Audience members entered the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Thursday not knowing exactly what to expect from an evening with Amy Sedaris. Nor, apparently, did Sedaris.
Few details were provided to the hundreds of fans who sold-out online ticket sales ahead of the event. Purchasers were left not knowing if Sedaris would be speaking, performing or reading from her popular 2006 entertaining guide I like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.
The event, which was organized by the Synagogue and not by the management of Sedaris, seemed to hastily settle on an interview format for the night. Sedaris was joined by author Amy Cohen who conducted an hour-long interview followed by audience questions. Cohen, author of the memoir The Late Bloomer’s Revolution (currently being adapted into a film starring Sarah Jessica Parker) proved herself an unfit – and often miserable – host. Also a New Yorker, the participation of Cohen in the evening was – for the Synagogue – a waste of a second Amtrak ticket from Penn Station.
An Amazon.com review of The Late Bloomer’s Revolution notes “Cohen spends a lot of time wallowing in her neurosis.” The same may be equally applied to her interview style. Her lengthy notes about her own life, coupled with repeated fawning over Sedaris, visibly irritated the audience and her guest. It also prevented Cohen from asking questions which would have more richly revealed the humor of Amy Sedaris. Many questions submitted by Cohen were actually declarations, which Sedaris refused to answer. “Your book is very modern, but it is also a little old fashioned,” declared Cohen expecting a lengthy answer. “Hmm. Is it?” was Sedaris’ short reply.
Sedaris did her best to buoy the evening with her humor. When she was allowed to speak, she provided entertaining observations on Stephen Colbert, Martha Stewart, her cult creation Strangers with Candy, her imaginary boyfriend Ricky, decorating, cooking and crafts. In discussing her love for crafts, Sedaris revealed that she has supplanted her old, well-known celebrity craft circle “The Crafty Beavers” with a new group – “The Frayed Knots.”
At the lowest points, Sedaris overtook the interview from Cohen in an attempt to restore it to an interesting discussion. When Cohen dully rambled about her own eight-month exposure to a facial rash, Sedaris woke the audience by interrupting with “Well, was your rash stress related?” before launching into a series of prodding, humorous questions.
As a segway from the interview format, Amy Sedaris brought along a craft kit which she used to concoct an “eye burrito” as described in her entertainment book as an aide to cure puffy eyes. To help her, Sedaris selected an over-excited audience participant who out-creeped Cohen with a larger level of adoration (at one point, the woman even lovingly petted Sedaris while the unknowing author was distracted from stretching out a pair of pantyhose). The night ultimately merged into audience questions which, fortunately, shut Amy Cohen up for the remainder of the discussion.
It is hard to not like any evening spent with Amy Sedaris. The author delighted with each story told. Sedaris has the ability to entertain an audience simply by rambling. If the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue had only allowed her to do so, that would have made for a much more entertaining evening.