'At Home With Amy Sedaris': 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' for Grown Ups
It’s impossible to really describe Amy Sedaris’ new TruTV series. A nighttime homemaking show? Only you never really learn a single full recipe. A longform sketch comedy? Amy plays herself, sort of, I think, as well as other characters. It’s clearly of a piece with her books on crafting and party planning, but it isn’t really based on them. There are recognizable cameos, and an abundance of themed puns (oh god, the Potato Ships). There’s a lot of glue. There are prosthetics and wigs. Shrimp jewelry and tormented stagehands.
It’s a show that can go from a joke about chickens being the “fish of the land” to a joke about stabbing without batting an eye.
Look, I can’t really explain At Home with Amy Sedaris, and yet I can absolutely vouch that it ticked basically all my boxes. Ones I didn’t know I had. Ones that probably haven’t been ticked since I was a kid, watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, another show that defied a simple elevator pitch-style summary. Like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, At Home is full of kooky characters and strange cut-aways but is still, at heart, just a candy-colored vehicle for the singular talents of Sedaris. She’s an adorable button of a woman, who will do anything for a laugh. She’ll wear silly costumes. She’ll pretend her eyes are swollen shut from a shellfish allergy after building a tower out of shrimp. She’ll hump the floor. She’ll drink beer in the bath, and teach you how to massage lotion into your skin by focusing on all the crevices (and I mean ALL of them).
As a fan of Strangers With Candy, I was prepared to see Amy Sedaris being outlandish and silly. So perhaps the greatest surprise is just how much of the humor comes from seeing her play it straight. The first episode, which ostensibly is about planning a fish-fry dinner for a group of random businessmen, ends with said dinner. And the joke is that the businessmen, particularly the one played by Paul Giamatti, are filthy hound dogs who don’t even eat fish. They just sit around telling gross stories about women. But watch Amy’s reactions. She plays the most honestly horrified host I’ve ever seen. And in the second episode she has a friend come help her make spanakopita — only for the friend to drag a purse across the phyllo dough as they butter the layers, over and over and over again. Amy doesn’t even notice.
From the recipes to the crafts to the gorgeously kitschy set, it’s impossible to tell how much of the show is genuine and how much is done strictly for laughs. And maybe that’s because a tower of shrimp is funny, AND it’s something I believe Amy would really set out at a party. And though I don’t know how much we’re supposed to believe, I do think there might be some genuine tips hidden in each episode. Can you REALLY just put some oatmeal in some old pantyhose and make your own bath sachet? Probably!
All I know is that I laughed harder during Tuesday night’s back-to-back premiere episodes than I have at any other new show this season… and yet I can’t think of what the ideal audience should be. I can only hope that means that there is something in this show for everyone to enjoy, on some level. Because At Home with Amy Sedaris is one of the most thoroughly original shows I’ve ever seen… and I really hope it finds the kind of longevity that Pee-Wee did. Only with less public masturbation.