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Amy Sedaris

By Violet LeVoit | Posted 8/2/2006

"[David] Letterman and ThinkFilm gave us money to make a movie for misfits and outcasts and ugly people," says Amy Sedaris over the phone from a New York hotel room. "And that’s great, because nobody makes movies for them." It’s tempting to argue that, no, that’s who practically every movie is made for--that’s why they’re usually populated with perfectly symmetrical superstars instead of Sedaris’ willfully grotesque creation Jerri Blank. But Sedaris sounds tired--she admits she’s already done 41 interviews promoting the new Strangers With Candy movie--and she’s cheerfully chirping the answers to what must be the same goddamn questions, so we let it be.

As long as we’re here, though, where did the idea for this movie--an ostensible prequel to the cult Comedy Central show about 46-year-old ex-con Jerri (Sedaris) returning to high school--come from? It’s nothing profound. "We kept thinking of Jerri Blank stuff that would be funny," Sedaris says, the "we" referring to her longtime collaborators Paul Dinello (who also directed) and Stephen Colbert. The three had joined up to write the satirical book Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not and instead of staying focused kept riffing on Strangers gags that hadn’t been used when the show ended its run in 2000. "That’s how the three of us think," Sedaris says. "If we laugh really hard, it goes in the script."

There are laughs in the movie, especially for those who liked Strangers’ original-run blend of absurdity, offense, and Sedaris’ vanity-free pursuit of a joke, but nothing new. Why, given the chance to do anything with these characters, did Sedaris and Co. plunk them back down in their familiar slots? "A lot of people wanted to see backstory," she says. "We had a scene where Jerri was born--‘Congratulations, it’s a boy,’ you know, that old joke." But the three decided, mysteriously, to eliminate the possibility of something new. Save for an opening montage of Jerri in prison and a couple A-list cameos--Matthew Broderick, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sarah Jessica Parker--Strangers jumps right back to where it left off, giving the entire stretched-thin 97 minutes the feel of an unaired pilot rather than a feature ready to stand alone.

So after this, does Sedaris want to revisit Jerri again, or is it on to other things? "She’s like a rash," Sedaris reassures. "She’ll just keep reappearing. She’s strong enough to pop up again." Great news--and maybe next time we can catch Jerri’s return orbit without losing eight ill-spent bucks.

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