Like many other great comic talents, writer/actress/author Amy Sedaris honed her skills at Chicago's famed Second City Theater before making her mark as a comedienne. Her bizarre role on Comedy Central's cult favorite, "Strangers with Candy" (1999-2000) became the defining role of her career. Although many of her other roles demonstrated her range and allowed her to "dial down the crazy" a bit, her "Candy" character of Jerri Blank best exemplified her own eccentric personality and endeared her to the masses by its sheer oddity.
Sedaris was born into a large family of four girls and two boys on Mar. 29, 1961 in Endicott, NY, but grew up in Raleigh, NC with her mother, Sharon, and father, Lou. Sedaris chose not to attend college, instead forming a baking business with her mother. On a whim, she eventually left North Carolina for Chicago, IL, where she began taking classes at Second City; joining its main stage in the early 1990's - a major accomplishment for any struggling comic. At Second City, she met fellow comics Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, with whom she would eventually form a longstanding collaborative relationship. A few years after Sedaris' 1993 departure for New York City, Colbert and Dinello joined her there, and the three oddballs wrote and performed on Comedy Central's short-lived sketch comedy show, "Exit 57" (1995-96).
At roughly the same time, Amy's brother, David Sedaris, a best-selling humorist with a near-religious fan base, contributed to his sister's show; the two forming a team called "The Talent Family." The siblings worked together again several times, authoring a number of plays, including "Stump the Host" (1993), "Stitches" (1994), "One Woman Shoe" (1995), "The Little Frieda Mysteries" (1997) and "The Book of Liz" (2002). In those plays and in most of her subsequent work, Sedaris frequently played characters who - unlike her - were physically unattractive, even damaged. She made her preference for these types of roles known at the beginning of her career, finding steady work in spite of this choice. Not even the world of comedy was ready for the jarring image of ugly that Sedaris was about to unleash on the unsuspecting world.
In 1998, she starred in Comedy Central's short "Strangers with Candy: Retardation, a Celebration" as Jerri Blank, a 46-year-old high school dropout returning to high school after over 30 years of drugs, prostitution and prison. Written by and starring Sedaris, Colbert and Dinello, Jerri Blank horrified with her fake eyelashes, gash of red lipstick and the squashed frown. After Sedaris appeared briefly in "Six Days, Seven Nights" (1998), "Strangers with Candy" was picked up as a series by Comedy Central, with Sedaris, Colbert and Dinello reprising their earlier roles. Although the show only ran from 1999-2000, it became an instant cult hit.
Afterwards, Sedaris took an extended vacation from Jerri Blank, but continued to work steadily on television, including multi-episode arcs on "Just Shoot Me," (NBC, 1997-2003), "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004), "Ed" (NBC, 2000-04) and "Monk" (2002- ). She also appeared in a number of successful and more commercial films, such as "Maid in Manhattan" (2002), "School of Rock" (2003) and "Elf" (2003).
In addition to her acting work, Sedaris operated a small business selling homemade baked goods - her specialties included cheese balls and cupcakes - and took a cue from her brother's success in the publishing world by co-authoring 2003's Wigfield with Dinello and Colbert. She also began a monthly advice column for the magazine, The Believer and collected her thoughts on entertaining in the 2006 book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.
After appearing in the animated film "Chicken Little" (2005), she, Dinello and Colbert reared Jerri Blank's garishly made-up head once again, in the movie version of "Strangers with Candy." The film premiered at Sundance in 2005 before going wide in 2006. The film received mostly tepid reviews, confirming perhaps that in spite of Sedaris' many talents, "Strangers" probably remained a confection best suited for cult audiences exclusively.
Nevertheless, Sedaris displayed her rising clout in Tinseltown the following year when she joined the all-star cast of "Shrek the Third" (2007). As the voice of Cinderella, Sedaris teamed with fellow comediennes Amy Poehler and Cheri Oteri (as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, respectively) to play a triumvirate of fairy tale princesses who get locked up alongside Shrek's bride, the kind-hearted Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Re-imagined as a clique of snobby young socialites, Sedaris and company were a hysterically welcome new addition to the ever-growing "Shrek" mythology.