Amy Sedaris Will Receive the Dallas VideoFest's Next Ernie Kovacs Award

Amy Sedaris Will Receive the Dallas VideoFest's Next Ernie Kovacs Award
Danielle St. Laurent
click to enlarge DANIELLE ST. LAURENT
Danielle St. Laurent

She's been a boozer, a user and a loser, an anthropomorphic Persian cat and TV's most beloved homemaker. And now she's an Ernie Kovacs Award winner.

Actress, writer and comedian Amy Sedaris will be the next recipient of the Ernie Kovacs Award at the Dallas VideoFest 31 and the first female to be so honored. Sedaris will receive the award at a special event during the VideoFest on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson.

A native of Endicott, New York, and the younger sister of writer and humorist David Sedaris, she got her start in comedy in Chicago's famed Second City theater in the early 1990s where she first met her future collaborators Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert. The three got their start in TV with the sketch comedy series Exit 57 along with fellow Second City alums Mitch Rouse and Annoyance Theater product Jodi Lennon. It ran on Comedy Central in 1995 and 1996.

Amy Sedaris, Dinello and Colbert later created the sitcom Strangers with Candy that ran for three seasons on Comedy Central starting in 1999. Sedaris played the show's lead character, Jerri Blank, a recovering alcoholic, drug addict and prostitute who returns to high school at 46 to earn the diploma she never received. The show spoofed the heavy-handed lessons provided by the typical after-school TV specials of the 1970s and '80s that could bludgeon younger viewers over the head with morals about drugs, promiscuity, racism and eating disorders as Jerri often fell back into her old habits. The show became a cult hit and was remade into a movie in 2005.
Sedaris followed up Strangers with Candy with a long series of recurring roles on both network and cable TV shows such as HBO's Sex and the City, the Amazon political comedy series Alpha House, Adult Swim's surrealist mini-series The Heart, She Holler and Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and BoJack Horseman

Last year, TruTV gave Sedaris her own show called At Home with Amy Sedaris, a character-driven information show about crafts and handy homemaking tips that often get derailed by misinformation or one of her celebrity guests such as Michael Shannon, Neil Patrick Harris and Colbert. Amy's attempts to educate her audience can also fly off the rails with one of the many characters she plays in addition to herself, such as a drifter with an unhealthy love for feet or her brash, Southern housewife neighbor Patty and even Strangers with Candy's Jerri Blank. She's also written two homemaking and craft parody books titled I Love You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.

Sedaris said in a New York Times profile that her TruTV show is inspired by a similar show she watched while growing up in North Carolina and a number of other TV icons including Red Skelton, the Food Network cooking show Two Fat Ladies, Mister Rogers and Ernie Kovacs.

"They were real people that seemed so character-like to me," Sedaris says in the NYT profile. "I just always thought it would be fun to make that up. When you see shows like that, it’s easy to think what would be funny about them."

The show's first season received an Emmy nomination for Best Variety Sketch Series, and TruTV has tapped Sedaris to make a second season for the network scheduled for sometime in 2019.

Joshua Mills, the founder of Ediad Productions and the son of Kovacs' widow, Edie Adams, who oversees the Kovacs estate, says Sedaris' work in comedy and television makes her an ideal choice for the Kovacs Award, which honors innovation in TV and media. Kovacs is best remembered for his groundbreaking work in TV comedy that played with the medium in innovative and zany ways from the mid-1950s to the early '60s before his sudden passing in 1962.

“Amy Sedaris so firmly embodies Ernie Kovacs’ cockeyed aesthetic that she is a natural to win the Ernie Kovacs Award,” Mills says. “Not only are Amy’s outrageous characters such as the Wine Lady and the Hobo very Kovacs-ian, but she excels in front of the camera, on radio and as a writer too, just like Ernie.”

Past recipients of the Kovacs award include Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, satirist Harry Shearer, The Kids in the Hall's Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald and Saturday Night Live and Late Night with Conan O'Brien writer Robert Smigel.

“Amy Sedaris has brought a unique vision to television and cinema, developing strong and funny characters in a Kovacs-ian way,” says Bart Weiss, the founder and artistic director of Dallas VideoFest. “What a wonderful addition to the great artists who have taken home the Ernie Kovacs Award."
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.