Maybe winter is already taking its toll on you — have you checked? Short days, dry air, too many people in Burlington Coat Factory, all the interesting coffee flavors double in price. These things take a toll on the body.
Luckily, At Home With Amy Sedaris, a new Tuesday night TruTV show of which there are already five episodes available to watch, will help. I promise. Sedaris is best known for her starring role in cult classic in Strangers with Candy, her voice work on BoJack Horseman, her supporting part on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, her famous brother, her fantastic advice column in The Believer, and two books about crafting and cooking. Here, she plays herself, living alone in a house based on her real apartment, cooking and crafting and hosting guests. That’s the whole show. She cooks; she crafts; she hosts guests; she lives alone. On her wall, there is construction paper artwork that reads “ALONE BY CHOICE.” At the end of each episode, her guests clear out and she relaxes with a bath, some raunchy calisthenics, or a period of reflection on what she has learned in the preceding 25 minutes.
At Home With Amy Sedaris is modeled after an antiquated genre of television: the hospitality shows of the ‘60s that taught women how to cook and create and become a perfect domestic partner. Sedaris told Eater last month that she loved those shows as a kid, saying she played “hospitality show” as a game of fantasy when she was growing up. “I like playing house, I like cooking, I like talking to a camera, talking to people that would come on the show.” That spirit is obvious in At Home with Amy Sedaris, as it’s as much about playing as it is actually succeeding at doing anything useful. Sedaris makes crafts like “tater toes” (shoes made out of baked potatoes) and “panty hose eye burritos” (pantyhose filled with beans and decorated with fake eyes, to wear as a sleep mask). She hosts Rachel Dratch, Paul Giamatti, Scott Adsit, Nick Kroll, and some other weirdos, all playing characters who are also weirdos.
She makes food like angel food ice cream cake, which she serves as a crumbling disaster covered in a pile of whipped cream — applied by hand. She serves sangria with Twizzler straws and wraps up a still-lit candle to give as a gift. She also makes actually beautiful pork chops and steak medallions, cable-knit sweaters and coin-studded placemats. She is good at some things and terrible at others, but never acknowledges the difference.
Coming back from a commercial break in one episode, Sedaris greets the audience warmly: “Oh hello, I was just admiring this beer can that I painted to look like an owl.”
The show is calmly weird, making no real fuss over the idea of pouring pancake mix into a toaster or serving a can of condensed milk as dessert. Sedaris rattles off explanations for these decisions as if she is explaining basic arithmetic to a PhD student, almost apologizing for how obvious it should all already be. In an episode about hosting a dinner party when you don’t have any money, she turns casually to the camera and declares: “Being poor is an appalling condition in which one is deprived of even the most basic human needs — is one way to view it! But being poor can also be an amazing opportunity for creative resourcefulness.”
It would be borderline offensive if it weren’t so charming, and followed up by a segment in which “Regional Wine Lady” Ronnie Vino (also played by Sedaris) comes over and teaches her to disguise her tiny booze budget by dumping a fruit salad and some flat ginger ale into dirt-cheap wine, garnishing with “whatever fruit fell on the floor when you were dumping it in.” Before she leaves, Ronnie sings her signature jingle, “It’s Friday / I’m gonna get drunk / I’m gonna get laid” and hip-thrusts in all denim.
Another episode focuses on dealing with grieving people. Sedaris starts the show in the back of a stranger’s funeral, saying she wandered in by accident, looking for a bathroom: “But this is a happy accident because it serves as a stark reminder that sometimes, people are sad. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone who’s grieving, especially if they’re the owner of that cat.” Intending to spend the episode teaching homemaker skills related to compassion and mourning, Sedaris’ plans are derailed by the death of her beloved goldfish. So a Southern busybody named Patty Hogg (Sedaris again) takes over the show and storms through the kitchen, shouting, “She’s got her tea cups in with her juice glasses! Amy, you are useless!” In situations like these, Sedaris plays the straight man opposite zany characters that are also played by Sedaris. She is luminous. She makes winter bearable in her warm, colorful home, with her warm, disturbing personalities.
Sedaris told Eater that hosting friends and family is the best way to combat stress, explaining, “You get good friends together, you cook, you drink something, you smoke something. You do whatever you want to do. And you feel all right for a little while.” If you do not want to actually host anyone, you can also feel all right for a little while by watching the new TV show At Home with Amy Sedaris. You could even do both at the same time? Just grab a cow shin and a bottle of pink nail polish and you can follow along.
The show represents a fun, sloppy example of adulthood. Those are pretty rare, and Sedaris somehow makes the world seem both more surprising and more kind. It reminds me of dinner parties in college — how 20-year-olds play grown-up — which my idiot friends would show up to with boxed wine, or baked ziti with American cheese slices on top. At Home with Amy Sedaris has the same candor as a Martha Stewart blog post, the same DIY spirit and disgusting results as a Tasty video, the same comforting mundanity as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the same magic as an Easy Bake Oven.
Though it can solve anyone’s winter blues, this show is a triumph for weird girls specifically. It’s not the type of “weird” encouraged on Instagram, which is more about arranging yourself into a quirky, stylish still-life and joking about looking like a slob when you don’t actually. It’s not like Pinterest, where everything turns out perfect in the end — though occasionally things do turn out pretty good. Sedaris is dazzling, skilled, and unabashedly weird; she’s capable of making or smiling through anything. She’s unfazed when she makes a mortician cry and she grins gamely at a community theater actor who tells her, “Your hands are like the claws of a raven.” She puts a platter full of water in the middle of her dining room table and tells a guest that they just missed the most beautiful ice sculpture recreation of the iceberg that hit the Titanic.
“I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, also some spiders,” she says, dressed as a hobo with a foot fetish, addressing herself, dressed in a Snow White costume. Her show is not like anything you can watch anywhere else, and it’s also nothing like the real world. It’s a delight. It’s winter, and you need it.