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At Home With Amy Sedaris Review
At Home with Amy Sedaris is not your typical home entertaining show, although it certainly follows the familiar beats made popular by the likes of numerous TV personalities (Martha Stewart, in particular). For one thing, none of Sedaris’s crafts are all that practical. Like in her two entertaining books (I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People!), the ideas are birthed from the concept of making the ordinary extraordinary—to retrofit things you may have lying around in your home, elevating it into art. And it’s a grand artistic performance, of course, but maybe not one you’d want to try at home.
There’s a lovely and delightful sloppiness to Sedaris’s creations, which fall in line with her comedic aesthetic. You’re not meant to wear baked potato slippers to keep your feet warm in the winter time, although I suppose you technically could.
The same would go for serving potato ships, slathered with dollop upon dollop of sour cream (or mayonnaise, depending what’s in your refrigerator) and the construction-paper sails dripping with glue, rendering the entire mess inedible. The segment in which Sedaris builds these little potato boats also portrays the great lie in these home entertaining shows; the finished product often does not resemble the conceptual—and, frankly, near-impossible—version of the craft. But Sedaris herself doesn’t seem to care about perfection in the way that Martha Stewart does. The fun is in the making of it, not necessarily the end result.
Sedaris’s performance is perhaps the most surprising element of the show itself. After the cancellation of her irreverent and wacky Strangers With Candy, which co-starred fellow Second City alumni Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello (Colbert makes an appearance on At Home, while Dinello co-created the series), Sedaris revisited her lovably erratic ex-con Jerri Blank in a movie version. What followed were small parts in other comedies, turning Sedaris into everyone’s dream guest star. (Her appearance as a deranged, neck brace-wearing real estate broker on Broad City is a highlight.) She’d often show up on The Late Show to harass David Letterman, seemingly not to promote anything except her own manic comedic personality, proving herself to be one of the few people in the world who could consistently make Letterman crack up.
You’d be forgiven if you expected the same kind of mania on At Home, which Sedaris and crew certainly deliver. But the show often finds Sedaris playing the straight man for once, often against herself. Her array of special guests range from Paul Giamatti to Nick Kroll (the men on the show, I should note, are particularly unsettling and borderline predatory). Sedaris herself often turns up as other characters; a standout is Amy’s wealthy steamroller of a neighbor, Patty Hogg, which allows the actress to barrel through the house in matronly Southern drag. A regular and somewhat inexplicable segment cuts to the Lady Who Lives in the Woods, an earthy and blisteringly passive-aggressive character played by Heather Lawless, who gives organic crafting tips while throwing digs at her sapphic companion, Esther.
This may be Amy Sedaris’s home and we are her guests, but she’s also giving us the chance to meet her friends and family, too.
This may be Amy Sedaris’s home and we are her guests, but she’s also giving us the chance to meet her friends and family, too. It’s a notion that a Sedaris reiterated when I visited the intricately designed set in Harlem over the summer, which she described as a set version of her own apartment—as if the show’s designers knew her own aesthetic better than she did herself. “Find someone you work well with, and build that relationship—you have to have those people around you all of the time,” she told me then. “It makes it easier on me, to have an entourage around. People who know me really well and know my limitations, who keep a list called ‘Words Amy Can’t Pronounce.'”
It’s probably the best entrepreneurial advice any seasoned comedian can offer. Comedy doesn’t exist inside a vacuum, and Sedaris has an understanding that her high-concept ideas require a lot of legwork to complete (although she still revels in the hilariously messy results). On this new show, she returns the favor, bringing along for the ride up-and-coming performers like John Early and Cole Escola, two comedians who have so gleefully taken inspiration in the legacy Sedaris has built for herself.
Amy Sedaris with Cole Escola
Sedaris’s best comic moments rely on her unpredictability. On this new show, it’s the moments that are rooted in realism that make me laugh the hardest. An episode devoted to the grieving process has been my favorite so far; Amy becomes despondent after the death of her beloved goldfish, suddenly unable to make her regular jokes or even get off her couch. A crafting segment goes awry not because of any pipe cleaner or glue-related disaster, but because of one of life’s most inevitable disappointments. When Amy berates a poor assistant (played perfectly by writer-producer Jodi Lennon), she becomes the kind of cruel, annoyed boss most of us have encountered at some point in our lives—only, you know, it’s funny to watch Amy berate her underling over damp hosiery as they make eye masks out of pantyhose and beans.
It’s all to remind us: Amy Sedaris, beneath the visible prosthetics and wigs and colorful mountains of tulle, is human after all. And it only makes clear that she’s one of the funniest people alive not because of her weird voices, the goofy makes, or even the costumes she so gleefully delights in showing off. It’s that brain of hers underneath it all that serves as a not-so-secret weapon. Martha Stewart may make the insurmountable task of being the perfect host seem easy, but Amy Sedaris makes being hilarious seem like a breeze. Most of us will never be able to match her skills, but I have a feeling she’d be charmed to know that we’d all give it a shot anyway.
At Home with Amy Sedaris airs on truTV on Tuesdays at 10:30/9:30.