Arts & Entertainment
Amy Sedaris Talks Queers and Crafts
Author/actress on her new (super gay) book - and the chapter Neil Patrick Harris inspired
By Chris Azzopardi
Originally printed 12/2/2010 (Issue 1848 - Between The Lines News)
From a wacky misfit to her Martha-on-crack domesticity book, Amy Sedaris has made a career out of being different. She's at it again with "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People," turning to the queer world of crafting in her good ol' days follow-up to 2006's "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence."
Before Sedaris tried on quirky how-to books that, depending on what you'd do with a sausage hut or Dutch bonnet (which, by the way, can be made from the book jacket), are completely impractical - but so out-there hilarious - she found a loyal following through "Strangers with Candy." The decade-old Comedy Central show, on which she played bisexual high school student Jerri Blank, became a cult-hit, and then a 2006 movie.
It was the first of Sedaris' many film and TV roles, as she'd make memorable cameos in two 2009 films: the homoerotic "Jennifer's Body" and spoof-comedy "Dance Flick," as Ms. Cameltoe. But the literary class, which she shares with her brother David, has been good to her, too: "I Like You" was on the New York Times bestseller's list for over 12 weeks, and its spin-off is packed with the goofy humor and eye-popping pics that put it there.
Sedaris is over crafting, but that didn't stop her from talking about it. She told us all about gay people's "magic fingertips," why queers are great crafters, and what Neil Patrick Harris had to do with the book.
I love your book, but I bet you hate crafting now.
Oh yeah: I can't stand it. I hope that's not why you called! (Laughs)
No - we won't hate on crafting. But we will talk about it. Were any of your gay friends involved in making crafts for the book?
Uh, let me think about it: Yes! If anything looks good, you're either a Chinese lesbian or a homosexual.
So that's why the gays-are-good-crafters statistic in the book is so high. How did you come up with that number?
Yes! Just made it up - like all statistics. (Laughs)
What do you think makes gay people good crafters?
I really don't know. I just think they have good taste. And my god, they can do anything. Anything! They make everything look better - from people to crafts.
We need a "Queer Eye for the Crafter."
Oh, that's a good idea!
Did you and your brother, David, create together as kids?
Well, there are six kids and we turned the basement into a Santa's workshop every Christmas and made our own ornaments. We were always working on something.
I'm guessing there was no "fornicrafting" going on then, though.
No, and I don't know anything about making love, so (co-author) Paul Dinello completely wrote that chapter on his own. I think I contributed a couple words, but when it came to stuff like that (laughs), I was like, "I don't know anything about making love. You do it - you're the one with three girlfriends!"
Which explains the awkward hilarity of those pics.
Oh, that was the best! We just naturally took our sides: him, enthusiastic and happy and eager to please, and me just being, like, cold. We had so much fun doing that chapter.
What are the gayest crafts in the books?
The ones that look the best! (Laughs) Seriously - I'm not even joking. The guy who made my costumes, Adam Selman, he's a gay - there you go! - and we met on the Dolly Parton video (for "Better Get to Livin'"), and we hit it off immediately because I just love costumes and props. So when I met him I asked him if he would work on the book.
You were so good in that Dolly video.
When they asked me to do it, I was like, "Of course!" And then when they told me I got to work with a monkey, I was like, "Dolly, who?!" Yeah, my dream was to work with a little monkey and the vest that the monkey wore - Adam had made him a little vest - we put that in the book. It's next to the banana pudding. It's cute.
So my pick for gayest craft in the book is the Crafty Candle Salad (a banana concoction with mayo dripping off it).
Oh yeah! (Laughs)
I don't know if you made that one, but did you think that it was a little, uh, gay?
I made it! And for it to stand up you have to take a little bite off the top of it; just take the tip off - we've all heard that before! It's so funny to watch other people make that because you can't help but be dirty. I'll tell you: One thing about the book is we laughed so hard while we were working on it. We shot everything in my apartment and we were just crying from laughing so hard.
What were some of the funniest projects to work on?
The hot dog on the rake with Adam standing there and the hot dog just batting him in the pants - I mean, Jesus, that was ridiculous! The Crafty Candle Salad was another one we laughed really hard at. Pretty much everything - all the costumes and dressing up and figuring out all my hair tricks at the last minute. I love doing stuff like that.
How about the sausage chapter?
Well, I put the sausage chapter after making love because when you turn the page to the last page of making love, you see the top part of the sausage hutch or whatever you want to call it with the batting coming out of it for smoke, and it just looked dirty to me. It looked like a Negro dick.
What was the process of putting this book together like?
It was a huge undertaking, but with crafts it just takes a long time to make stuff and it's very expensive. The hard part for me was feeding everybody, getting everybody on board, trying to get them to work faster (laughs), and then, to make it easier on myself, I let some people craft elsewhere and then they sent me the crafts.
I have a good friend who lives in Hawaii - a gay friend who lives in Hawaii! - and he made all the coconut crafts. And I'll tell you another thing about gay people: You ask them to do something... and it is done! Professional and delivered - before the deadline. You ask a straight guy and you have to keep calling them and reminding them that they even said they would do it. Todd Oldham did a lot for the book. They just... it's like they have magic in their fingertips or something.
I like that. Do you mind if I add that to my resume?
(Laughs) Go right ahead!
I know you've collaborated with your brother in the past. Have you discussed working with him in the future on a book?
Book? No. I mean, he has his books and my books are so different - they're more for people who can't read. And I have a lot of help; David works completely by himself. But we never say we're going to do another play together, it just kind of happens. I hope we do another play together, but I don't know when.
How was working on this book different than "I Like You"?
It kind of felt like a second child; I knew the deadline situation and I knew what was ahead of me, so I was more open to suggestions. I just wasn't as controlling; that was the biggest difference. And this book isn't as personal as "I Like You," and I enjoyed stepping back from it a little bit.
What else do you do well that you could write a book about?
Jesus - that's a good question. Well, I'm really good with rabbits, and I think that's why whatever I do will always have a rabbit chapter, because there's so much wrong information out there. But I would seriously love to do a rabbit book. There's, like, one on the market that's any good, and that's it. I'd love to do a series of videos and books on rabbit care. I know that's a limited audience.
You have one, right?
I do. Her name's Dusty and she's in the book under "Hay Burners."
Will we see Jerri Blank again?
You never know. I always say she's like a rash and you never know when she's going to reappear. There's a lot of Jerri in me, and then on the audio book in the rabbit chapter I describe haze as their premium marijuana, so I read that as Jerri Blank on the audiotape.
You've wrapped the upcoming film "The Best and the Brightest" with Neil Patrick Harris, right?
Yeah! Ah, and speaking of Neil Patrick Harris, my god. Talk about gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. You know, he does magic and the chapter "Out of this World" was inspired by him, because he did magic tricks when we were working on that film. So, I was inspired by that and that's why that chapter's in the book. I just loved him. There isn't anything he can't do. He reminds me a lot of Stephen Colbert; they're very smart and energetic and they give 100 percent. I just think the world of him.
All in all, this is a pretty gay book, isn't it?
The Crafty Candle Salad, the sausages - I guess it is! And I like the bandana picture with Adam and Paul Dinello in a barn, and how Adam is helping Paul up so that he can reach something, but what he's trying to reach is at arm's length; it's like right there in front of him! That's a pretty good, you know, gay picture.
How do you feel about turning 50 next year?
I don't know how I'm supposed to feel, but I just know when you're 50, that's old - like when you're little and people tell you they're 50, or when you're little and you think, "I can't wait to see what Barbra Streisand's going to look like when she's 50!" It's just automatically an old age.
The thing I'm having a hard time with is how I'm supposed to dress, because I always dress like a scarecrow. How would a 50-year-old dress? I still think I can wear print dresses and rickrack - that's OK. But I just wish I could go from 49 to 73; I don't really know what to do with the in-between years.