Last Night, She Spoke: Amy Sedaris, Carol Burnett and Judy Blume
Photo by Dylan Hollingsworth
The trifecta of female role models just came through Dallas and Fort Worth, so we drew straws, traded the straws, traded them a few more times, wished we had time machines, and then set out in separate directions to spend the evening with some highly influential women. Here's what happened at Amy, Carol and Judy last night.
Amy Sedaris at the Kessler (Hunter Hauk) Comedians pace the stage, work with "material," land on pre-determined laugh lines. Amy Sedaris is no comedian. She's just damn funny. So the Strangers With Candy star and writer of absurdist lifestyle books didn't have to do anything scripted during her hour-long appearance on the Kessler stage.
She did a few silly craft demos with the aid of audience members, most of whom became victims of Sedaris' gentle jabs. Looking as cute as ever in a smart multicolored and patterned dress, she could get away with saying anything to people.
As one female volunteer glued felt googly eyes onto bean-filled pantyhose (for what's called an "eye burrito"), Sedaris marveled at her ability to get so much glue out of the tube.
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"My arm is killing me from trying to force it out of there. ... Oh, why is it working for you? Huh. Maybe you're stronger or sumpin. ... That forearm." Crazy laughter.
The demos were followed by an extended Q&A session, which played more like members of a mob yelling out half-coherent comments. Very Farley-esque. But, if anyone can play along with such a thing ... well, you know Amy can.
More from the show ... Best insight: Sedaris explained why she no longer sells homemade cupcakes to bakeries. "The price of butter went up, and then I got cockroaches and mice and it just wasn't worth it anymore. And by then, everybody was doing cupcakes. But I always used Land O' Lakes, because it had the hot squaw on the cover of it."
Best audience question: "What was your favorite thing about working with Dolly Parton [in her "Better Get To Livin'" video]?" Amy's answer: "Starin' at her. But she walked by and I heard her say 'smokee sawsage.' I swear to God. ... And then we all went to Dollywood."
Most unexpected audience question: "What do you say to young women who say they don't want to be feminists?" Amy's answer: "I call them a whore."
Carol Burnett at Bass Performance Hall (Jamie Laughlin) Carol strolled on the Bass stage with her hands clasped happily over her mouth, cheekbones reaching the heavens, until finally she exploded in what seemed like a combustive release of love and laughter. She Tarzaned. She waltzed with a stranger. She explained that rollerskating indoors is an important activity for girls to do. She was the Most Amazing Woman in the World, and she looked positively charming in her coral two-piece with sheer, sequin top.
Her "evening of conversation" consisted of dozens of people professing their love while trying to snatch the microphones out of some very nervous-looking ushers' hands -- the people occasionally asked questions. Burnett finessed each response with humorous respect and segmented the evening's entertainment with clips from The Carol Burnet Show.
At one point, she asked if anyone backstage could bring her a chair (She "can't stand in heels for too long, but they make [her] legs look sooooo goooood!"); it led to a sketch that felt utterly extemporaneous, ending with Burnett sitting in a director's chair in what looked to be a mini living-room set, complete with flower arrangement.
Fun Carol Burnett fact: Due to an idea by her "terribly bawdy" friend Julie Andrews that was improperly executed, she was once caught wearing pajamas and furry slippers, fake making out with Mary Poppins in front of Lady Bird Johnson.
Most Inspirational Moment: When Burnett spoke about her (now deceased) daughter's advice to conquering the world, "She said, 'I wake up each day and decide 'Today I'm going to love my life.''" Most Unexpected Audience Question: "Looking back on your career, would you attribute your success to your talent or the casting couch?" Burnett: "I'd like to think it was my talent ON the casting couch."
Why I want to be Carol Burnett when I grow up: Always on, this woman is the real deal. The only thing bigger than her heart is her talent.
Judy Blume at First United Methodist Church (Jennifer Davis-Lamm) I've been to a fair number of these Arts and Letters Live events before -- I've laughed along with David Sedaris, enjoyed Colson Whitehead's cynicism and Daniel Handler's wit, and gotten super serious with Ian McEwan. I've had a great time at every one of those, but I have to say that I was so much more excited about Judy Blume's appearance last night as part of the Dallas Museum of Arts' BooksmART series than any other. Because while I loved books by all those other authors, I literally spent the better half of my childhood with my nose buried in a Judy Blume book. I clearly wasn't the only one.
The sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church downtown was packed out with readers of all ages, some clutching their 30-year-old copies of Are You There God? It's Me Margaret and others with a dog-eared Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in their little hands. And the effervescent Ms. Blume was everything all of us had pictured: enthusiastic, wise, charming ... and totally timeless. Her interview-format presentation gave us all an insight into those books we checked out from the library over and over and over, and gave us something to talk about as we gladly stood in line for nearly two hours just to get a signature from a beloved literary icon.
Best life lesson: Blume talked about how she picked herself up from literary rejection and moved on, but the most poignant life lesson she imparted was one of joy. Blume recounted how, when she finally got her first acceptance letter from a publisher, she was so very excited that she danced with her mailman, Ernie. That anecdote underscored the amount of joy and love she pours into her work -- and it makes her books even more special when you understand those elements. Best Audience Question/Worst Audience Questions: Audience questions usually make me cringe, wince and turn away. Ever since someone decided to challenge Ian McEwan on his life-long atheism in a presentation a few years ago, I like to look for the exits at this point. But an endearing mix of excited kiddos and even more excited adults made this lighthearted and easy. The worst questions are always the ones where the speakers talk about themselves for five minutes before getting around to what they want to say (and there were those, for sure), but the best were the wide-eyed 5- and 6-year-olds, tiptoeing up to the microphone and earnestly whispering, "How old is Fudge?" Why I Want to be Judy Blume When I Grow Up: She lives in Key West and her adorable husband owns an independent movie theater. That's living the dream, folks. What She Wore: Forget what she wore (though it was super chic), the woman looks head-to-toe fabulous. The 74-year-old is a total powerhouse, with a cute bob and a hugely contagious smile that befits her standing as one of the most outspoken and enduring authors of her generation.
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