Originally created 06/29/06

Comedian can't shake zany character



NEW YORK - In a summer of movies that has included a Lucha Libre wrestler and a mutton-chopped mutant, the weirdest character to hit the big screen is a little 46-year-old woman with a slight overbite.

Jerri Blank, an ex-junkie and ex-con who returns to high school as a freshman, is the main character in Strangers with Candy, a prequel to the Comedy Central show canceled six years ago.

Blank is the absurd brainchild of Amy Sedaris (who plays her), Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello - the three of whom wrote and star in the film. In it, we see why Blank - "a boozer, a user and a loser" - returns home and seeks rehabilitation in the halls of Flatpoint High School.

"After awhile, that stopped sounding weird to us," says Mr. Colbert, who also stars in The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. "You don't think about it for a while, and you come back and you go, 'This is deeply weird. This is very strange.'"

Ms. Sedaris plays Blank with a fat suit for her lower half, a ski-jump-size blond curl, and a manic, unrelenting selfishness. She is an oddball mix of adolescent insecurity and street-wise depravity.

She's also not the sharpest No. 2 pencil in the book bag. In the movie, the principal (Greg Hollimon) asks her what her IQ is. "Pisces," she answers.

Ms. Sedaris, 45, still occasionally lapses into Blank, her mouth suddenly sloping downward.

"Paul says she's like a rash - you just never know when she's going to reappear," Ms. Sedaris says.

But Blank wouldn't die. While the three wrote the book Wigfield together, they kept thinking of jokes for her, and eventually, they had 60 pages of material down on paper. Their film script was later picked up by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants Inc. It's the first feature from Mr. Letterman's production company.

The movie, made for just $3 million, features many of the same characters and actors from the TV show, though some of Blank's classmates have been replaced by younger actors.