The Best Hostess Gift? A Pound Of Butter, Says Amy Sedaris

Oct 24, 2017
Originally published on October 24, 2017 10:38 pm

The actress and comedian Amy Sedaris has become famous for her roles in shows like Strangers With Candy and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. At the same time, she has always harbored a not-so-secret love of home crafting projects.

She's written books about it — Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, and I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence — and now, she has a program on Tru TV, At Home With Amy Sedaris, inspired by the shows she loved as a kid.


Interview Highlights

On her inspirations

I grew up with these two local hospitality shows, At Home with Peggy Mann, and the Bette Elliott show. And that's what triggered the whole thing. I remember pointing to the TV when I was ten, saying, "I'm going to do that show when I grow up." And then I was inspired by Red Skelton and Ernie Kovacs and Lawrence Welk, and Galloping Gourmet and Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child, and Two Fat Ladies, I mean, all those shows.

But that's the thing — like, Martha Stewart, who's really talented, and she had that great PBS show ... but my stuff never looked like her stuff. Or, like, I'd look at her magazine where she'd make a pipe-cleaner mouse, and then I would make a pipe-cleaner mouse, and I'm like, this looks like nothing like a mouse ... I just like things to look real, it's not Photoshopped or anything, so — I think a lot of people are like that.

On realizing her weaknesses were a strength

If I do the best I can do then it's just funny without trying to be funny, which I like. That's how I like to do everything. If you're just true and you're in the moment, then it's just going to be more unique and more you.

I'm still doing the crafting and the cooking segments true and straight, but I think I get, you know, the humor just comes out of me taking it seriously.

On appropriate host or hostess gifts for a holiday party

Well, I always appreciate someone bringing me a pound of butter, because butter is really expensive, and it's a nice thing you can throw in your freezer ... I mean, I love having art in my refrigerator, and if you gift wrap it it'll look beautiful in your freezer, with a little bow on it and some pretty paper.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The actress and comedian Amy Sedaris has become famous for her roles in shows like "Strangers With Candy"...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "STRANGERS WITH CANDY")

AMY SEDARIS: (As Jerri Blank) I was a builder, a loser and a user.

SHAPIRO: ...And "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "UNRBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT")

SEDARIS: (As Mimi Kanasis) Call Make a Wish. I want to meet Shaq. Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline, Jacqueline...

SHAPIRO: At the same time, Amy Sedaris has always harbored a not-so-secret love of home crafting projects. She has written books about it. There is "Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People" and "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence." And now she has a new program on truTV called "At Home With Amy Sedaris."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AT HOME WITH AMY SEDARIS")

SEDARIS: My businessmen will be here soon, and we didn't even address the most important part of a fish dinner - making lamb chops. As it turns out, a lot of people don't like fish, so it's very important...

SHAPIRO: Amy Sedaris, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SEDARIS: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: What were your inspirations for this show?

SEDARIS: Well, I grew up with these two local hospitality shows, "At Home With Peggy Mann" and the "Betty Elliott Show." And that's what triggered the whole thing. I remember pointing to the TV when I was 10, saying, I'm going to do that show when I grow up. And then I was inspired by Lawrence Welk and "Galloping Gourmet" and "Frugal Gourmet" and Julia Child and "Two Fat Ladies" - I mean, all those shows.

SHAPIRO: You mention the show "Two Fat Ladies," which was also a favorite of mine. And one thing that I loved about that show which your show also shares is that the things that they made so enthusiastically so often looked totally inedible. It would be like a breakfast dish made of anchovies.

SEDARIS: Yes, and butter and everything. But that's the thing. Like, Martha Stewart, who's really talented and she had that great PBS show how she would, like, teach you how to roast a chicken - but my stuff never looked like her stuff. Or like, I'd look at her magazine where she'd make a pipe cleaner mouse, and then I would make a pipe cleaner mouse, and I'm like, this looks nothing like a mouse. So I'm like, how do they do this? So I just like things to look as, you know, real. And I think a lot of people are like that.

SHAPIRO: Was there a moment that you realized your weakness was actually your strength in home crafting?

SEDARIS: (Laughter) That's funny. Yeah, you're right. I mean, I just - if I do the best I can do, then it's just funny without trying to be funny, which I like. That's how I like to do everything, is like, if you're just true and you're in the moment, then it's just going to be more unique and more you.

SHAPIRO: You make these adorable baked potato boats in the episode on a fish dinner.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AT HOME WITH AMY SEDARIS")

SEDARIS: OK, for this craft you will need baked potato, skewer, cheese singles, mushroom button caps, construction paper and a little bit of glue.

SHAPIRO: Yes, you are making boats out of baked potatoes. And yet it's hard for me to describe this like a project you could see on any other TV home crafts program.

SEDARIS: But it's a real craft. I've seen it in a cookbook before.

SHAPIRO: I think we need you to describe this activity now.

SEDARIS: You take a baked potato and you put butter and sour cream on it, and then you top it with mushroom caps. And I just added a flag. And what's funny about that craft is, you know, I wanted to make the flag look like it was blowing in the wind. So you apply - you take the construction paper and make a flag. And you have to apply some glue, but I added too much glue by accident.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AT HOME WITH AMY SEDARIS")

SEDARIS: OK. Squeeze. A little dab will do it.

SHAPIRO: This show has a roster of all-star visiting celebrities - Stephen Colbert, Jane Krakowski. How did you describe to them what they were signing up for?

SEDARIS: I think they did it for the money, which was $600. Well, Colbert I was like, come on. I can't do this show without you. It was really good to have him on set.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "AT HOME WITH AMY SEDARIS")

SEDARIS: I'm in the craft room. Hello, Stephen.

STEPHEN COLBERT: Hi, Amy.

SEDARIS: Stephen Colbert, my turtle sitter.

COLBERT: How are the turtles doing?

SEDARIS: Everyone was so enthusiastic, and they said yes right away. And I didn't think we'd get half the people we got. I mean, I - Michael Shannon - are you kidding me? - or Paul Giamatti or Chris Elliott. I was shocked when they said yes.

SHAPIRO: OK. So, Amy Sedaris, if you're invited to a party for the holiday season, can you suggest a host or hostess gift that somebody could bring that's different from the typical bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers?

SEDARIS: Well, I always appreciate someone bringing me a pound of butter because butter's really expensive and it's a nice thing you can throw in your freezer.

SHAPIRO: If someone is going to show up at your house with a pound of butter, would they put a ribbon on it or shape it into - I mean, is there something more you can do than just arrive with a pound of butter?

SEDARIS: Well, if you gift wrap it - I mean, I love having art in my refrigerator. And if you gift wrap it it'll look beautiful in your freezer all - you know, with a little bow on it.

SHAPIRO: Amy Sedaris, congratulations on your new show.

SEDARIS: Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: The new program on truTV is called "At Home With Amy Sedaris," and it starts tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD'S "SHINE IT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.