- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Somewhere beneath the buckteeth and two-tone ‘do of Jerri Blank in “Strangers With Candy” lurks Amy Sedaris, a comic who never met a disguise she wasn’t ready to wear.

Yet to hear her tell it, too few female comics are willing to slap on makeup that doesn’t include such glamour tools as lip gloss and blush.

While chatting up the movie version of “Candy,” which arrives on the big screen tomorrow after a yearlong run on Comedy Central that ended in 2000, Miss Sedaris says she tried to find funny women to bounce ideas off of during her days with the Second City comedy troupe — but to little or no avail.

“[The women] were concerned with wanting to look pretty or getting married,” says Miss Sedaris, 45.

The petite comic actress, however, certainly can’t be accused of sacrificing laughs to preserve her own comely looks. She routinely screws up her face for magazine layouts and dons fat pants for her most famous role.

Her Comedy Central series (30 episodes that aired over three short seasons in 1999 and 2000) introduced us to Jerri, a 46-year-old ex-con whose drug abuse and prostitution led her to begin life anew by starting over as a high school student.

That’s the basis of “Candy,” a spoof on the pious bygone after-school specials that preached to teens in the 1970s. Miss Sedaris’ Jerri has earned a following among a disparate group, from youngsters to judges — but the common denominator remains “misfits and outcasts,” she says proudly.

The television show never drew big ratings, but enough affection remained for a tiny budgeted film project (about $3 million) to move forward. Touted as a prequel to the series, the movie boasts a crush of glitzy cameos — from newly minted Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman to Broadway darling Matthew Broderick.

Miss Sedaris knew them all and says it didn’t take much arm tugging to add them to the film.

However, it’s Miss Sedaris who is front and center. That’s a vantage point the comedian — known for her calculated quirks, including having an imaginary boyfriend and telling tales of waiting tables near her Greenwich Village home — rarely sees.

“God, I’ve got to get something else going on with my life,” she grouses playfully.

Miss Sedaris began honing her comic skills with her brother David, who later emerged as a best-selling humorist (“Naked,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day”). She eventually wound up at Second City, Chicago’s celebrated improvisational comedy troupe, but unlike other famous alumni (such as Bill Murray and Gilda Radner) never joined the mainstream.

Instead, Miss Sedaris appeared in several off-Broadway shows co-written with her brother, and she also landed a few semiregular gigs on the small screen (“Just Shoot Me,” “Sex and the City”).

Keeping a low profile means she works less but gets to be choosier about her parts. Plus, it also lets her embrace physical comedy like few of her peers.

Jerri makes that even easier, she says … or at least Jerri’s generous rump.

“When you’re in a fatty suit you’ll throw yourself down a flight of stairs,” Miss Sedaris says.

It’s also a great way to retain her anonymity in a business where privacy is the first victim of fame.

“I don’t want the attention,” Miss Sedaris explains. “I wanna walk down the street and still not get recognized. I wanna be under the radar.”

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