During the opening credits of Amy Sedaris’s new TV show, the comedian holds a rake over a fireplace fire, each prong lancing a foot-long hot dog. It’s a deeply silly image, as is the introduction of a cocktail shrimp Christmas tree. So I’m somewhat surprised when the host suggests that At Home with Amy Sedaris comes from her desire to make a serious cooking and crafting program.
“I just wanted it to be one big trigger project,” Sedaris says, “where hopefully it’ll inspire a lot of people.”
After watching a few episodes of At Home, which airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on truTV, it’s difficult to imagine the show inspiring most people to do anything other than laugh. There is a chance that the Strangers with Candy creator, author, and voice of Princess Caroline on BoJack Horseman is messing with me. Beneath the wholesome Lawrence Welk-meets-America’s Funniest Home Videos veneer of her show is a Boschian landscape of darkly comic entropy. At any moment, the star might call all homemade gifts “adorably pointless” before instructing a pair of bored children to make . . . something out of popsicle sticks and bags of human hair.
We’re a long way from Martha Stewart.
While Sedaris’s cooking and crafting show may not be a straightforward instructional program, it is an ideal marriage of the comedian’s singular humor and her passion for crafts and cooking. And her love of hospitality TV programs is real. She grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, in a house full of cooks and crafters (as well as future writers: Her older brother is author David Sedaris). Everyone was always working on something, and when Amy wasn’t, she was watching local hospitality shows full of spunky ladies trying their best. At Home‘s Blanche Devereaux-haired Southern senior, Patty Hogg–played by Sedaris under a thick blanket of makeup–was inspired by some of these characters from her childhood.
“In the back of my head, I always knew I wanted to do this kind of show,” she says. “Ever since I was 10 years old. It was just a matter of when.”
Sedaris’s two bestselling cooking-and-crafting books laid the groundwork for At Home. Working with frequent collaborator, Paul Dinello, Sedaris wrote I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People in 2008 and 2011. As she tells it, it was in the process of writing them that her future show found its loopy tone.
“The cookbooks I wanted to do seriously,” Sedaris says. “A lot of the humor came out of Paul making fun of me trying to be serious. I kept saying, ‘Paul, I don’t want a joke cookbook, nobody takes them seriously.’ I just don’t like joke-anything that’s supposed to be real. I hate when you’re reading a biography and someone’s trying to make light of it. I just want to put it down.”
Regardless of how she may (or may not) have envisioned the books, they turned out as uproarious as everything else that bears her fingerprints. When she finally decided to hunker down and commit to making her hospitality show with Dinello, she used the books as bibles to pitch the series to prospective networks. TruTV eventually snapped up At Home for 10 episodes, despite lingering uncertainties about exactly what they would be getting.
What they got is a joyously offbeat tribute to old-timey cooking and crafting shows, with Sedaris deadpanning her way around a bread pan, doing everything either just a little bit wrong—or all-the-way wrong. In between lessons in warped domesticity are fake ads, PSAs, and visits from regulars like a sapphic naturalist called the Lady in the Lake (played by Heather Lawless) and high-profile guests such as Paul Giamatti, Nick Kroll, and another frequent collaborator, Stephen Colbert. While Sedaris’s affection for those old cooking shows is evident, her personality, humor, and point of view make At Home much more than a mere reflection of the source material.
“There are enough serious cooking and crafting shows out there and the only way I could do this and stay interested is to make it somewhat entertaining on a funny level,” she says.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise for anybody familiar with Sedaris, who can’t help but be funny–whether she’s entertaining for an audience or right at home.