tv review

At Home With Amy Sedaris Is a Bizarre Comfort

Photo: Phillip V Caruso/Turner

At Home With Amy Sedaris does not offer any useful cooking tips. It will not make you better at crafting or decorating or any of the things traditionally associated with maintaining a lovely home. But this show, whose second season debuted this week on TruTV, is not here to inspire you or guide you through the process of KonMari-ing your sock drawer. It’s here to let Amy Sedaris be weird, and Amy Sedaris, bless her, never runs out of weird.

Sedaris’s sketch-comedy series, which consists of segments like “Crafting Corner” and recurring visits from Amy’s friend Tony the Knife Man, played by David Pasquesi, isn’t a send-up of cooking and makeover shows so much as a bizarro version of them. “I always run all my business decisions by my knives,” Tony explains to a confused teenager in the season premiere while Amy nods her approval. “They let me know who to trust, who to haggle with, and who to stab.” This is typical of the kind of advice one gets from Sedaris, her regulars, and the many high-profile actors who swing by in each episode to embody the cuckoo guests on Amy’s show within the show. (This season, those actors include Rose Byrne, Matthew Broderick, Justin Theroux, Campbell Scott, and Ellie Kemper, among others.)

But the best thing about At Home With Amy Sedaris is that it’s a vehicle largely driven by its star. Co-created by Sedaris and Paul Dinello, who also worked together on Sedaris’s beloved Strangers With Candy, At Home gives the actress the opportunity to assume multiple personalities, including Pattie Hogg, Amy’s nosy neighbor with the hairdo that’s been Aquanetted into outer space; Ronnie Vino, the “regional-wine lady” who does not seem to know much about wine but has a very catchy signature song; and Amy, the hostess who can’t get through one sunny, DIY vignette without something going awry. Sedaris attacks every alter ego with the vanity-free, game-for-anything spirit of Carol Burnett, and facial expressions as malleable as silly putty. Actually, sometimes her facial expressions are literally silly putty; in season two’s fourth episode, “Makeover,” the prosthetic cheekbones on her shockingly contoured, made-over face eventually slide all the way down to her chin. And yet, given Sedaris’s own love of baking and craftiness and the fact that At Home is set in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area where she grew up, there’s an underlying sense that this show is a cockeyed reflection of who Sedaris really is.

The HGTV programs and Today show segments that earnestly share decorating tips and kitchen life hacks can often seem just plain silly, and At Home With Amy Sedaris captures that beautifully. One example: a segment in which Denny Sharks (James Urbaniak of Review and Difficult People) stops by to show off his collection of hats made specially for certain types of fruit. “Oh, a raspberry beret!” Amy says gleefully as she looks at a tiny chapeau perched atop a purple berry. “That’s a tam o’shanter,” Denny replies, completely unamused.

The other thing that makeover, décor, and cooking shows often do is make everything on the show seem achievable, which is supposed to leave viewers feeling energized and happy. But underneath that feeling lies a subtle sense of pressure, especially on women, to replicate what they’ve just watched onscreen. If you can’t or aren’t willing to do what the lady from Real Simple magazine just told Savannah Guthrie is real simple to do, there must be [extreme demonic voice] something wrong with you.

While At Home With Amy Sedaris isn’t an explicit spoof, it obviously understands the tension I just described. Which is why when Amy decides to bake a nice pie with a fan who won a contest (Byrne), the fan (a) makes a much better-looking lattice crust than Amy does and (b) also turns out to be a psycho. And it’s why Amy’s attempt to make a hat out of household items winds up getting her trapped in a freezer. (We’ve all been there, am I right?) And it’s also why, when Amy attempts to declutter a closet, she finds the ghost of a sea captain who looks like Justin Theroux living in there. You don’t see that kinda shit on Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. But if you did, you would not get rid of the sea captain who looks like Justin Theroux, because he definitely sparks joy.

The absurdity of this series underlines the absurdity in striving for domestic perfection. Which, in its way, is as comforting as the messages conveyed on any other home-makeover or baking show. But above all else, the main selling point of At Home With Amy Sedaris is that it’s just plain strange as hell. Strangeness sparks its own kind of joy.

At Home With Amy Sedaris Is a Bizarre Comfort