Sarah Thyre, 30, grew up poor in Louisiana and now lives in a big apartment in Chelsea. The place has his-and-her bathrooms, one for her, and one for her husband, Andy Richter, the sidekick on Late Night With Conan O’Brien .
On Easter Sunday, Ms. Thyre was standing in her bathroom wearing a burgundy taffeta hostess skirt and a black cut-velvet top.
“I’ve sucked a mile of cock!” she yelled for no particular reason.
We’d been talking for an hour and drinking bottles of beer from green beer cozies and chain-smoking (Dunhill Lights for her, Camel Lights for me).
“My only blaspheme for the day is, Jesus was not dead for three days,” she said. “If you die at 3 o’clock on Friday and you’re up at dawn on Sunday, that ain’t three days. But maybe he was the most interesting person around and they missed him.”
While her husband is in his sixth year of show-biz stability, Ms. Thyre still knows unemployment. She specializes in playing old people and hillbillies and pops up on stage in indie films, in Conan sketches (playing the host’s mother and a scary prostitute who deflowers Mr. Richter). Sometimes she thinks about giving it up and maybe having kids. But then something will come up, like the new Comedy Central show she’s doing, Strangers With Candy , in which she plays a gym teacher.
Ms. Thyre, who said her mother works as a cleaning lady back in Louisiana, met Mr. Richter in 1992. At the time they were both in the Los Angeles production of The Real Live Brady Bunch , a spoof of the 70′s sitcom.
“If you want to know things that make me laugh, it’s never something that’s meant to be comedy,” she said. “It’s always something sad. Like the septuplets’ mom crying for diaper money. The things that I watch on TV are The Simpsons and Cops and failed pilots that all my friends have done. I laugh at those, too.”
“Would you laugh in the face of death?”
“No. When I was faced with what I thought was death–which was tripping on acid at a blues festival when a storm blew up–I did not laugh. I was really pathetic and gross, and I hated seeing that about myself. Hi, Golfie!”
Just then, Mr. Richter was walking into the apartment. He set his golf clubs on the floor.
“Ignore him,” she said. “Yeah, I was whining and sad. I thought it was the end of the world.”
She picked up a copy of her ‘zine, Thyrezine , in which Ms. Thyre and her siblings write tales of their squalid upbringing. There’s also some other junk in there. In one issue, there was a picture of a woman who had a chimp.
“Look at this,” Ms. Thyre said, “this woman has a monkey for a pet. That’s not normal, is it? Do people do that? I’d kind of like one, actually. I just don’t want to have to clean up anybody’s shit. I mean, I’ve thrown up changing diapers before. I’m kind of scared about having kids. I think people have kids because they want Christmas to feel like Christmas again. That’s got to be the reason–because you have to clean up the person’s shit and their snot.”
“Just for a few years, though.”
“Well, hopefully. Unless you have a retard baby. Then you’re screwed, because you have to do it until you die. I think I’m fatalistic about having kids, anyway, from growing up in the South, because people would have as many kids as they could: ‘I had one that drown-ded and I had one that’s in an asylum, and I had one that did this, but, you know, Mickey’s doin’ us proud down at the service station.’”
“What are your favorite words?”
“My most favorite word ever is ‘crepuscular,’ which I want to be, like, describing a boil, but it’s not–it just means plants are growing and it’s very rain forest-y. But my un-favorite words are ‘supple,’ ‘nipple,’ ‘fondle’ and ‘pleasure,’ which is so sad. They should be some of my favorites. They sound dirty, don’t they? I love the word cunt because it sounds like what it is.”
“Damn, I wish I hadn’t drunk so much beer,” she said.
“Drink a lot?”
“Oh, no, no. Are you kidding? I’m from Louisiana, it’s where they keep the populace drunk so it doesn’t rise up and move away. I love beer so much, it’s my favorite thing to drink, because it’s a patio drink, you know? If you drink beer, you can while away many hours, and it’s the drink that drinks like a meal. I remember I would always go fishing with my dad, because I wanted him to love me. It would be me and him and three subverbal Cajun guys, and my dad was the most eloquent of all of them, and I remember one of them going, ‘Well, times are changin’.’ And my dad said, ‘Well, as long as they don’t change the flavor of Miller Lite, I’ll be all right!’ And they laughed for like a solid hour.”
Mr. Richter was rustling around in the kitchen.
“What are you doing?” she hollered.
“Eating,” he said.
“All right, that’s normal.”
“What are you deadly serious about?” I asked.
“Making sense out of our mothers. Our fathers are free game. We can say anything about our dads. Like, my dad is just a horrible, reprehensible person, and his dad is gay, so we can completely rant on our dads. The actual serious discussion stuff comes from trying to make sense of these people who have basically ruined us, ha ha !”
Mr. Richter came over. “I just eavesdropped when you said your father’s reprehensible and mine’s gay. You’re not equating ‘reprehensible’ and ‘gay,’ are you?” he said.
“No!” she said. “He’s just asking me if there’s something we can’t joke about.”
“There’s no subject that’s taboo,” Mr. Richter said. Then he paused a moment. ” Sometimes certain subjects are taboo.”
Ms. Thyre gave an example. “We went out to dinner in the East Village and we were walking along the street and Andy seemed kind of upset and remote, and I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And he turned to me and said, ‘I think I’m having a nervous breakdown.’ And I laughed in his face when he said that, and he was furious, and it was a horrible thing for me to do.”
Mr. Richter was amused. “That’s one of the liabilities of being completely surrounded by comedic actors at all times,” he said, then made his exit.
Ms. Thyre was wearing a necklace with five tiny spoons dangling, indicating five years of marriage. “This is when I knew he was the man for me,” she said. “I was at his apartment, and I was so poor that I was drinking coffee and eating cigarettes–that was my diet. And he’s like, ‘Well, you want to get some dinner?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, God! Let’s go to Taco Bell!’ because I knew I could get that Value Menu–I could get the most for my money. So I hadn’t eaten for like a week and I ate Taco Bell. The next morning, my sister called me at his apartment, and I got out of bed and I was naked, and I was squatting on the floor, talking to her on the phone, and I started laughing really hard, and I shit on his floor of his apartment, like Hershey syrup. I know, it’s gross. It was, like, liquid shit. This is an example of what we find funny: When I saw that shit was coming out of my naked ass onto his floor of his apartment, I just started laughing and ran to the toilet and sat on the toilet, continued talking to my sister, and I was like, ‘I just shat on the floor!’ and she was laughing and I look over and Andy’s wiping it up. He’s scrubbing the floor! And I was like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s wiping up my diarrhea. He is the most amazing man ever.’ I think that’s when I said, ‘Yes, I’ll marry you.’”
There were 18 cigarettes in the ashtray. Ms. Thyre got two more beers and put on Toots & the Maytals. Mr. Richter came over.
“What could I say about your relationship without prying into your personal life?” I asked them.
“Not much,” Mr. Richter said.
Ms. Thyre cracked up. “Just say that it’s real good and nice ,” she said. “Isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Our relationship is great. We both have the capacity to be miserable wrecks, and that will sometimes impinge on the relationship, but not usually because it’s something between us, that we’re both complicated–in parentheses, desperate–people, I guess.”
“I told him about going to the bathroom on the floor,” Ms. Thyre said. “And how that’s how I knew you were the man for me, because you wiped it up, ha ha ! I would never do that for anybody.” She looked up at her husband. “Not even you.”
Before we left, I asked her what she liked about herself. “I have nice skin, that’s one thing,” she said. “And I’m sort of endearingly awkward at times.”