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Wigging Out 

Amy Sedaris finds a seething cesspool of lucre, lust, and lunacy in Wigfield

Wednesday, Jul 30 2003
The best Amy Sedaris anecdote ever was reported by her brother, humorist and NPR commentator David Sedaris, in his book Me Talk Pretty One Day. It seems their dad was waaaaaaay too concerned with his daughter's looks, monitoring them throughout her life with "the intensity of a pimp," writes David. Once, when Amy was heading out for a magazine photo shoot, her father begged her to at least pretend to be a normal, attractive girl for the pictures. Instead, devilish Sedaris asked to be made up as if she'd been severely beaten. After the shoot Sedaris left on the ersatz bruises and black eyes, heading out to the dry cleaner's, the grocery store, and finally to her job waiting tables. Whenever anyone asked what had happened, Sedaris grinned and said, "I'm in love. Can you believe it? I'm finally, totally in love, and I feel great."

It took a woman that brave -- and that strange -- to star in Strangers With Candy, the Comedy Central series in which Sedaris played a 46-year-old high school freshman who'd returned to class after 30 years of jail time to punish her for being a "junkie whore." Sedaris camouflaged her youthful good looks with a wig, an overbite full of fake teeth, and a fat suit, exhibiting a penchant for costuming that was to follow her throughout her career.

But though Strangers developed a cult following (reportedly including Janeane Garofalo, Beck, and Tina Turner) over its three seasons, Comedy Central junked it in 2000. This left Sedaris with nothing much to do besides continuing her extensive waitressing career, writing and performing in comic plays with David, playing Carrie's publisher Courtney in Sex and the City, recording a sitcom pilot for Fox, and selling her homemade cheese balls and cupcakes in the lobby after stage performances.

Thankfully Sedaris still had time to team up once more with Strangers collaborators Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert (whom fans of Comedy Central's Daily Show will recognize as a regular correspondent) to write the book Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not, a faux-journalistic look at a writer who comes to investigate an example of the disappearing American small town and instead finds a seething cesspool of lucre, lust, and lunacy. The trio produced fake interviews and photographs in which they impersonated Wigfield's residents, including Raven the transvestite stripper; animal-hating, ax-wielding taxidermist Lenare; and Julian Childs, a theatrical producer who specializes in performances with all-rabbit casts.

Wigfield's stage show transfers the book's goofy satire to the boards, with the authors masquerading as various Wigfieldians. The costumes alone -- developed in concert with designer Todd Oldham -- are a scream, as none of the three is too proud to reach for a laugh with funny hairpieces and trashy get-ups. But that's no surprise from a group that wrung three years' worth of laughs out of Amy's fat-suit-enlarged ass.

About The Author

Joyce Slaton


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