The Strangers With Candy Interview
David Letterman is not just some persnickety comic television talk show host, who goes home each night to count his hundreds of millions of dollars (yes, he’s worth more than half a billion dollars). The man, who insists that The Ed Sullivan Theater, where his show is taped each night, be kept at fifty-eight degrees, is also a philanthropist – to up-and-coming comedians, whom he has faith in.
Ray Romano. You know him now. But did you ever hear of him in, say, 1995, the year before “Everybody Loves Raymond” entered the English lexicon, and became one the most popular television shows in history?
David Letterman was so impressed with a stand-up performance Romano did on “The Late Show” in 1994, that he put up his own money, through his production company, Worldwide Pants, to get “Raymond,” off the ground – and running. (Worldwide Pants has amassed more than $500 million, alone, on syndication rights to “Everybody Loves Raymond.”)
This, however, is not a story about David Letterman, or Ray Romano.
It’s about a female comic genius, who considers herself a misfit and outcast – Amy Sedaris – who, though, not ‘discovered’ by David Letterman, has been helped exponentially by him.
Like Letterman, Amy Sedaris is hard to nail down for an interview.
Letterman, an interviewer, himself, hasn’t granted an interview to any media outlet in more than nine years. And for “Strangers With Candy,” (in select theaters June 28, and which will roll out in a platform release, nationally, throughout the months of July and August), Sedaris reportedly was allowed to hand pick who she spoke with.
While no one expects the movie “Strangers With Candy” to become a hundred million dollar sensation, everyone, it seems, is clamoring for an interview with Sedaris.
The movie has been covered extensively in anticipation of its release by every major magazine, most, including Entertainment Weekly, giving it glowing reviews.
It took a lot of work to get the ten minutes I got with the shy, yet immediately, once we start talking, endearing, Amy Sedaris.
“I have no idea why everyone wants to interview me,” she says, sheepishly. “Why did you want to interview me?”
I reply by answering because there is such in interest in her in the gay community and then asking her why she thinks the gay community, for which I write for extensively, is so in love with not only her but also her character Jerri Blank, and the “Strangers With Candy” cult-like phenomenon.
“Homosexuals,” she replies, “are misfits and outcasts. Who better can relate to a character who doesn’t fit in?”
“Thank god you love the gays,” I say, to which she quickly responds. “I love the gays. Especially my brother.”
If you’re not familiar with Amy Sedaris, you would be in the majority. “I know that the movie is not going to appeal to everyone, or to most people,” says Sedaris, about “Strangers With Candy.”
“But there are a lot of misfits and outcasts in the world, who get and understand it, and they will find a way to see it. Maybe they will get a job at a theater so they can see it for free. Or see it a hundred times.”
“Strangers With Candy” is the movie Amy Sedaris wrote with Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, her partners in comedic crime. The movie’s plot and story is a prequel to the “Strangers With Candy” television show that ran for three seasons on the Comedy Central cable channel – from 1999-2000. (Two, complete, thirteen episode seasons ran in the year 2000.)
In “Strangers With Candy,” the attractive in real-life Amy Sedaris does what she does best – plays unattractive and borderline if not completely nuts. “I hate playing pretty or sane people. Most people are not attractive or all there.”
Jerri Blank, her most famous character to date, and the center point of both the “Strangers With Candy” movie and television series, recalls the trials and tribulations of a forty-seven year old former prostitute and crack addict who goes back to high school, in an attempt to redeem herself.
The character was conceived and brought to life by Sedaris. “She is based on a woman I saw in a self-help, motivational video,” reveals Sedaris.
When I ask Sedaris why she didn’t want to direct the movie, the movie she worked so hard to get made, she said, “Fuck. I can’t even direct traffic. Are you kidding me? Directing a movie? No fucking way.”
“Maybe he liked my [spinach pie],” laughs Sedaris, now forty-five, who, for years, beginning at the age of twenty, in Raleigh, North Carolina, (where she and her equally as famous, “misfit and outcast” author and playwright brother, David, were brought up), made and sold spanakopita, when I ask why David Letterman is so fond of her – and her brother.
Raised Greek Orthodox, Amy Sedaris continues to supplement her income by selling the Greek treat to various restaurants and cafes in New York’s West Village, where she has lived, in a cozy apartment, for the past twelve years.
“I am not sure just why David Letterman wanted to join the ‘Strangers With Candy’ bandwagon, but while we were preparing to shoot the film, Worldwide Pants called and said, ‘We want to give you some money for this film.’ Who were we to argue?” chuckles Sedaris.
The “Strangers With Candy” film stars a multitude of A-list actors in cameo roles, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sir Ian Holm.
“They were all fans of the TV show,” says Sedaris, “and didn’t mind working for scale, a hot lunch and the promise that they wouldn’t have to do publicity for the movie before it came out.”
Not everything was rosy, throughout. The movie was initially co-financed by Warner Independent Pictures, who also owned distribution rights. But they lost faith in the movie, a year or so ago – the film was shot in 2004, and scheduled for a fall 2005 release. Thankfully THINKFilm came along and made an offer Warner couldn’t refuse and snapped up theatrical distribution rights.
The independent studio, THINKFilm, scored a big art house hit last year with another vulgar underdog, “The Aristocrats.”
“I am very happy that THINKFilm bought the movie from the original studio, because I don’t think Warner would have supported it as much as THINKFilm has,” reveals Sedaris. “I can’t see this movie coming out in fall or winter. It is a movie you need to see when it is hot outside, in an air-conditioned theater. It’s a summer movie. And THINKFilm gets that.”
“Strangers With Candy” in some cities, also gets the bragging rights of opening head-to-head with “Superman Returns,” and Sedaris has something to say about that. “‘Superman’ is going to sell out days in advance and people will need to see something super. They shouldn’t have to be left out on the sidewalk without anything to see.”
If this is an art-house and cult hit, will we see a “Strangers With Candy” reunion film?
“We haven’t talked about it or even thought about it,” says Sedaris. “But as Stephen Colbert likes to say, ‘Jerri Blank is like a rash. She can pop up anywhere, anytime.’ So, who knows what will happen three or four years down the line, or in two months? You never know when she will pop up again!”
If you missed Amy Sedaris’s June 21st appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” where she promoted both the film and just released complete “Strangers With Candy” DVD Box Set, you will get two more chances to see her, all pretty, and out of character. “I will be on Craig Ferguson’s show June 28th,” she says, “And on ‘The Colbert Report’ on July 10th.”
If you consider yourself a misfit and/or outcast, don’t miss the movie, the DVD Box Set, or her upcoming television appearances. (And, since we’re talking about Amy Sedaris, let’s not forget she is the voice of Foxy Loxy in “Chicken Little,” now on DVD from Disney.)
And stay tuned. Sedaris is currently finishing a book to be released, incidentally, by Warner Books, this fall, entitled “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.”
“The book,” says Sedaris, is a compilation of my recipes and my ideas on entertaining and some instructions on arts and crafts. Martha Stewart isn’t the only one who knows how to create a grieving pouch for memorializing a dead hamster or gerbil.”
Go behind the scenes of “Strangers With Candy” with Wild About Movies