from the book, and what are your favorite characters, or looks, from it?
I like all of the characters. I enjoyed doing the lady in the backâ€”she says, â€œSupport your local artists.â€ She has adult acne. I love that look. All of the parts were fun to do. We were just fooling around. Jesus was funâ€”doing Jesus and the angel. Those were the only two characters I wasnâ€™t high for, unfortunately. The Indian was fun. They were all fun. Iâ€™ve just always been obsessed with costumes, and I met Adam Selman when we did the Dolly Parton video (Better Get to Livinâ€™). Heâ€™s a costume-maker, so we instantly became friends, and he did all of the costumes in the book. We would collaborate on the ideas. Iâ€™d say, â€œI want an Indian outfit,â€ and he would have the freedom to do what he wanted to do.
Were there any crafts that you tried to make for the book that just went horribly wrong?
No, nothing that went horribly wrong. Some of them didnâ€™t work out, like the rock candy. There were a couple of them that just failed, but that was fine, and I just said they failed. But I enjoyed making the marshmallow with glitter toothpicks. I liked the miniature knitted sweaterâ€”that was really beautiful. I liked the sausagesâ€¦ I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a craft in the book that I donâ€™t really like.
I like the decorative crap caddy. I remember when you sent me a PDF of the book galley last summer. I was sitting at my computer, drinking something, and when I read the section on the decorative crap caddy, I actually did a spit-take.
Oh, yeah. I love the word â€œshut-in.â€ I was so happy to find that word, and then I just made [the decorative crap caddy]. I thought, what would a shut-in need? Somebody left that container and I just put stars on it. Nothing goes to waste!
Simple Times talks a lot about the dangers of crafting, and perils in the craft room. Whatâ€™s the worst crafting-related injury youâ€™ve ever sustained?
When I was little, I remember putting my hand on a hot plate. I think you did these shrinkage things [on it]. It was in the sixties, I was little, and I was visiting my uncle. It was similar to a hot plate, though. I just set my hand on it for a long time, and it burned it. It was really, really painful. It really hurt. But I just wanted to put that chapter in there [about crafting safety and injuries] because people always have really funny crafting accident stories and injuries. And same with stretching. I talked to a woman who did seed art, and she would always complain that her neck was sore. That gave me the idea to do some kind of crafting exercise.
The Tarheel Sausage Cookies. Iâ€™ve gotta know more about these. Everybodyâ€™s putting bacon in everything now, like candied bacon on cupcakes, but Iâ€™ve never heard of putting sausage in anything like that.
Itâ€™s a pretty common cookie.
Yeah. I was at a wedding in North Carolina, and thatâ€™s what they had. It was like a chocolate chip cookie without the chocolate chips, and they had added sausage to it.
Just fry it, crumble it up, and add that to your dough?
Yep, thatâ€™s it exactly.
I guess you donâ€™t have to grease the sheet.
Noooo, you do not have to grease the sheet. No greasing the sheet!
Thatâ€™s wild. Now, I remember when I interviewed you in 2006, before I Like You came out, you had met with a couple companies and talked about doing a product line to go along with the book.Â You ended up selling the fake cakes and jars of jimmies through Fred Flare. Will you be doing some kind of product line for Simple Times, or is that something you would consider?
I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ I donâ€™t think so. The book is what it is. I mean, I make stuff, and then when I go to some of the readings, Iâ€™ll sell it. Like, thereâ€™s a big craft fair coming up (the BUST Holiday Craftacular), and Iâ€™m going to sell stuff there. But I think thatâ€™s about it.
You donâ€™t want to market decorative fly strips and rusty nail wind chimes?
No, itâ€™s too much to pursue, and then for it to be exactly rightâ€¦ thatâ€™s just about something else. For I Like You, it was nice because after the book came out, I started to see things aroundâ€”where people were inspired by the book. I think it will be the same for this. Somebody else can just do it.
So, now that youâ€™re finished with the craft book and youâ€™re sick of crafts, are you going to keep the craft room in your apartment, or convert it into something else?
Well, the craft room was the babyâ€™s roomâ€”I call it the babyâ€™s roomâ€”and I made it look like a babyâ€™s room first. And then I turned it into a craft room. Then, after the book was done, I changed some of the hardware on my cabinets, put some fresh paint up, I kept some books, got rid of some other books, rearranged my bulletin board, and got a new rug for it. So, the room already looks completely different. Thereâ€™s a rocking chair in the middle of it now, and thatâ€™s where I do all of my interviews and stuff.
Youâ€™re not going to make it a room for Dusty (Amyâ€™s rabbit)?
No, she comes in here sometimes. Thereâ€™s no door to it.
But youâ€™re not going to do Astroturf flooring, and build all kinds of levelsâ€”give Dusty her own room?
No, sheâ€™s got the whole apartment. I mean, she has the whole place.
Whatâ€™s your next book going to be about? My mom wants to know if youâ€™d consider doing a book on home decorating?
I was thinking that if I did another book, it would be about decorating.
On which TV show would you love to guest star?
Oh, God, I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ thereâ€™s so many good ones. Thereâ€™s some I watchâ€”I like Amy Poehlerâ€™s show a lot.
Parks and Recreation? Thatâ€™s my favorite show on right now. I would LOVE for you to guest star on that.
Yeah, that would be a fun show to do. And then, there are shows that I like that I just know I would neverâ€¦ I mean, I love Bill Mahrâ€™s show, but I would be too scared to be on it. But I love watching it. And I love Friday Night Lightsâ€¦ I like Mad Men. Iâ€™m sure there are others, I just canâ€™t think of them right now.