At Home With Amy Sedaris, now in its third season on TruTV, is the rare show that feels like a pure, uncut look into an artist’s mind. This particular artist’s mind just happens to be littered with meddling neighbors, flaccid hot dogs impaled on rakes, and a very cute baby orangutan named Huckleberry. Sedaris’s singular sketch comedy series is perhaps the perfect thing to watch in quarantine, because it’s a homemaking show that acknowledges how doing chores and adult crafting projects and baking in your home all day can feel ludicrous. It’s Pee-Wee’s Playhouse for broken adults. As she puts it in one episode: “I believe that visual chaos promotes intellectual growth.” We spoke to Amy Sedaris, who like all of us is at home, about At Home With Amy Sedaris.
How’s your rabbit, Tina, doing?
I put a little weight on her, so I’m taking her to this couple who watch her for me when I go out of town. I’m going to consider it like a fat camp, because they won’t give her the treats that I give her. I just need to get her waistline down a little bit, and I can’t do it. I’m constantly giving her treats. She wakes me up for it. She circles me at night for it like a little addict.
At Home With Amy Sedaris is a sketch show that goes off in these wacky directions, but it’s all based in one house: the kitchen, the craft room, sometimes the yard. What is it about the home that inspires so much of your comedy?
I’m just too old now for location shooting. And I grew up with an appreciation for set design. I like props. Since it was going to be a crafting, cooking show, I just felt like everything needed to be a craft or made. Like, “Oh, look, somebody hand-painted that! Somebody built that! Somebody made those flowers!” It was important for me to have everything on the show look like it was touched by a creative person.
At Home is definitely comfort viewing right now. Even though you make jokes like “Crafting, or scissoring, is the art of getting fucked in the ass with a glue stick.” That would make for a really cute cross-stitch.
We should’ve done that.
What percentage of stuff on-set is thrifted or vintage, versus made for the show?
It’s a good mix. I bring a U-Haul of my own stuff to set, so it takes me a while to set up. When it comes to shooting a scene, I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got that fake cigar, let’s go get it,” or, “I want to use this fake glass of wine that I got in Tokyo,” or, “I want to wear these bows that I’ve had since the 1960s.” So a lot of stuff is my own. Jason Singleton, who did the set, came to my apartment and took pictures, and we re-created the artwork that I have at home. My friend Adam Selman made a special bedspread, he made a nice rabbit hutch for me, he made the wallpaper in the bedroom. Todd Oldham, another friend of mine, came on and contributed to the set. You get people involved, just re-creating things I love.
Has quarantine been a good time for workshopping craft and recipe ideas?
Before quarantine, I got rid of a lot of craft supplies, because once you do a craft book, you get sick of having popsicle sticks in your house. But I do a few little things, like making potholders or my own little covers for Bic lighters. When I go out and there’s an audience, I like to sell them, just to make allowance money. But mostly just cooking. Cooking is where I’ve gotten creative.
Have you made a quarantine sourdough yet?
I don’t have the room! I don’t have a closet to put a bowl of bread in and let it rise. My place is jam-packed with stuff, and it’s not that big. What am I gonna do, sit at home and eat a loaf of bread by myself?
There’s often an underlying danger to the cheery crafts you make, like a garnish with some off-looking shrimp, or wind chimes made out of rusty nails. Do you think there’s a menacing undercurrent to that sort of Martha Stewart homemaker perfectionism?
We say our show is like Martha Stewart if she was being attacked by wild turkeys. It was a real craft back in the day, making a wind chime out of nails. I don’t know why I chose rusty nails. I made rusty-nail wind chimes for my Simple Times book, but you can’t find nails getting rusty anymore; they’re galvanized. I had to go on eBay, and there were a lot of weird people selling rusty nails. It’s just funny to me, like a wind chime made out of tuna fish can lids. I like stupid ideas and dumb ideas. Nothing makes me laugh harder than a bad idea.
My favorite craft from Simple Times is the “tampon ghosts” that are just tampons with googly eyes on them.
In my house, I’m always stepping on googly eyes. I keep finding them every time I clean up, or they’re stuck on the bottom of my shoe.
You play many characters on At Home. I want to ask about two of my favorites: Patty Hogg and Nutmeg. Who was your inspiration for Patty?
Patty Hogg is a combination of a lot of southern women that I grew up with. I didn’t even think of doing Patty for the show. I just started doing the voice, and the person I was with was like, “Let’s do more of that.” The hard part about doing her is, Patty’s face takes a lot of muscles. In this season, I do a Jerri Blank-type character, and in the same scene I’m doing Patty. The muscles I use for Jerri are completely opposite from the muscles I use for Patty, so my face is just on fire that whole episode.
I don’t know if a lot of people relate to Patty. It’s always fun to have that kind of person around. You just trust them. They’re gonna take care of everything. I can look at Patty and say, “Well, Patty looks really good for her age.” Whereas I look at me on the show, like, “Oh God, look how old I look.”
Nutmeg, meanwhile, has a Scotch tape facelift. What’s going on there?
When you’re younger and you stick tape on your nose and pull your nose up, I just never stopped doing it. I’ve always wanted to do Nutmeg in something, but all the meetings I’ve had about doing Nutmeg on TV, people were concerned that you can see the tape. I’m like, “You’re supposed to see the tape!” In my head, Nutmeg’s 36. And she’s not Patty’s daughter; she’s Patty’s granddaughter. So we can find out who Nutmeg’s mother is. Maybe if we do a fourth season, we can discover that. People think, “Oh, she’s crazy.” She’s not.
I think Nutmeg knows what she’s doing.
Nutmeg knows. Nutmeg’s the sanest one on the show, actually.
The show has a great guest list too: David Pasquesi as the Knife Man, Cole Escola as Chassie Tucker, Moujan Zolfaghari as Puja, John Early, Justin Theroux. What’s the collaboration process with these guests like?
I worked with Moujan on a show, and I always thought she’d be so much fun to bring into our world. She’s really sweet and really funny. And then I worked with Cole on Difficult People and I was really blown away by him. I saw “Orange Juice Commercial” on YouTube, and I thought, “Oh my God, there’s my neighbor.” Cole’s also a writer on the show, so it’s always, “What’s Chassie’s game here?” I love working with him so much. And no one’s funnier than John Early. He reminds me a lot of Geoffrey Jellineck from Strangers. When he comes on, he brings energy and we step up for it. Pasquesi was Stew the Meat Man on Strangers, so we made him the Knife Man. Matt Malloy, I got to work with on a show called Alpha House, and I thought, “He’s perfect for Patty Hogg’s husband.” You work with people, you write their names down in a book, and then you think, “That person would be perfect.”
Who found Baby Huckleberry from this season’s “Babies” episode?
Someone made that for me from a kit years ago. I used to mistreat it as a joke, like, “Punish Huckleberry!” and then I put it under a stack of clothes and neglected it. But Huckleberry feels really good when you hold him. He’s a really good-sized baby. I’ll play with him once in a while. In the writers’ room, I was like, “Gotta get Huckleberry on the show.” Because I always want to do a baby episode. I brought it back to North Carolina, and I was at the airport and had to go through one of the scanning machines. I remember the technicians laughing at it, making fun of it, and I remember thinking, “Oh my God, that’s my baby! How rude!”
If you had to pick one fictional ham brand: Hammly Waggly or Captain Briney’s?
The chemistry between you and Michael Cera as the ham boy in the Valentine’s Day episode was really palpable.
That was based on Summer of ’42. That little kitchen was inspired by that movie. And then, of course, the living-room scene was inspired by The Graduate.
Last week’s episode, about the danger of cruise ships, felt weirdly prescient. It’s certainly a newsworthy thing during coronavirus.
It’s funny when we write something and then it won’t come out for a year, but then something happens in the news. Like, “Don’t bring back any diseases!”