Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stranger Than Fiction

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Amy Sedaris and "Strangers With Candy." But it was only while I was in Los Angeles over the weekend that I found out that the character Jerri Blank was actually inspired by a real person, one Florence "Florrie" Fisher. Apparently Fisher was a motivational speaker in the 1960s and 1970s who traveled to high schools around the United States, speaking about her past as a drug addict and prostitute, a profession that she took up in order to support her addiction. In addition to her speaking engagements, Fisher wrote an autobiography, "The Lonely Trip Back," which told of her life from childhood up to the point she became a motivational speaker. In 1970, she appeared in "The Trip Back," a public service announcement detailing her appearance at a New York high school. My friend Mark gave me a DVD copy of the PSA and it's truly one of the funniest things I've ever seen -- the woman is completely insane: "Now I know that I can't smoke one stick of pot, I can't take one snort of horse, I can't take one needle of cocaine because I have an addictive personality," she explains to the horrified students. Continual talk about "negroes," "squares," "rat-finks" and "using goofballs" also brought a smile to my face.


According to Wikipedia's entry on her, "Fisher's trollish appearance, thick Brooklyn Jewish accent (think Joan Rivers), and larger-than-life tales of prostitution, botched abortions, and lesbian jailhouse encounters turned her into a cult figure in the late 1970s, with bootleg videos of her public service announcement becoming a collectors' item in the 1980s. Amongst those who saw the video were Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, who saw a resemblance between Fisher and their friend Amy Sedaris. The two men showed Sedaris a copy of the video, and suitably impressed with an impression that Sedaris did of Fisher, they built a television series based around the concept of Florrie Fisher going back to high school."

The result was, of course, the brilliant Strangers with Candy.

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