Amy Sedaris Makes Her Childhood TV Dreams Come True

sedarisOther than perhaps when she’s playing Jerri Blank on Strangers with Candy, Amy Sedaris has never had too much of an issue with looking or coming off as wholesome. She seems like she would be a perfect fit as the host of a Martha Stewart-type home & living show, so that’s exactly what she set out to make.

Decades ago.

A childhood dream finally realized, At Home with Amy Sedaris is something she began to seriously pursue just after Strangers came to an end after three seasons. Now 15 years later, it’s finally premiering on truTV with Sedaris comfortably leading the show as the matriarch of a scripted crafts and cooking program that aims to be something that she is perfect for and what Strangers definitely was not: wholesome.

What can people expect from At Home?

I think they can expect some good old-fashioned home entertainment. There’s gonna be some really good actors on the show playing experts, some really fantastic costumes, wigs, makeup, and a beautiful set, and you might walk away with a few crafting and cooking tips.

Were these tips based on your own real-life experiences with cooking and crafting?

Yes — things I’ve made in the past or always wanted to make. I pretty much stick to stuff I’ve always cooked, although I do make paella on the show, which I’ve never made in real life.

What are some of the inspirations for characters in the show, either that you play or that your guest stars play?

We were inspired by the actors who were going to play the characters. Like Paul Giamatti would be a great businessman, or Michael Shannon would be a great murderer. I play a Southern woman because I grew up in the South, and that was inspired by every Southern woman I’ve ever met. Some characters I’ve played in and out of my life. And I was really inspired by the old cooking shows like Galloping Gourmet, Julia Child’s, Two Fat Ladies, Lawrence Welk, Red Skelton, Ernie Kovacs, Tammy Faye Baker, all the old shows.

Is there any sort of narrative to the show?

Each show has a theme and then that show revolves around that theme. So if there’s an episode on fish, or cooking for one, or grieving, then it’s all underneath that theme, and then we have recurring characters.

You’re in the voice cast for BoJack Horseman as Princess Carolyn, and that is such a unique comedy, especially in how people react to it and describe it as “dark” in the best ways. How do those reactions make you feel?

I haven’t followed too much of the press around BoJack other than I’ve just heard that it’s been great. We’ve been so busy on our show that I haven’t gone back to read anything, but I just love working on that show. Those guys are so good with doing voices and it just blows my mind every time I do a read-through. I’m in New York during the read-throughs, they’re all in LA, and I can just hear them laughing and then I just don’t know where those voices come from. They’re just the funnest group of people that I think I’ve ever worked with. I love Will Arnett.

You’ve done a lot of work over the last 20 years and it’s been a varied amount of work across the spectrum, but did you ever feel like “I’ve had my big break” or “Now I’m a success” or do you think it doesn’t really work like that?

I do think about things as goals. The last goal I had was to move to New York to do plays with my brother, and I did that. That was a big thing. I haven’t really had a goal since then except doing this TV show is a goal I’ve had since I was little. I have to remind myself that I actually did it. We’re still editing and the premiere’s coming up and I said to myself, “I wonder why I’m not more excited.” I was thinking it must be because we’re still working on the show, so it doesn’t feel like we’re done with it yet. I was thinking what advice I would give to a young person and it’s just that the fact that I actually got this show on TV is pretty incredible, because I’ve been seriously trying to make it happen since 2002. I made the decision to do this show after Strangers with Candy and it’s taken this long for me to actually do it. And that’s a big long-term goal, and I have to pat myself on the back for finally making that happen.

Next goal?

I want to get two rabbits. Sometime before I die. I’ve always had one rabbit, but one time before I die I’m gonna get two rabbits at the same time, damnit.

What’s your take on the state of TV shows today, when there’s a huge amount of availability in terms of places to air them or stream them compared to when you were able to get Strangers with Candy on the air almost 20 years ago?

I liked doing Strangers back in 1999 because Comedy Central never really got behind the show, but I think that worked to our advantage because we were just out in the woods making each other laugh. We didn’t even know we had an audience for that show until we did a book called Wigfield. The way that whole project came together was just so perfect for me, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert, because all we did was try to make each other laugh and there wasn’t a lot of pressure. And with this show, I think it’s great that there are a lot of places to go pitch shows, I’m glad there’s a million places to do it. It’s still hard to get a show on TV no matter what. Even though there are more places, it’s not an easy thing to do.

You also had Strangers with Candy: Retardation, a Celebration, which would be a pretty controversial title today. What’s your take on how things have changed in that regard?

Well, I know, I can’t imagine getting Strangers with Candy made now. I think we pioneered getting away with that kind of stuff, and now I wouldn’t want to do it, because everyone’s doing it now and you can get away with so much in a lot of ways, especially in animation. So my goal was to take this show and try and go more wholesome with it. I wanted a Lawrence Welk or America’s Funniest Home Videos feeling to this show — you could just sit back and watch it and be entertained. When I watch Bob Ross, I love the feeling. I love how I feel after watching an episode of that. I feel drunk and dizzy and just hypnotized. I wanted people to get that feeling from this show: sit back, take it in, and look at beautiful things and watch people do stupid stuff. I wanted people to walk away with that kind of feeling and not worry about the other stuff. I don’t have a desire to say “retard” on this show, it’s not really what I was going for.

You’re a self-starter. What would you say to maybe someone out there who dreams of having a career like yours, in terms of how to go about finding that path?

I always tell kids, if you really want to do it then you do it. If you really want to be in theater then you put together a group of people and you put on plays. You don’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. You don’t spend all your money on getting headshots and going door to door. If you just do what you love doing, then it’s gonna come to you. It’s different if you go after it. That’s what I did. I wasn’t gonna get picked last for a team, I’d just start my own team and then I would hire people and bring people on. That’s always been my motto. If you want it to happen, then you make it happen and just do what you love doing.

At Home with Amy Sedaris debuts on truTV tonight at 10:30pm.

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