PETER SAGAL, HOST:
The funniest, most subversive TV comedy ever isn't "South Park" or any of the strange shows on "Adult Swim," it's "Strangers with Candy."
CARL KASELL: The show ran on Comedy Central for just two seasons 14 years ago, and one of the stars was Amy Sedaris, who played a woman in her 40s who goes back to high school.
SAGAL: Amy joined us in 2006 to talk about that show and her popular books on entertaining. Here she is with panelists Charlie, Amy and Mo.
AMY SEDARIS: M: Because when you invite someone into your home, be it a dealer or boyfriend, whatever, you're saying I like you.
SEDARIS: Right? Yeah. That's why.
SAGAL: I understand.
SEDARIS: And "Under the Influence" really is about, you know, I was influenced by Girl Scouts and Junior Achievements and my second first-grade teacher - you know, all the things that I've been, you know, influenced by. And then I have a whole chapter on how - what a pain in the butt it is to entertain people who do get drunk or really messed up on something - how they can single- handedly bring your party to a screaming halt because they always think they're the life of the party but really, they bring it down.
SAGAL: Now, I noticed - I was leafing through the book, and I noticed it has many recipes.
SEDARIS: Yeah, OK, yeah.
SAGAL: And I just...
SEDARIS: And lots of pictures and large print.
SAGAL: Oh yeah, lots of pictures and large print. I'm sure you...
SEDARIS: I really kept the illiterate in mind because a lot of people who can't read, that's one thing, and then there are a lot of people who just don't know how to read. So I wanted to do a visual book so that when they saw the picture, it would inspire them to write their own story in their head.
SAGAL: Do you advise - I mean, are these real recipes? If I make...
SEDARIS: Yeah, I took it seriously. A lot of the humor came from Paul Dinello making fun of the fact that I was trying to be serious. So I decided to make it a little bit more entertaining than I originally wanted to, because I just don't like joke cookbooks. And it would just go into a wacky pile, and nobody would take it seriously. So it's all real.
SAGAL: Including, like, your list of munchies?
SEDARIS: Yeah, that was a hard list to come up with.
SAGAL: Yeah, I could tell because...
SEDARIS: Someone thought I was holding a hummingbird feeder in that picture, and it's a bong. It's so funny to me.
SEDARIS: Because it's like, why would I be holding a hummingbird feeder, looking like that? That's so funny to me.
SAGAL: I mean, the list starts out OK.
CHARLIE PIERCE: That could explain why the hummingbirds fly upside down and backwards in my yard.
PIERCE: I thought it was a hummingbird feeder when I found it in the garage.
SEDARIS: They got some good chronic; that's what it is.
PIERCE: I'd forgotten I owned that.
SAGAL: Well, Amy Sedaris, we are delighted to have you with us. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...
KASELL: Drinking This Much Will Either Win Me a Pulitzer Prize, or Make Not Winning a Lot Easier to Take.
SAGAL: Not all great writers are drinkers but certainly, it often seems that way. We recently came across a book called "Hemingway and Baileys Bartending Guide."
SAGAL: It's a book of anecdotes and cocktail recipes from the country's famous authors. We'll ask you three questions about the drinking habits of literary geniuses in history.
SAGAL: Get two questions right; you will win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine.
SEDARIS: Wow, OK.
SAGAL: So Carl, who is Amy Sedaris playing for?
KASELL: Amy is playing for David Tuttle of Arcadia, California.
SAGAL: All right, you ready?
SAGAL: Here we go. Here's your first question. There are big drinkers, and then there's Jack Kerouac.
SAGAL: The author of "On the Road" once got so drunk he did what? A, he roasted, cut up and ate a Goodyear truck tire; B, he enlisted in the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines on the same day...
SAGAL: Or C, he got married to a 47-year-old elevator operator who spoke no English?
SEDARIS: Oh, they're all so good, Sophie's choice.
SEDARIS: I'm going to say three.
SAGAL: You're going to say he got married to that 47-year-old elevator operator who spoke no English?
SEDARIS: It's not true. I'm going to say three, but I bet it's two.
SAGAL: Well, which are you going to say? I don't want you to...
SEDARIS: I am saying three, but I bet it's two.
SAGAL: I don't know what this says about you; it is the second choice. It's B, yes.
SEDARIS: Yeah, it is. Yeah.
SAGAL: It was the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.
SEDARIS: I knew it.
SAGAL: So why didn't you...
SEDARIS: Because that's what I would do. I would get in a line. You know, when you're like that and you just call everybody. But I don't know, I like the idea of three, but I knew it was two.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: He did. He enlisted on the same day into the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines. Strangely, by the time he sobered up, he was onboard a ship headed for Greenland. He was in the Merchant Marine.
SEDARIS: So I know I lost it but I...
SAGAL: No, no. No, no, no, you have two more chances, if you get the next two right...
SEDARIS: It was a choice to lose.
SAGAL: If you get two more right, you will win. So don't...
SAGAL: Here we go. Author Sherwood Anderson died from drinking - not in the way, though, you might...
SEDARIS: Ha, ha, that's hilarious. Go on.
SAGAL: But he did not die in the way you might think. What finally did him in? Was it A, he realized his newly bought bottle of scotch was Johnny Walker Red, not Black. He turned around to go return it, and was hit by a truck...
SAGAL: B, he was talking and drinking and eating at a shipboard cocktail party, and he swallowed a toothpick?
SAGAL: Or C, he suggested to a sailor that drinking creme de menthe was quote, sort of a namby-pamby thing to do, is it not, unquote.
SEDARIS: It was two.
SAGAL: It was two, the toothpick?
SAGAL: You're right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: That's what happened.
SEDARIS: I was going to say toothpick or a campaign button.
AMY DICKINSON: Wow.
SEDARIS: A toothpick is very dangerous; I know that. That and campaign buttons.
SAGAL: Have you swallowed a campaign button?
SEDARIS: No, not yet.
SAGAL: OK. Now, you've gotten one right. You've gotten one right. Well anyway, that is how Sherwood Anderson died. He had swallowed a toothpick. It came him peritonitis, and he passed away. It's true.
SAGAL: If you get this last question correct, Amy, you will, in fact, win. Here we go.
SEDARIS: Wow, I never win anything.
SAGAL: Well, you might win this.
SAGAL: Last question: Thomas Wolfe, the author, of course, of "You Can't go Home Again," "Look Homeward, Angel," he could be alarming as a drinking buddy. Why? A, he liked to bite off parts of his glass and chew on them; B, when he ran out of liquor in the middle of the night, he would break into friends' homes and drink theirs...
SAGAL: Or C, he liked to challenge people to a drinking came called "I Can Down Any Bottle of Any Booze in 60 Seconds"?
MO ROCCO: He sounds like a terrible guest.
SEDARIS: Is he seeing anybody? I know he's dead. Let's see, gosh, OK, chewing the glass, which - OK, that's a possibility. I'm going to say three.
SAGAL: You're going to go with C, that choice?
SEDARIS: It's not C. I can tell by - you're disappointed in my choice.
SAGAL: No, I was just trying to build up some dramatic tension. I wasn't trying to indicate one or another.
SEDARIS: Well, you're doing a good job. Now, I'm depressed.
SAGAL: All right.
SAGAL: But that is your choice, C?
SEDARIS: Yeah. But I bet it's one. What is it?
SAGAL: Yes, it was one, I'm afraid.
SEDARIS: Do you know why I thought it was one?
SAGAL: Why did you...
SEDARIS: Because my brother David has this Ronco glass cutter, and he would take our wine bottles and make them into glasses, but he would never sand the edges. So when we'd drink from the glass, we'd all cut our lips. And that's why I thought it was believable. But dammit, I picked C.
SAGAL: Yeah, you did. And he did like - Thomas Wolfe apparently did like to chew glass. We don't know why.
SAGAL: But he did.
SEDARIS: So I guess I'm a loser.
SAGAL: Well let's find out. Carl, how did Amy Sedaris do on our quiz?
KASELL: Well, she said it.
KASELL: But to make it official, Amy needed two correct answers, at least, to win. She had just one correct answer.
SEDARIS: See, I know; we all know. Why repeat it?
SEDARIS: Now, I'm depressed.
SAGAL: Amy Sedaris is a comedian, actress, and author of the new book "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence." Amy Sedaris, thank you so much for joining us.
SEDARIS: Thank you so much, you guys.
SAGAL: Coming up, Jim Gaffigan became famous joking about a frozen sandwich, and Tig Notaro did the same making jokes about getting cancer. Hey, whatever works.
Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, recognizing exceptionally creative individuals, this year's MacArthur fellows are at macfound.org; the Annie E. Casey Foundation, developing solutions to support strong families and communities for America's children, at aecf.org; and to the Sy Syms Foundation, supporting advances in science, education and the arts since 1985, SySimsFoundation.org.
We'll be back in a minute with more WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! from NPR.