Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert

Teresa DiFalco

But one of the most intriguing things about Amy Sedaris is her absolute lack of vanity. A gym-toned, beauty pageant blonde, she routinely adds pimples, hairs and warts to her pretty parts, wears fatty suits around town, and gleefully contorts herself in all sorts of grody ways. She's an enigma wrapped in a satire, wrapped in mock-irony, wrapped in a spoof.


Publisher: Hyperion Books
Subtitle: The Can-do Town That Just May Not
Author: Stephen Colbert
Price: $22.95
Display Artist: Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, Stephen Colbert
Length: 288
US publication date: 2003-05
I think people's first impression of Wigfield is that it is just a chain of porno shops, strip clubs, and used auto parts yards. Well, it's a lot more than that. It's Pornographers and Strippers and People Who Sell Used Auto parts.
� Cinnamon (Stripper and Resident of Wigfield), Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not

If Amy Sedaris is better known as the sister of public radio superstar David, it's her own fault. For someone so fabulously talented, she is also remarkably anonymous. It's likely you've seen her -- not so likely you knew who she was. She's done theatre (off-broadway, limited run, forget about a ticket) and a critically acclaimed TV stint (Strangers With Candy). She flits in and out of the big screen (Maid in Manhattan) and small (Finch's lookalike girlfriend in "Just Shoot Me") and if you live in New York, you might have eaten one of her muffins. Yes, muffins. It's a constant in her bios and not just an attention-getting celebrity trick. She bakes and sells muffins -- for $1 a piece. A friend of mine used her for a bridal shower she was hosting -- two dozen muffins, $24 bucks -- and in a story twist that can only happen in Manhattan, Sedaris apologetically warned she'd had to borrow Sarah Jessica Parker's oven last-minute when hers blinked out.

But one of the most intriguing things about Amy Sedaris is her absolute lack of vanity. A gym-toned, beauty pageant blonde, she routinely adds pimples, hairs and warts to her pretty parts, wears fatty suits around town, and gleefully contorts herself in all sorts of grody ways. She's an enigma wrapped in a satire, wrapped in mock-irony, wrapped in a spoof. Which reminds me of her recently published book Wigfield: The Can-do Town That Almost Didn't.

Wigfield is a collaboration with her fellow Second City alumni Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, who seem to get unjustly footnoted in her shadow, but such is the way of name recognition. It's a storybook for grownups complete with pictures -- 20 breathtaking photos of Colbert, Dinello and Sedaris as townies, taken by Todd Oldham, the fashion designer/lensman. It's a quirky, chock-full-of-nuts tale written by a made-up former highway-line painter named Russell Hokes.

I balked at Wigfield intially. At first glance it's gimmicky, and gimmicky -- books with funny notes where the copyright goes, for instance -- is so last year. But once you get past the eye roll it's really very fun -- perhaps to literature what Pringles are to potato chips -- a strange little knockoff, but tasty!

Wigfield opens with a long intro by Hokes - a fictitious writer, pitching a fictitious book to Hyperion, about nothing. The laughs are on hyperspeed from the get-to. For instance this bit from his newly-minted writer's resume:

Qualifications: I am a strong candidate for the position I am applying for because my words explode off the page like electric action to maximize the impact. That is how I describe my background and strengths. This section is concise, and contains action words, and should sell my most marketable skills and abilities.

The Introduction is Russell's back-story -- where he explains how he went from painting highway lines to snagging big book advances overnight.

But following a heated dispute with my foreman . . . I quit my job shortly after he fired me. For the first time in my life, i was truly free. But freedom has its price, which I soon found out was money. So, much like a butcher naturally becomes a surgeon, or a boxer becomes a cop, I decided to apply my knowledge of drawing long, white lines on asphalt to drawling much shorter ones with loops and curls on paper. In short, words. I became a writer!

Hokes secures an advance for a story about small town America, and therein lies the rub. Wigfield has great fun at everyone's expense. He finds his town when his car breaks down alongside a rural stretch of strip clubs and porn shops called Wigfield. A plot develops when he learns Wigfield is overshadowed by a giant dam that the state is threatening to knock down, guaranteeing imminent wetness for its residents.

Working against the clock (and his dwindling advance) Hokes skitters through town collecting thoughts on dams and life from an unusual group of residents, including Cinnamon, the ecstasy-popping stripper, and town artist Julian Childs--a sultry Siegfried look-alike whose productions feature all-bunny casts. Oldham captures them beautifully in all of their creepy glory.

Wigfield, arguably more souped-up Playbill than book, is a brilliant idea. Word is Hyperion wouldn't fund a book tour, so the Second City authors took on promotion themselves and brought their story to life in what they call "more than a reading, less than a play". These characters are dying for a stage and I suspect, though the book came first, it was inevitable given the hyperactive nature of its creators. It's a marketing stroke of genius to marry these two formats. Buzz from the impossible-to-get-tickets-to play will fuel book sales and buzz from the book might launch the movie. In any event, if there's one thing you should take away, it's Hokes' three Universal Truths:

1. Paint A Straight Line
2. Go Slow
3. Keep Plenty of Paint on the Brush





Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia, East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".


Becky Warren Shares "Good Luck" and Discusses Music and Depression (premiere + interview)

Becky Warren finds slivers of humor while addressing depression for the third time in as many solo concept albums, but now the daring artist is turning the focus on herself in a fight against a frightful foe.


Fleet Foxes Take a Trip to the 'Shore'

On Shore, Fleet Foxes consist mostly of founding member Robin Pecknold. Recording with a band in the age of COVID-19 can be difficult. It was just time to make this record this way.


'We're Not Here to Entertain' Is Not Here to Break the Cycle of Punk's Failures

Even as it irritates me, Kevin Mattson's We're Not Here to Entertain is worth reading because it has so much direct relevance to American punks operating today.


Uncensored 'Native Son' (1951) Is True to Richard Wright's Work

Compared to the two film versions of Native Son in more recent times, the 1951 version more acutely captures the race-driven existential dread at the heart of Richard Wright's masterwork.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


3 Pairs of Boots Celebrate Wandering on "Everywhere I Go" (premiere)

3 Pairs of Boots are releasing Long Rider in January 2021. The record demonstrates the pair's unmistakable chemistry and honing of their Americana-driven sound, as evidenced by the single, "Everywhere I Go".


'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.