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Thursday, November 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

We like you too, Amy

Seattle Times staff columnist

One woman asked if she had any ovaries left. Another wanted her to sign a ceramic squirrel. And then there was the guy who came bearing a gold garment bag, which he unzipped to reveal some kind of military uniform. He had heard she was into those.

"Are you sure you don't want to keep it?" Amy Sedaris asked him.

He insisted. After he walked away, someone asked: What kind of uniform is it?

"Moldy," Sedaris said.

Still, there is nothing but truth in the title of Sedaris' new entertaining book "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence."

Sedaris, 45, is patient and kind and, during a recent book-signing at Neumo's, showed she will autograph pretty much anything. She readily shares tips on everything from cupcakes to cheese balls to using denture tablets to clean CorningWare.

But for all the kitschiness in Sedaris' kitchen, she's quite serious about this stuff.

Every recipe in "I Like You" was tested and mastered in her one-bedroom apartment in New York's West Village, where she lives with an imaginary boyfriend, a rabbit named Dusty and keeps a screen door on her bedroom, because "I like the way it slams."

"I don't like joke books," Sedaris said Monday over tea at the Fairmont Hotel. "I don't want people to pick up the book and toss it aside."

How could they? It's a spot-on tribute to '60s homemaking, with Todd Oldham photos of Sedaris campily posed in her collection of dresses, aprons and wigs. ("I save and I save and I save.") She even wears whipped cream and sprinkles on the back of the cover sleeve, an homage to Herb Alpert's "Whipped Cream & Other Delights" album cover.

If anything, Sedaris' book is the true-life home manual we never get to see: The pans are filthy and burned, the icing runs, there are odd-looking stuffed animals and plastic fruit — all part of Sedaris' offbeat humor.

"I dare say there's a slight tongue-in-cheek," she said.

She includes party menus for children, the depressed, the drug-addicted, the old ("I Remember the War Cube Steak" followed by tossing a balloon back and forth). There are gift suggestions for the bed-ridden (stamps and a sack of oranges).

In entertaining, she hates early arrivals, "Especially when you're thickening a sauce or waiting for a pill to kick in." And she detests receiving flowers, since they make more work. Instead, bring her unsalted butter, carrot tops for her rabbit or thick-blue paper towels from a gas station.

When attending a pot-luck wake, be sure to write your name on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the bowl. Mourners will know where to return it.

How about dinner for former in-laws?

"I would make them something to go," Sedaris said. "Wet naps, the whole thing. Let them keep the silverware."

The '60s influence was inevitable, since Sedaris learned to cook by gleaning over her mother's Fanny Farmer cookbooks and Bon Appétit and Good Housekeeping magazines.

She waxes poetic about rick-rack and pom-poms, bacon fat, mayonnaise and butter mints.

In her freezer? Vodka, party cigarettes, "tons of butter" and cherry Popsicles "to stain the lips."

She earned cooking badges and learned to craft in Girl Scouts. It's no wonder her dream dinner party consists of just one person: Juliette Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Ga., in 1912.

Sedaris grew up not far away in Raleigh, N.C., in a family with a mother, father, six kids, and a diabetic grandmother.

"I don't think of us being any weirder than any other family," Sedaris said. "We all had a really good sense of humor and we had my dad to make fun of."

She and her brother — the hilarious, diminutive and chain-smoking essayist David Sedaris — hosted pretend cooking shows, which prepared them for the small plays they would write and perform after moving to New York City.

While David gained cult status with his essays, Amy went on to the Alumnus and Second City theater companies in Chicago, eventually teaming up with Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello for "Strangers with Candy." The show followed the exploits of Jerri Blank, a former drug-addicted prostitute who returns to high school. The short-lived series garnered a strong fan base, which got another boost from last year's big-screen version.

She hopes to develop a Southern-themed hospitality show based on the book — but not for Comedy Central, where "Strangers" ran.

"I want to do it on something kind of neutral," she said.

She was on Martha Stewart not long ago. How was she?

"He's, ah ... ," Sedaris began. Stewart had a panty line, and chose to make the hardest thing in Sedaris' book — the Lady Baltimore Cake.

Sedaris is expected at Natasha Richardson's sometime soon. And, not to brag, but Susan Sarandon has invited her to Thanksgiving at her place in the country. Sedaris might go, but if not, she will invite the "riff-raff" she calls friends over for turkey and crafting.

For now, she's happy to be with her people, whom she lovingly calls "the Children of the Corn."

"We love you and we don't know what to say, we're trying to get it all out," one fan stammered, before blurting "I have a third nipple!"

Another asked her to sign her name into her leg hair.

Then, there was the fan who asked for nothing but a signature. "You bring us so much happiness," he told Sedaris.

Isn't that all any good hostess wants to hear?

Sedaris smiled.

"I know."

Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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