Meet this sexy, savvy, single comedian who is a living contradiction to every “single” stereotype.
With the holiday season all around us, Amy Sedaris — a New York author, actress and cult comedy icon — was already planning her next shindig. Her guest list, as usual, contained a healthy sampling of urban singles and fabulous gay men. But sometimes, if only out of social obligation, she also had to invite a few married people.
“Couples can be soooo huge maintenance,” Sedaris said with a sigh. “I’d much rather just invite one of them, not the pair. They’re always so much more fun without each other. And it brings all these complications like, ‘Well, I know she drinks but he doesn’t, so should I bring out the red wine or keep it in the kitchen?’ Or maybe I’ll realize that I made out with one of them the night before, and I don’t know if I should say something or just pretend it never happened.
Sedaris might be at least partly kidding, but as a proud single woman living alone in Manhattan for over a decade, she’s clearly a little biased toward her lifestyle choice. As far as she’s concerned, being alone and unencumbered is always a better option than being in a relationship and forced to endure, as she describes it, “endless weekends shopping at Pottery Barn with other dead-eyed couples.”
“I’m too independent to be in a relationship,” she says. “I like dating and I’ve had plenty of boyfriends, but I like being alone a lot better. I like having my own space and making my own decisions. I never want to be in a relationship where the other person says, ‘Listen, I promised this guy at work that we’d drop by for brunch on Sunday.’ Are you kidding me? Not gonna happen!”
Amy Sedaris may not yet be a household name, but she’s well on her way to superstardom. A graduate of The Second City theater in Chicago (the alma mater of Tina Fey and Steve Carell, among many others), she’s had numerous small but memorable roles in movies like Sex and the City, Elf, My Baby’s Daddy, The School of Rock and the horror satire Jennifer’s Body (written by Juno scribe Diablo Cody).
She’s also co-written several best-selling humor books like Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not and appeared regularly in On-Broadway plays where her roles have been everything from a disfigured beauty queen to a racist donkey. Entertainment Weekly picked her for their annual “25 Funniest People in America” list.
But Sedaris is probably best known for Strangers With Candy, the short-lived but hugely influential Comedy Central TV series that spawned a movie adaptation (a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005) and cult notoriety for Sedaris that continues to this day.
The show featured Sedaris as an ex-druggie and street prostitute named Jerri Blank — she describes herself as a “boozer, user and five-time loser” — who returns to high school in her late 40s for a second chance at academia. Sedaris was virtually unrecognizable in the role, wearing fatty pants and the most unflattering wig and set of fake chompers you’ve ever seen. But that’s exactly the way she likes it.
“I guess ugly people just seem more real to me,” she says. “You know how pretty people think everything they say is funny, but the real reason anybody listens to them at all is because they look nice? I feel sorry for them. Ugly people have a lot more going for them.”
Her obsession with all things physically unappealing is hardly new. When she was just a teenager, her brother gave her a copy of An Aperture Monograph, the infamous 1972 collection of photographs by the late Diane Arbus. “It literally changed my life,” she says. “I couldn’t put it down.” The book featured candid black-and-white photos of dwarfs, transvestites, identical twins, elderly nudists, carnival performers, and other outsiders and outcasts that Sedaris never knew existed.
“You didn’t see people like that in Raleigh,” she says, speaking of her hometown in North Carolina. “I was just like, ‘Woooooooow.’ They were so much more interesting than our neighbors, or the people on TV.”
If Sedaris had her druthers, she’d be one of those sideshow folk you can’t help but stop and stare at. But because of bad luck and good breeding, she was born beautiful. Even at 49, she’s an adorable pixie, looking barely old enough to drink, with an infectious giggle of a laugh and a flawless complexion. For most people, such youthful DNA would be an enviable blessing, but Sedaris goes out of her way to hide it.
Her brother David Sedaris famously documented her quests to become unpretty in his best-selling book of essays, Me Talk Pretty One Day. “She is by far the most attractive member of the family,” he wrote, “yet she spends most of her time and money disguising herself beneath prosthetic humps and appliquéd skin diseases.”
He also revealed her utter disinterest in and disdain for finding a boyfriend. “The last time she was asked out by a successful bachelor,” he wrote, “Amy hesitated before saying, ‘Thanks for asking, but I’m really not into white guys right now.’”
Sedaris, whether by design or accident, is a living contradiction of all the classic stereotypes about lonely singlehood. Instead, she’s a social firecracker, hosting parties throughout the year, including those for her amateur crafting club, The Crafty Beavers (which counts among its members designer Todd Oldham and Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker). Her new digs — she just paid $1.3 million for a one-bedroom brownstone in New York’s West Village — is decorated like something out of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
There’s an array of plaster meats hanging from the ceiling, shelves filled with miniature doll wigs and medical picture books devoted to rare skin disorders, wallpaper constructed from Chinatown candy wrappers, and, currently holding court on her coffee table, a professionally taxidermied squirrel named “Winks” — according to Sedaris, he comes alive at night.
Sedaris has even written her own book about home decorating and party hosting called I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (published by Warner Books). Filled with equal parts absurd and helpful advice, I Like You could be read as a satiric response to Martha Stewart’s unrealistic vision of domestic perfection. Sedaris takes a more practical approach to entertaining, designed for the single woman who doesn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen and prefers belly laughs to strict social decorum.
The book features unusual recipes like “Brenda’s Vulgar Barbeque Sauce” and “Gypsy Skirt Steak” (the recipe’s first instruction: “Steal some skirt steaks”), provides painfully inappropriate tips on introducing your party guests (“This is Barbara, she can’t have children”), and explains how any food or crafting project can be jazzed up by attaching a pair of googly eyes.
Sedaris finds it hilarious when people assume she must be unhappy or emotionally incomplete just because she’s not married. “Somebody once said to me, ‘Aren’t you afraid when you get older that nobody will be around? What if you get sick and there’s nobody to take care of you?’ That’s just silly. How do I know that somebody I marry isn’t going to die tomorrow? I just don’t like relying on somebody else like that. It’s like those people who have kids and think they’ll take care of them when they get old. That’s being awfully presumptuous.”
Growing up in a large family, Sedaris learned to enjoy any opportunity to be alone. “Every one of my brothers and sisters, we’d do anything to get away from the crowd and be by ourselves,” she says. “Of the six kids in my family, only two are married. I don’t think anybody else in the family will ever get married. My dad never remarried (after my mother died), and he’s still living in our big house in North Carolina by himself.”
If there’s one thing Sedaris has learned from her lifetime of singlehood, it’s how to circumnavigate social expectations. Married couples, not unlike new parents, feel pity for anybody who doesn’t share their ideas of normalcy. So what’s a gal to do when she’s surrounded by well-intentioned friends who think true happiness means finding Mr. Right? She invents an imaginary boyfriend.
Sedaris got the idea when visiting an antique store almost 18 years ago. “I saw a Christmas stocking with the name ‘Ricky’ on it, and I just had to have it,” she remembers. “I started putting it up with my Christmas decorations every year, and when people asked about it, I said it belonged to my boyfriend, who only visits during the holidays.”
Although Sedaris has always admitted that Ricky is fictional, she talks about him like he actually exists. Over the years, she’s created a long and troubled history for her pseudo-boyfriend. He was born and raised in Argentina, she’s claimed, and often brings her saffron during the holidays. He once lost everything he owned in a camper fire, suffered a stroke, was mistakenly reported as murdered, and now makes his living designing dioramas for museums.
Sedaris takes great delight in Ricky — she often reports on his exploits during her frequent guest spots on The Late Show With David Letterman — but she insists she doesn’t keep the imaginary boyfriend around to placate her married friends. “I really do think I’ve found the perfect partner,” she says. “Because he’s imaginary. Honestly, that’s the only reason. If you want a successful relationship, at least one of you has to be imaginary.”
Although Sedaris promises that she’ll never marry Ricky, they have considered becoming parents. She was even briefly pregnant with Ricky’s baby. (They managed to conceive, she told Letterman, after “trying for hours.”) But fate had other plans.
“I always tell people I lost the baby,” she says with with a mischievous grin. “I don’t mean lost as in miscarriage. I just lost track of it. I bailed on it. I didn’t even want an imaginary baby. It just took the fun out of life.”
|Amy is just over 5 feet tall.In addition to her imaginary boyfriend, Ricky, she’s also had an imaginary dog named Douglas and an imaginary monkey named Pockets.As a teenager, Amy would make prank calls to her father, pretending to be a family friend and trying to lure him into an affair. Her dad, never realizing it was Amy, always turned her down.|
She taught Martha Stewart how to make a grilled cheese sandwich in prison … by using an iron.
She considered writing a children’s book about a tequila worm with low self-esteem, with an inspiring message about “reaching for the lowest star,” but her publisher rejected the idea.
When not writing or performing, Amy sometimes picks up a shift as a waitress at Mary’s Fish Camp in New York’s West Village.
|She also runs a homemade cupcake and cheese ball business out of her apartment. All of the profits go directly to her pet rabbit, Dusty (who also acts as the company’s CEO and president).She was featured in the video for Dolly Parton’s 2007 hit “Better Get To Livin’,” where she played a cross-eyed fortuneteller and the carnival barker for “Dolly’s Circus of Human Emotions.”Amy has portrayed two Disney princesses: Cinderella, in the animated film Shrek the Third, and a very flustered Snow White (who has somehow misplaced her dwarfs), in an episode of Sesame Street.During an awards reception in New York, actor Ethan Hawke complimented Amy on her dress. She purportedly told him, “It looks better on the floor. You could talk me out of it.”|
Copyright © Eric Spitznagel words, Todd Oldham photos / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC.