Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Amy Sedaris’s Li’l Smoky Cheeseball (with Googly Eyes)

Li'l Smoky should be the first guest invited to your holiday gathering

Amy Sedaris has done hundreds of things, yet she still deserves to be better known. She has appeared in dozens and dozens of shows in walk-on parts. Yes, one episode of Law & Order: SVU, of course, but also Sex and the City, Just Shoot Me, Sesame Street, Rescue Me, The Closer, Hot in Cleveland, Broad City, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (recurring character; 14 episodes), RuPaul’s Drag Race, and many, many others. She had her own brilliant show, Strangers With Candy, which she created and wrote, along with her writing/romantic partner Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert, whom you might have heard of, but that only lasted 31 episodes and went off the air in 2000 and I still miss Jerri Blank. She had one other show, which I’ll get to.

Her voicework is probably even more well-known, as she was Princess Carolyn in BoJack Horseman, but here again she’s voiced scores of characters.

Has she been in movies? Tons, but in small roles in forgettable films. For example, she was Gladys Kravitz in that ghastly Bewitched remake. She also had a very small part in Maid in Manhattan, a movie I have probably seen a dozen times, but she might as well have been left on the cutting room floor.

No, friends, I knew her before all of this. 

She famously grew up in Raleigh, NC, and we know this because her brother David has written extensively about his family, especially Amy. She was a born prankster, apparently, and got her start as a high-school employee at her local Winn-Dixie, where she would adopt different voices and make phony announcements. She went on to Second City, where so many great comedic talents have come from, and made her way to New York. This is where I come in.

In the early 90s she was this underground writing sensation, creating and starring in five plays, each more hilarious and absurd than the last. In one of them, there is a trailer park and the residents are told that to maintain their welfare benefits all the men have to train to be dog groomers and all the women had to become monologists. Amy tries, and appears as Dr. Zara from Planet of the Apes, and intones “I have taught the humans to speak.” Picture it. Downtown venue, tickets $10 or $15, bleacher seating, what a time to be alive!

In her spare time Amy took to baking cupcakes and making cheese balls and selling them out the window of her Greenwich Village apartment. She called this Dusty Food Cupcakes, named after her childhood pet rabbit, Dusty. She then pivoted to food/lifestyle mavenhood to complement her comedy career:

In 2006, she released I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, a guide to entertaining, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 12 weeks. In 2010, she released the crafting book Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People!. While promoting her book on Late Night with David Letterman in October 2010, she demonstrated how the cover can easily be made into a hat.

It will not surprise you to learn that the day I Like You was released I ran, not walked, to the nearest bookstore (an indy that closed years ago) and grabbed a copy. I still have it; I’m looking up at it now on my bookshelves.

This led to her other show, At Home With Amy Sedaris, which only ran for 30 episodes over three seasons. It was genius, like Martha Stewart Living meets PeeWee’s Playhouse. Why have you never seen/heard of it? It ran on TruTV.

You know who did watch it though was Martha Stewart herself, and for one episode she invited Amy on and she made her famous cheese ball, the recipe for which I have provided here. Please refer to the header image to see how magical this really is. Santa sliding down a chimney has nothing on this festive Yuletide treasure.

2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese, room temperature 
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
2 tablespoons milk 
2 teaspoons steak sauce 
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans 

2 Googly eyes, if using

Crackers, for serving

Place Gouda, cream cheese, butter, milk, and steak sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; mix until well combined. Transfer mixture to refrigerator; let chill overnight. Roll cheese mixture into a ball. Place nuts in a shallow dish. Roll cheese ball in nuts to fully coat. Insert 2 Googly eyes at the top of the ball.

Serve with crackers.



  1. When you look long enough at the googly-eyed cheeseball, the googly-eyed cheeseball starts to look back.

    By the way, “Googly-eyed Cheeseball” is one of my wife’s pet names for me.

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