BY JONATHAN VALANIA Pretty girls aren’t funny for the same reason that pretty boys aren’t funny: they don’t have to be. Form fits function, and function answers to need. Pretty people rarely need for much, least of all the ability to win friends and disarm foes with a few well-placed yuks. It’s basic Darwin. Lucille Ball? Phyllis Diller?
Roseanne Barr? Funny fuckin’ ladies. Pretty? Not so much. Amy Sedaris knows this. Her career puts the lie to that premise, by the way, but to do so she has to put on a fat suit and give herself an overbite, problem hair and a Herman Munster pallor. Or at least she did in the past — the past being, of course, Strangers With Candy, wherein Sedaris and cohorts Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello portrayed high school life as a hellish funhouse full of clueless narcissism, cruel intentions and fag jokes. In the process, they raised gross insensitivity to an art form. Albeit the kind of art form that makes milk shoot out one’s nose, which is why it never winds up in museums. Too messy. Check it out on DVD, it’s still not too late to laugh and laugh and laugh at, well, the misfortune of others. Her latest jawn is a gorgeously subversive cookbook called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. Although the recipes are legit and demonstrably yummy, it’s the satiny, high-kitsch Technicolor photo spreads and Jacqueline Susann-chic portraiture by Todd Oldham, Andrew Eccles and ex-Pavementer Mark Ibold that gives the whole thing a woozy, Betty Crocker gets Lucy in the sky-eyed in the Valley of the Dolls feel. And you know what? Phawker has read this book and we are here to tell you that Amy Sedaris can be drop-dead gorgeous and really fuckin’ funny at the same time. It’s true. And yes, we so wanna do her. Because it’s important to have dreams.
Phawker: First off, you look fabulous these days. Your green pallor has been replaced with a healthy tanning bed glow, your inbred overbite has seemingly self-corrected and your ass has never looked less big!
Amy Sedaris: [laughs uproariously, obviously charmed and flattered, probably getting horny]
Phawker: Seriously, laying off the meth and serial abortions has worked wonders.
Amy Sedaris: [more uproarious laughter, then soft, possibly horny cooing] Thanks!
Phawker: You’re bringing back that ‘run around in just your pantyhose’ look, which I want to thank you for.
Amy Sedaris: [audibly flushed, possibly a little sweaty] Oh, you’re welcome.
Phawker: How would you describe your new look? It’s so Jacqueline Susann, like you live in the Valley of The Dolls. You know Richard Hell said it was too late to fall in love with Sharon Tate but I think you’re living proof that he’s wrong.
Amy Sedaris: [changing the subject seamlessly] Well, I took the book extremely seriously. There are no joke recipes. All the crafts are the things that I like, all the props came from my house. I hired a team to build things for me. It was like I art directed it and I was in charge, it was like I had magical powers. If any of the food looks a little sweaty it’s because we shot it in the middle of summer.
Phawker: Have you ever seen Valley of the Dolls? Its a terrible movie…
Amy Sedaris: Yeah, but I love the book. I still think it’s a great gift idea for a sixteen year old.
Phawker: Yeah, you and Mark Foley. Before we get into your book, I wanna talk a little bit about the men in your life.
Amy Sedaris: It’s a very short story.
Phawker: Let’s start with Colbert. Did you have any idea that he was going turn out to be such a right-wing windbag? Seriously, he’s as bad as O’Reilly. What a dick!…
Amy Sedaris: He’s so hilarious. I am so happy for Stephen. Neither Paul [Dinello] nor I were surprised that it would all happen for him.
Phawker: What about Mr. Jellineck? What’s he doing now? You know him and Noblet were totally doing it doncha, “befriending” each other in truckstop men’s rooms over and over again? But then you probably figured that out once it came out on DVD and you could really see all their little monkey shines going on behind your back.
Amy Sedaris: I knew it way before, as far back as the Second City days.
Phawker: I’m worried about your brother, David, people are starting to talk. When’s he gonna settle down with a nice girl and get married?
Amy Sedaris: We’re all saying the same thing.
Phawker: Let’s talk about your book. You suggest filling up your medicine cabinet with marbles to bust nosy party guests that go snooping thru your shit, either to find some embarrassing rash cream or steal your vicodins. Did you ever do this? And if so, who did you bust?
Amy Sedaris: I did, my friend Jackie Hoffman. We all laughed she said she wasn’t going in there looking for drugs, but anybody that has drugs knows not to put them in the medicine cabinet.
Phawker: If I opened your medicine cabinet right now what would I find?
Amy Sedaris: You would find a small can of Hershey’s chocolate in the can. I did a play a long time ago where we gave away canned food to the poor and I saved that one can.
Phawker: But why is it in the medicine cabinet?
Amy Sedaris: I don’t know, it just seemed like the right place to put it…[opening her medicine cabinet]…Let’s see there is some mouthwash in there, deodorant [in sex kitten voice] I’ve got a Secret, it’s a roll on. I’ve got a facial mask and some Rescue Remedy. If you get stressed out, it’s some kind of herbal thing somebody gave me. Herbal shit doesn’t work, I should just throw it out. And then I have dental floss. I floss twice a day.
Phawker: Glad to hear it. Controlling odors is one of the burdens of good hosting that nobody wants to talk about, you live with your rabbit, Dusty, and I see from page 96 that, like any sensible 45-year-old woman, you have a bong. Which presents more of an odor challenge, the bong or the rabbit?
Amy Sedaris: Oh, the bong, hands down. I actually don’t smoke out of bong, I just have it around. I can’t stand the dirty water.
Phawker: When I was a kid, I was a magician and I had a rabbit and one morning I went out to feed him and he was dead. My mom said it was old age. Turns out the next door neighbor’s German shepherd got loose and wrung his neck. My mom only told me the truth a couple years ago, and I am well into adulthood. She said she thought I could finally handle the truth.
Amy Sedaris: Oh shit, that’s awful! You know it’s funny, when anyone finds out I have a rabbit they tell me a story about having a rabbit as a kid and it always dies some horrible death.
Phawker: I’m thinking about suing. Not just my neighbor, but possibly my mother. You know, I went on a date once with a girl that had a rabbit and she told me they slept together. They didn’t ‘do it’, I don’t think, more just spooning and whatnot. Needless to say, we didn’t go out on a second date.
Amy Sedaris: I sleep with my rabbit and we don’t do it either.
Phawker: Do you spoon?
Amy Sedaris: No! She sleeps at the foot of the bed. That way I wake up to her and she wakes up to me.
Phawker: Everyone has a record they put on to clear the house of unwanted guests. What’s yours?
Amy Sedaris: I was just thinking about that the other day, I would probably just turn the music off. But if I had to pick I would put on the Best Of Greece, which is enough to drive anybody out of the house. That or acid rock. Normally when I’m home alone I don’t have music on. I’m not very good when it comes to music. I’m just not good…I don’t have to listen to it a lot. I could live without it.
Phawker: How bizarre. OK, one last thing, let’s end on a more serious note, as I said up in the intro — wait until you read it, it’s one of my best — with Strangers With Candy you raised gross insensitivity to a new pinnacle of funny, which is really saying something these days. Sort of comedy as cruel shoes. But I’m not sure people know that you are also capable of the tenderest of mercies. That is if “tenderest” is a word. I read somewhere that you had a boyfriend that had a series of strokes and you nursed him for three years while he learned to speak and walk again. You know, most people would have walked away from that.
Amy Sedaris: I don’t really talk about it that much because I don’t want to exploit the story. You know, you don’t really think about it when you’re doing it. Yeah, I think it helped shape me. That’s where my obsession with hospitals and rehabilitation centers and sick people, it just opened up a whole different world to me. That life.
Phawker: How old were you?
Amy Sedaris: I was 23. We went out for six years. Three before the stroke and three after. It was almost like two different relationships. We were both different people after that. He went back to Greece and I went to Chicago and that’s where [my career] all started.
Phawker: Enough about you, say something nice about Phawker. Say it’s your most favorite web site in the whole world.
Amy Sedaris: It’s my most favorite website in the whole world. I don’t know what I would do without it.
Phawker: Oh, go on. You’re just saying that because I asked you to.
Amy Sedaris: Yes, I am.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was conducted in October of 2006, upon the publication of I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, which comes out in paperback this week.