10:00am PT by Jean Bentley
'At Home With Amy Sedaris' Is a Comedy, But It's No Joke to Its Star and Creator
Amy Sedaris might be a comedian, but her love of all things hospitality is not a joke. In fact, her new truTV lifestyle series, At Home With Amy Sedaris, wasn't even necessarily conceived as something that would skewer the HGTV genre. Growing up in North Carolina in the 1960s and '70s, Sedaris used to watch locally filmed hospitality shows and wanted to do that when she grew up.
"I was into home stuff and I liked playing house, and I liked that extremely boring show and I was mesmerized by it," she tells The Hollywood Reporter ahead of her new show's debut.
When she got older, she published two books about entertaining: I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, and later Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People. While the books contained Sedaris' trademark wit — "A good trick is to fill your medicine cabinet with marbles. Nothing announces a nosey guest better than an avalanche of marbles hitting a porcelain sink," she suggests in the first book — they're also peppered with real, honest advice about homemaking.
Those books became the genesis of the At Home pitch, which she sold to Turner-owned truTV. But just weeks after the network bought the show, it rebranded as a comedy-centric channel — so she had to work to intentionally add more humor to the series.
"It's so hard to do because you want to be straight and real and almost like a PBS show, but then you're on a comedy channel," Sedaris says. "So the challenge was, how am I going to mix these two things together? Even watching the shows and all my inspirations from the '60s and '70s, how do you merge it? It's really difficult. It's almost like a little Mr. Rodgers, a little Dinah Shore, a little Red Skelton. It's a little bit of all these shows."
Sedaris and longtime collaborator Paul Dinello worked hard to insert more humor into the series, introducing new characters and cutting back on the strictly Martha Stewart-esque aspects.
"The challenge for me was if something was going happen with comedy in it, then it's got to be funny. So I had to let go off some of the real stuff, which can get a little mundane and boring after a while," she says. "I mean, you can only watch a homemaking show for so long. Are we really going to talk about tea biscuits for 45 minutes? Sometimes it's a lot."
Ultimately, the show will be a mix of earnest advice from someone passionate about homemaking, and a whole new mix of characters from the woman behind Strangers With Candy's Jerri Blank.
"I do embrace the things I'm passionate about," she says. "I was passionate about [the books]. I really want to teach you how to make spanakopita. Whereas on this show, I barely teach you how to cook spanakopita because every time I try to make something I get derailed and it turns into something else. That's why I thought, well, I got all my passion out in the books, and now I'm kind of just playing with the books a little bit and making it sillier. And then people can always pick up the books and see the real deal."
In addition to playing multiple characters herself, Sedaris has enlisted guest stars ranging from Paul Giamatti to Peter Serafinowicz, and of course, longtime collaborator Stephen Colbert, with whom she and Dinello created Strangers With Candy. She'll also reunite with Colbert on Monday, Oct. 23, as a guest on The Late Show ahead of her show's Oct. 24 premiere. While Sedaris was a favorite of David Letterman, appearing on his couch 34 times over the years, she'll be making her first trip back to the late-night institution with her friend as host.
"Paul and I have known Stephen since 1985 in Strangers. We can't do the show without having Colbert on it. And he plays himself because the part we had written for him, somebody has to play himself," she says.
Playing against guest stars like Colbert or her Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt co-star Jane Krakowski, along with creating multiple new characters, helped Sedaris realize how to play herself onscreen.
"It kind of felt like I was the boring one. I was the square. And I didn't know that until I played opposite myself," she says. "I can kind of make fun of myself trying to take it seriously while these other characters I'm playing against helped shape who I was going to be. That was the challenge for me through the show. How the heck do I play myself? I just don't normally like to play myself, and I didn't know what kind of character I wanted to play as myself. So that kind of helped. It was going to be my challenge, and it turned out to be my favorite."
Despite Sedaris' genuine love for crafting, there's one major thing to know: She's not actually very good at it.
"The thing about the show is that I always do things to the best of my abilities. I never try to do bad, so all the crafts you see me making in the show, I really am doing my best, and you can see how horrible I am at so much of it. I'm just not good at it," she confesses. "The shows that turn out to be the most fun are these crafting moments because it is fun to watch someone do something so horrible and so bad but yet really being honest and doing their best job."
But she is good at delegating, and she is good at entertaining. Her favorite aspect of throwing a party is curating a guest list.
"It's all about casting your party. If you get the right people in there it's just the best feeling ever, and I love it. I love to entertain in my house," she says. "So having everybody who gets along, likes each other in your home. That's my favorite way to entertain."
At Home With Amy Sedaris premieres Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 10:30 p.m. on truTV.