On the summer day that I go to visit the set of At Home with Amy Sedaris, it’s pouring rain. Stepping into the studio, though, provides an automatic respite – the set, modeled after Sedaris’ own apartment, is a delightful jumble of pastels and kitschy ’60s-style floral prints. The aesthetic of slightly deranged domesticity, which Sedaris describes as “like a live version of my books [I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People],” is sure to please her fans and provide an intriguing injection of daffy comedy into the viewing schedules of those unfamiliar with her work. In an age of prestige TV teeming with antihero-packed, bleakly-colored hour-long dramas, At Home with Amy Sedaris stands out with its colorful absurdity, mostly zippy pace, and subversive nostalgia.
The show feels like a prime example of auteur television. When it comes to today’s TV landscape, “I can’t compare it to anything,” says Sedaris, who cites domestically focused shows from her youth like At Home with Peggy Mann and The Galloping Gourmet as influences. Sedaris plays multiple roles on the show, which she co-created and writes with her Strangers with Candy collaborator Paul Dinello. It’s an extension not only of her books and previous show, but her whole life philosophy. “I’m such a domestic person,” Sedaris says. “If I had a choice, I’d never leave my apartment. I’m happy in my apartment. I cook for myself, I decorate, I’m into all that stuff for me. It’s so cozy. It’s more about taking control of your life and being surrounded by things that you really like.”
Her show builds on this cozy life philosophy – even though the episodes find Sedaris faced with increasingly ridiculous obstacles from shoes made of potatoes to fake rich uncles to the bloody potential consequences of crafting, she always ends up okay, writing the pros and cons of the episode’s zany events in her “party log” notebook. The show consistently verges on being uncomfortable, especially when intentionally unsavory men (a knife expert, a diner proprietor, a group of businessmen) enter in various segments, but Sedaris plays herself as unflappable, as someone who just loves to entertain, even if the way she chooses to do so is silly. Even when entertaining for others doesn’t go well, it’s fun to watch her entertain herself. In one of the funniest segments so far, a tribute to being alone shot in cheesy soft-focus, Sedaris towels off after a bubble bath with a set of towels monogrammed “Hers” and “Also Hers.” The show is a celebration of this kind of winking femme aesthetic – both a tribute to and a parody of the ideas of self-care and being a domestic goddess.
Sedaris says that her fantasy guest for the show would be Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. This reference may at first seem strange — Low died in 1927, way before the advent of domestically inclined television — but checking out the set reveals a Girl Scout-like ingenuity at every level. Many of the props evoke childhood crafts (“I was making potholders the night before filming,” Sedaris recalls) and each episode, with its discrete theme, could end with the awarding of a merit badge.
Like a true Girl Scout, Sedaris also values teamwork. “I love building a team,” she says. “Find someone you work well with and build that relationship. You just have to have those people around you. Adam Selman [a fashion designer and close friend of Sedaris] was my aesthetics guy on the show so when I’m not available I can say ‘Talk to Adam, he knows me better than I know myself.’ It makes it easier to have an entourage of people who know me and my limitations and can say ‘Oh here’s a list of words Amy can’t pronounce.’” Given the quickly recognizable, bold aesthetic of the show, it’s clear that Sedaris and Selman have a fruitful relationship. The show also boasts a heavy-hitting lineup of guest stars, including Paul Giamatti, Rachel Dratch, Chris Elliott, and Stephen Colbert. These cameos are silly and pleasingly unpretentious – it seems that everyone is having a good time.
Seeing the filming of an episode presents the vibe of the show in miniature. Sedaris, clad in a ruffled pink dress with an oversized red flower in her hair, chirpily offers a stern police officer a paella sandwich (one of the show’s many culinary mashups that’s perhaps best not tried at home). Throughout multiple takes and slight changes to the dialogue, Sedaris remains cheery, and the combination of crime and snacking embodies the show’s silliness (“For a potential murderess, you make a great sandwich,” says the cop). One of the cameras has a giant googly eye affixed to its side. A walk to the exterior of the set house reveals a small, handmade-looking pet cemetery.
Some might find all this self-aware stylization and borderline bad taste décor elements grating, but the show is a rare example of quirkiness that feels unforced. And what other show features an instruction to insert a filet knife into a fish anus in the very first episode? At Home with Amy Sedaris possesses the ideal combination of charming and gross, and escaping to this weird world is a pleasure.
At Home With Amy Sedaris airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm ET on truTV.