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June 2006
Strangers with Candy - A Interview with Amy Sedaris and Pinello

Strangers with Candy
An Interview with Amy Sedaris and Pinello
By Kara Warner
June 23, 2006

When Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert met almost twenty years ago performing at Chicago's 'Second City,' it wasn't exactly love at first sight.

"Paul and I did not get along," says Colbert. "He thought I was uptight and I thought he was a Neanderthal. Amy likes to say we 'were both right.' Six months later he was my best friend.

The rest is history, or so they say. Since that 'rocky' start the trio has achieved a certain sought-after status in the comedic world, as individuals and as a team. They've written two successful television series, a book, and now a full-length feature film. That film is "Strangers with Candy," based on their hit Comedy Central series and it opens June 28th. Recently, two of the talented threesome, Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello, sat down to talk about it (among many other random, funny, unrelated things).

So how did the show become a movie?

Sedaris: Paul, Stephen [Colbert] and I, we were writing a book called "Wigfield" and we wasted a lot of time. We'd stop and just think of funny things Jerri Blank would say. We had a character in the book that was similar to Jerri Blank. So whatever would make us laugh we would write down and put in a file labeled 'Jerri Blank.' By the end of the book there was a lot of stuff in the file and Paul thought we should write a movie. So Paul started writing a movie and some 'shifty' people said they were going to give us money to do this movie and then I guess the money fell through, shifty thing, and I was at home when Worldwide Pants called me, they had gotten hold of the script somehow, I don't know how they got it, but they said, 'We want to do this, in like three weeks,' and we went into production; they gave us three million dollars.

What does it take to make Letterman laugh?

Sedaris: I don't know. What I like about being on Letterman is that I never have anything to promote, you know what I mean? When I get a job, it's usually because someone calls me at home and they ask me, it never involves any money. So when I do a show, I'm not there for any other reason than he invited me. When he says, 'Thanks for dropping by,' I'm literally dropping by. I've done the show with my hair wet before. They'll call, maybe someone dropped out, and I don't ever want that to change. But I'm doing the show Wednesday, and it's the first time I have something to promote. I've been looking for an inflatable briefcase, I've seen one, I'm not making it up, and I want to be able to use it anytime the conversation strays. [This time] I've got a job to do and I want to get people into these seats! I can't waste my time talking about rabbit care. I can't wait to do the show though, because we don't have that kind of relationship. I never know what he's going to ask me, even though we do a pre-interview. I always feel like we're just sitting around talking.

The cast list reads like your rolodex, is there anyone you know who's not in the movie?

Sedaris: [Laughs] Yeah, there are lots of people I know who aren't in the movie. Those I've dated, I don't know about that one. Next question please... Sir Ian Holm, he wasn't in my rolodex but [winks] he is now. He did the movie because his son told him to do the movie. I thought I would be scared to work with Sir Ian Holm but on the first day I met him he had a cobalt blue t-shirt on with three basset hounds on it and I thought, 'Phew.'

What's your friendship like with Sarah Jessica Parker? [Dinello enters the room]

Dinello: I'm sorry, am I interrupting?

Sedaris: I'm sorry... and we dated for eight years. Sarah Jessica and I met on a play we did together called 'Wonder of the World.' We're big fans. She lives around the corner, so whenever I need something like nut bowls, I'll call her. She's so thankful that I'm not calling her for anything other than that. She's like, 'I'm so happy you're calling for this reason, I'm so honored,' And then I'll go over there and she'll have forty nut bowls hanging off her porch for me to pick-up. She's great. She's very small town for such a big star.

Do you serve a lot of nuts?

Sedaris: [Giggles] Yeah. I serve a lot of them

Dinello: It goes with the home décor...

Sedaris: I put googley eyes on my nuts. I have bowls of peanuts in my apartment with eyes, they're adorable.

Paul, what do you do with your nuts?

Dinello: I put googley eyes on them as well, oddly enough.

Sedaris: That's singular, singular

Dinello: It's a big turn-off for some people

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Is Jerri a character you're going to be promoting for future projects?

Sedaris: Well the look, Jerri's face, my brother and I do plays together and I use that look for every one of our plays. She's always the lead character, I just change her background. In the TV show, we created Jerri Blank, but I always use her as the actress.

Is Jerri going to be doing anything in the future?

Dinello: She's going to be selling waterbeds.

Sedaris: I don't know. Like Paul said in an interview, she's like a rash. You never know when she's going to reappear. It's nice... like a cold sore. Oops, there she is again. She's fun to play because she attracts misfits and I like misfits.

Who's the funniest Sedaris?

Sedaris: I think we all have a sense of humor except one of us... and I'm not going to mention my sister Gretchen's name. I think Paul, my little brother, is funny in a way no one else is funny. He has this high-pitched, southern accent and he calls me everyday, sometimes three or four times, and it's small-town talk. Like [mimicking a southern accent], 'So and so got her stitches taken out. I gotta visit the hospital and do her floors. I'll be layin' down cherry wood.' He's funny. I'll write down a lot of the things he says and use it. Some of the things Jerri Blank says, 'pole in the hole' is Paul's... 'You got skills to pay the bills,' that was Paul's. He can imitate anybody and he's a real people person. I laugh as hard with Paul as I do my brother David.

Are you competitive?

Sedaris: No. I think because we're all funny in different ways... we make fun of my father. You always need that one person to make fun of, so we have him.

Where did improv come into play, with the movie and the series?

Dinello: We learned to use it as a writing tool. We did a show earlier, a sketch show that I don't think we need to name...

Sedaris: "Exit 57"

Dinello: Thank you.

Where's the DVD?

Dinello: I don't think there are any plans for a DVD.

Sedaris: I don't think they make DVD's long enough for some of those sketches... they were eleven minutes!

Dinello: Yeah, I don't think it would even fit on a DVD. But we used improv then as more of the performance, that's where we came from, and it doesn't work so well for television and film, I think – at least the way we were using it. Now we use it as a writing tool. We'll sketch out a scene and figure out what characters are going to be in it, what's the crux of the scene and then we'll improvise a character and record what's funny.

Was it hard getting the cast back?

Dinello: A little bit. We also had to revolve around a lot of different schedules. Like Sarah, who would say, 'I have seven hours Tuesday.'

Sedaris: And the baby.

Dinello: So we had limited time. We're lucky that people are enthusiastic about 'Strangers,' for whatever reason, they seem willing to bend over backwards for it. We exploit that... to the full extent of the law.

Sedaris: A lot of people we had to re-cast because they looked a lot older... so that's why I have a different brother.

Dinello: Yeah, he looked like a 40-year-old Merchant Marine

How long was the shoot?

Dinello: Three weeks, twenty-four days. How many does that add up to?

How did you come up with the title?

Sedaris: Sitting in a room, exhausting ourselves. We thought, would you take candy from this woman? And it goes back to the 'Don't take candy from strangers,' message.

Dinello: We all thought that was a little dangerous. And it went along with the after-school special theme... sort of. An after school special with a lesson that you would be healthy to not pay attention to.

Is it hard being associated with a character that is so unconventionally pretty?

Sedaris: [Laughs] What are you saying? I like to play unattractive people only because they have a harder time in life, it's harder for them. And I like unattractive people who like themselves... when they come at you, with those teeth and that face, it's like, 'Oh God, get away from me!' I like playing people like that. I wore a fatty suit because I wanted a different body shape. It also brought out, she's [Jerri] sort of this sexual person that I wouldn't play in real life. Even if I read a script where I have to kiss somebody or touch somebody, I can't do it. But if I have a fatty suit and an overbite, yes! I can do that.

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