Goodbye to All That: Talking with Amy Sedaris About Broad City, Crazy Cat Ladies, and Leaving New York

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Photo C/O Paradigm

Whether you were first introduced to Amy Sedaris via her role as Jerri Blank on Strangers with Candy, the Comedy Central show she co-created with Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Mitch Rouse; or her incredibly popular (and actually really useful!) craft books, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People!; or her bit parts in films like Elf and TV shows like Broad City; or her hilarious turns on The Late Show with David Letterman; or even her appearances in her brother, David’s, memoirs, one thing is for sure—once you’ve seen Amy Sedaris in action, you never forget her. This quality has served her well in a career that is uniquely her own (it is hard to think of anyone else who can fit so seamlessly in guest-starring roles in shows as diverse as Law and Order: SVUSex and the City, and Sesame Street) and it is on display in her latest film, Goodbye to All That, a film written and directed by Angus Maclachlan (Junebug) which centers around the fallout surrounding a divorce. Sedaris has but a small part in the film, but it’s a memorable one: Let’s just say it involves a conversation in a closet that centers around being a crazy cat lady and how you never, ever, ever get over your ex. Fun! We spoke with Sedaris recently about the film, life in New York, and why she never wanted to be the star of the show.

Hello! How are you? So, what was it that initially got you involved with this film? 
Hi! Well, Angus, the director… you know that’s a good question! I was going to say maybe he contacted me, but maybe he went through my agent? I don’t really remember, to tell you the truth. I don’t remember! I think it was Angus. It was a part he thought I’d enjoy playing. Because, you know, it was a woman with many, many cats. So maybe he thought of me and thought I would do a good job with it or something.

Ha, yeah, I guess it’s sort of a weird question, right? The answer probably involves agents and is not a very interesting story. But you were very interesting in the role! Any scene where you shove someone in a closet is bound to be good. It was a small part, but very memorable.
I love parts where it’s a day. You come in, you do it, and you get lots of laughs. It’s a fun part. And then you get to walk away. Since I was little those have been my favorite parts. I never wanted to be the star of the play. I wanted the walk off parts. So this reminded me of that and I enjoyed it.

Plus, there was the fact that I got to work in an office. I never got to work in an office. Whenever those jobs pop up I take them, because I have no idea of what it was like to work in an office.

That might be a fun way to choose parts, based on the life you never had.
Yeah! Because I’m always like wow! This is what it’s like! This is what you do!

Sort of like how you transformed into both the realest and most surreal real estate agent ever in Broad City.
Oh my god. Thank you! That was great. The minute I went to wardrobe they gave me a size nine shoe, and I wear a size five, and so I was like, ok. I understand what this part is supposed to be like.

How much of the part was scripted and how much was ad-libbed?
Well, they were open to improvising, and I improvised a lot, but it was also very well-written. I think we got in everything they wrote, like the line about making dolls—the dolls out of human hair—that was their line.

Oh! That’s interesting; it seems like it could have come from you, what with all your crafting.
I know, right?

Have you ever used human hair?
I have used it to make my Jesus beard, for Simple Times. I saved all my hair from my hair brush and just used that to make the beard. It’s kinda gross. It kinda looks like squirrel hair.

Are you doing any crafts for Christmas presents this year?
I’ve just been making my usual potholders. I haven’t been that crafty for Christmas this year. I’m going out of town for three weeks and to London to visit my brother. My time has kind of been chewed up. What about you? Are you crafty? Are you making anything?

I wish I was crafty. I probably should be. Maybe I’ll makes some stuff this year for people.
It’s always people who don’t craft who say they’re going to make something for people for Christmas. And it’s like: No! Don’t you get it? Nobody wants crafts for Christmas anyhow! Unless they’re useful. But nobody wants it! And if you’re not used to making it? Then don’t do it! Oh my god… don’t do that! You know? Especially if you’re not good at it.

Understood! So, you’re going away this year, but do you like New York during the Christmas time?
I love it. There’s nowhere else that does it right, in the States at least. Especially if you go down South and they’ve only decorated the telephone poles and it’s hot out. That’s why I like New York. It’s festive. It’s cold. All the people. Everyone decorates their windows. But I’m going to go to London to visit my brother and it’s super duper Christmas-y over there. I do like North Carolina, where I’m from, where there are also tree stands with guys standing there. It’s so festive.

So you’re from North Caroline, and the movie was also shot there. How was that?
It was good. I stayed with my sister who lives in Winston-Salem. And I really enjoyed the movie. Paul Schnieder was really funny. Very down to earth. Very good natured. Also from the South. Very good in the movie.

Beyond your acting and writing career, you also bear the disctinction of being probably the best talk show guest ever…
Go on! I’m listening!

It’s true! I’ve loved seeing you on Letterman over the years! Are you just going to miss him terribly?
Yes! Absolutely, it’s like, oh my god… that’s it! There’s no one left after him. I mean Colbert is great and he’s going to do a good job. But when you’re in the chair with Dave, you feel his skill. You get a really good sense. I like doing Seth Meyers’ show as well, because you really just sit down and have a good conversation, and that’s how I feel about Letterman. Some shows want you to have a bit or do a demonstration, and that’s fine, but not everyone wants to do that. I like that you’re just able to sit down for six minutes and have a conversation, no matter what the pre-interview was, you never really know what you’re going to get. I’m really going to miss him. And I’m going to miss Colbert’s show too.

Hopefully you’ll be visiting him though at his new gig?
He did invite me! He did ask if I would be a guest on his show, and I was like hmmm let me think about it… ok!

Do you get to see him and Paul Dinello much?
I did Colbert a couple weeks ago, and it was really fun to be there, and I was running lines with Paul backstage. I see Paul a lot because I’m the godmother of his son. He’s three now and so he’s really starting to understand Santa Claus. He saw me in Elf and he couldn’t wrap his head around it. He couldn’t believe it was me. So I told him I have a connection to Santa Claus.

His little  brain will short circuit with that kind of information!
I just have so much fun with him! It’s the first time i’ve ever spent any time around a child.

So, this movie’s title—Goodbye to All That—is also the title of a Joan Didion essay about leaving New York City. I have to ask: Are you going to be leaving us?
I don’t have any plans to! I don’t have anywhere else to go, unless it was over seas. I need the stimulation of the city, because I live by myself and I like being by myself, so I need the outside stimulation of the city to keep me going.

Well, good. Because I think the city honestly needs you, and people like you, lest it becomes all investment bankers or something.
Well, then, there you go!

Goodbye to All That is now playing at IFC Film Center.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


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