It took me about three months to actually muster the energy to watch Strangers With Candy in late 1999, and I did it only because it was advertised so heavily on Comedy Central, right alongside the Upright Citizens' Brigade. Once I saw it, though, I was hooked. It took only one episode.
I got friends into the show, and we'd throw out the oddest of lines to each other just on the off-chance that we'd all "get it." We'd say things with no relevance like "massage each other's ... clitorises" or "but I want to be a cheerleader" or "Greeks are just Jews without the money." It was hard not to find a line we didn't like or want to repeat after seeing this show.
That's not to mention all the minorities who were skewered by obviously unfeeling and unthinking characters. No one was spared the branding iron here.
From David Sedaris' sometimes crazy little sister Amy and a cast of Second City alums emerged a truly unique and gut-busting but, at the same time, subtly humorous opus to the After-School Special. From racism and classicism to bisexuality and class bullying, Strangers With Candy made the case for smart writing in an irreverent setting. Every line could make you think or laugh, but the timing was so quick that all one could do was chuckle and move on. It was hard not to pay attention to every minute of this show.
Of course it's a shame that Comedy Central canceled the show after only two seasons, but at least the show went out with a bang (literally Flatpoint High was blown up).
What made the show most memorable for me was that, no matter how well-written and acted each of the offbeat characters was, none could add up to the unbelievably insane Jerri Blank. Everyone made a point to chastise, take advantage of, and downright abuse Jerri, but somehow she could pick herself up and move on and still come out with the best lines in the entire show. Sometimes, when a show takes off, although an ensemble is most important, you find that incidental and auxiliary characters become the mainstay of the show's success (like Kramer and Costanza surrounding Jerry on Seinfeld). In this case, Sedaris held her own with a kind of aplomb that only a seasoned professional can do.
Whether she was being threatened by her brother Derick ("dick lick"), overlooked by her step-mother (the brilliant Deborah Rush), pleaded with for restraint by her hapless pal Orlando, happily ignored by her art teacher Mr. Jellineck (longtime co-conspirator Paul Dinello), forced into community service by the Hitlerish Principal Onyx Blackman, or harassed unnecessarily by the ultimately selfish and tight-fisted Mr. Noblet (writing the word "me" on the board when instructing his students to "tell me..."), Jerri somehow survived countless challenges and came out learning the absolute wrong thing.
My favorite lesson: "The poor are a filthy, thieving people." You have to see the episode to understand it.