What do you call something that is equal parts surprise and delight and that you had no idea you needed before you received it? You call it a gift, and that’s what I’m calling Amy Sedaris’s guest role on the most recent episode of Disney+’s The Mandalorian.
I almost fell off the bed when Sedaris showed up on my screen looking like the even more butch sister of Alien’s Ripley as Peli Motto, a spacecraft docking-bay manager and apparent master of three droids that are extremely roachlike despite being bipeds. The performance is pure Sedaris—an idiosyncratic, slightly grotesque woman who would probably breathe on your baby in line at the supermarket. As she does on her underrated how-to farce At Home with Amy Sedaris, Sedaris fully commits to her character here, giving her a series of ticks and conveying so much grimy living in mere sentences.
When she commands one of her bug droids to whip up some food for Baby Yoda and is apparently asked what exactly to make, she snaps, “I don’t know, something with bones in it!” It’s so Sedaris that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she ad-libbed and came up with that line herself.
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Also seemingly born of Sedaris is her cooing at Baby Yoda. She calls him “Bright Eyes!” I feel like she was channeling her inner bunny mom there. She is merely the latest character to fall under the spell of the puppet, who is completely and utterly Gizmo 2.0 (as someone who lived through the Gremlins craze in the Dark Ages before social media, trust me, this is exactly what it was like, and I love it all over again). His unfailing charms being written into the script of every episode, it’s mind-boggling that Disney didn’t get its shit together for Baby Yoda merch to coincide with the show’s launch. It’d be the hot toy of the Christmas season. I would camp out and then wrestle fellow shoppers for the chance to have in my life a Furby-like electronic Baby Yoda that hums and turns its head and babbles and renders every day a joyful one just by being powered on. The technology exists! Gimme! I cannot believe that a company that exists to take all of your money, such as Disney, is not giving me this option to give them my money! What a world!
Sedaris has made a career as an eccentric character actor. She is a natural satirist whose mere presence ushers in a sense of absurdity. Or maybe it just reminds you that all of life is absurd. Watching her on this show, Sedaris reminded me of Whoopi Goldberg, and it wasn’t just her missing eyebrows. I was reminded of something the narrator of Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation said about Goldberg:
“Watching Star Trek as an adolescent was when I first came to regard Whoopi Goldberg with the reverence she deserves. Whoopi seemed like an absurd interloper on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Whenever she appeared on-screen, I sensed she was laughing at the whole production. Her presence made the show completely absurd. That was true of all her movies, too. Whoopi in her nun’s habit. Whoopi dressed like a churchgoing Georgian in the 1930s with her Sunday hat and Bible. Whoopi in Moonlight and Valentino alongside the pasty Elizabeth Perkins. Wherever she went, everything around her became a parody of itself, gauche and ridiculous. That was a comfort to see. Thank God for Whoopi. Nothing was sacred. Whoopi was proof.”
Moshfegh told me last year that much of what she wrote about Goldberg, she felt sincerely. This is a fantastic mode for Sedaris to be operating in. Showing up in the Star Wars universe so committed to her role as a weirdo exaggerated by lived-in mannerisms is Sedaris’s greatest performance art piece yet, because it’s simply a great performance. Thank God for Amy, too.