STRAIGHT PEOPLE WE LOVE — Amy Sedaris
BY DANIEL KUSNER
The relationship between a gay guy and his siblings can go either way: They get along or they don’t.
Twisted humor helps bind family ties. At least everyone can have a good laugh.
Humorous essayist David Sedaris often writes about his wacky, beloved family. His sister Amy frequently makes cameos
In “Me Talk Pretty One Day” (Little, Brown and Company, 2000), the “Shiner Like a Diamond” essay captures Amy’s fondness for character transformation and what David describes as her “multiple personality disorder ... She was Sybil but with a better sense of humor.”
At the age of 12, Amy pretended she was Penny Midland — her parents’ stylish, deep-voiced friend who worked at an art gallery. David once walked into the family kitchen and found his little sister dressed in a caftan and a white pageboy wig. Amy was on the phone with her surprised dad, who was at his office. While young Amy impersonated Penny Midland, she started propositioning her own father with lines she collected from “Guiding Light.”
Amy's prank wasn't useless. She's an established and gifted character actor.
Her most notable work has been Comedy Central’s “Strangers With Candy,” where she plays Jerri Blank, a former teen runaway who, after a lifetime of prostitution and drug abuse, has returned to high school as a 46-year-old freshman
Although the 30-episode sitcom was cancelled, it still airs on Comedy Central. Nowadays, Amy keeps busy with plays she co-writes with David (they’ve penned seven so far). She’s also working on two books: a Cindy Sherman-like photography collection that she’s collaborating with Todd Oldham; and another book that she’s penning with her “Strangers with Candy” co-stars.
Recently Amy ended up in a politically incorrect snafu when she appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” When the host asked her thoughts concerning The Oscars, Amy said something along the lines of, “Oh, you mean ‘Showtime at the Apollo?’”
That eyebrow-raising (yet razor-sharp) line was edited from the program. Strangely enough, according to Entertainment Weekly, Arsenio Hall was on “The Tonight Show” that very same evening. Hall basically told the same joke, but his amusing comment made the airwaves.
“I don’t even want to talk about that. They didn’t even quote it right. But they edit stuff all the time on those shows. It was no big deal,” she says from her New York apartment.
Amy has no idea how her and Hall came up with the same joke on the same day.
“I certainly would never buy a joke off of somebody. It was just something I said off the cuff,” she continues.
While her brother writes numerous essays about Amy’s childhood, she has her own memories about David.
“I always think of them when I read one of his stories about our family. I’m like, ‘Hey, what about the time…? I just remember that he’d be really mean. David wouldn’t let us come into his room. He was always tape recording us. He’s put us in wheelbarrow and try to act like he was going to push us down a dirt pile. He was kind of mean like that, but in a fun way. We always had fun, but it was always mean-spirited,” she remembers.
And as for David coming out to his family, Amy says, “I don’t remember David ever struggling with being gay. It was always something that we probably already knew in the back of our head. He never had girlfriends or anything like that. So it was never a big deal.”
Besides baking pastries in the kitchen, Amy says she’s obsessed with fatty suits, bruise makeup, chemotherapy wigs, artificial limbs and fake teeth. She’s known for inhabiting somewhat pathetic characters for dramatic roles — or just for fun. Amy recently finished a run of “Wonder of the World,” a play that starred Sarah Jessica Parker.
“She’s really inspired me. She’s just so much of a lady. She always looks fashionable and very pretty. And she’s really nice to everybody,” Amy says. “I’m not creating a character based on her or anything. It was just really nice to be around someone like that.”
Back in 1995, Amy recounts a meeting with “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels.
“He wasn’t offering me anything. It was just a meeting. But ‘Saturday Night Live’ wasn’t anything that I was interested in. I was already doing exactly what I wanted to do, which was being in a play in New York. To be on that show — which would be a great opportunity — could almost be a step back. Like, to have to start at the bottom again. I already established what I wanted to do. I’d rather create my own show than go on a show like that.”
Daniel Kusner’s “Straight People We Love” column appears the fourth Friday of each month.
QTEXAS | 11.07.03