A Public Service Announcement About Amy Sedaris
By Tiffany Razzano
Comedienne Amy Sedaris, best known for her character Jerri Blank, a strangely loveable 40-something ex-con, ex-junkie and high school freshman from the cult-favorite Strangers With Candy, has shown how diverse her comedic talent is.
Hot on the heels of her surprise NY Times Best Seller, the irreverent I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which focuses on entertaining guests, Sedaris has also made an appearance in Shrek 3. Portraying Cinderella as an anal-retentive neat freak, Sedaris joined Shrek and Fiona on the side of the good guys.
"I really like animation," Sedaris said. "And I love doing voiceovers because you can be really broad. I got to play a princess. I have seen all the Shreks and like them very much."
I Like You was her biggest project though, taking a year-and-a-half to complete and released last fall. Though it took some people by surprise, Sedaris says the topic is close to her. "I wanted to create a project that I felt I knew a lot about and I wanted to be in charge and hire my friends to help me bring my vision alive," she said. "I cook a lot and eat a lot. I wanted to do a book on something I know."
Sedaris says her book is very visual because she wanted it to be for both those who like to read and those who don't. "So if you can't read, or you don't want to, you can figure it out by looking at the pictures," she said.
Shot entirely in her apartment, I Like You was an ambitious project, born from interests she's had her entire life. She said she cooked a lot growing up, often very interested in food combinations, particularly those on the lunch menus at her local public school. She also was interested in crafts due to her involvement with the Girl Scouts.
So I Like You was an extremely personal project for her. "The process was amazing," she said. "I forgot people might purchase it. I was just doing it for the craft of it. I was surprised anyone bought it."
Sedaris has some advice for fledgling entertainers: "Be prepared. Plan to be as prepared as possible so there are no surprises. Once the doors swing open, there's nothing you can do." She admits to having dropped food before and just pressing on.
Other than being prepared, Sedaris suggests getting your guests as drunk as possible and also making it look as though putting your meal or part together took no effort at all. "When you open the door, you want it to look like you used witchcraft," she said. "You don't want it to look like a mess. When the door swings open, you want it to look presentable, like it was no big deal."
After getting her start with Chicago's Second City comedy troupe, Strangers With Candy, which debuted on Comedy Central, ran for three seasons between April 1999 and October 2000. Created with Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, the character of Jerri Blank was based after Florrie Fischer, a reformed drug addict from the '70s who did public service announcements.
"I could not believe the woman," Sedaris said. "You could tell she was lying and was never off drugs. It inspired me."
In 2005, the trio came back with the Strangers With Candy movie, which reintroduced Jerri Blank to the world. "It's always fun to work with Paul and Stephen," Sedaris said. "It wasn't that hard getting back into the Jerri character. The hard part was that it was 100 degrees out and I had the wig and the fatty suit on and I still had stitches in my mouth from a surgery. So it was more painful than difficult. Good times!"
As for the future of Jerri Blank, Sedaris is uncertain. "We like the following it has," she said. "Misfits and outcasts. I don't have anything planned for Jerri right now, but like Paul Dinello says, she's like a rash and you never know when it will reappear."
Published July 1, 2007
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