Students, alumni, and neighbors of George Washington University were lucky enough to have story time with an acclaimed humorist and satirist at the GW Lisner Auditorium on October 17. Admittedly, no one sat Indian-style and there were no graham crackers passed around, but David Sedaris read aloud to a captivated audience just the same.
Just in case you are not aware of this man or his talent, please allow me to introduce you. David Sedaris is one of the most prolific comedy writers working right now. He writes articles and short stories that are featured in publications such as the New Yorker, writes plays with his equally hilarious sister Amy (the lead actress from Comedy Central’s Strangers With Candy), and churns out must-read books at the same pace at which the Duggards have babies. The secret to his success is being disciplined enough to write every single day since the beginning of his career.
The subjects of the short stories he read ran the gamut from his visits to a French dentist who believes his gaps give him “good-time teeth” to digs at conservative politicians and their ambiguously gay spouses. He told his hysterical tales with the calm of someone who is opining on the weather forecast and never actually tried to be funny, which is exactly why we laughed. Sedaris has a unique way of relaying the random and distilling everyday occurrences into justification for his comically critical world view. For instance, we all know that language learning programs can be ludicrous, but when Sedaris detailed how he had no idea how to say relevant sentences in Japanese, his perspective sounded fresh. Not many people have said “I have 3 children – 1 big boy and 2 little girls” when they actually wanted to say “I’m a middle-aged homosexual,” or they at least have not talked about it much in a public forum. Sedaris spoke in depth about his travels and his adventures with other languages and cultures, and but none of it was more memorable than the live American Sign Language interpretation. Two people took turns translating the stories and gamely played along when Sedaris swore just so viewers could learn how to sign curse words.
It was not all juvenile; on the contrary, Sedaris also shared thought-provoking commentary on the human condition. He soundly reproved inept parents and their treatment of “volcanic 3-year olds with Presidential names” and compared the present state of affairs to the stricter rules from his childhood. In his day, he contends, there was no uproar if another adult intervened when Madison, McKinley, or Reagan got out of hand. We also got an inside look at Sedaris’ thought process when encountering an annoying stranger and growing to hate them. Continuous, sidesplitting laughter prevailed as he recounted standing in line behind that couple who took more than 10 minutes to order and pay for their coffee because they kept asking inane questions. We had all been there, but we had not heard someone describe the situation with such perfectly derisive detail.
After the reading and Q&A session, the staff at Lisner got everyone organized into a line for the book signing. The security personnel, book sales staff, and ushers all did an excellent job of making the evening run smoothly. During his book signing, Sedaris took the time to thank his fans and have meaningful short conversations with each of them. I am still in awe of the fact that I got the chance to crack wise with someone who I think is 20 times funnier than me. Then I realized something. He was probably just mining for material to include in his next best-seller. Royalties, please!
All kidding aside, David Sedaris is ridiculously good-spirited and I speak for all of his fans when I say I am thankful that he writes so much. He is like the funny friend we all have and love, but smarter and far less obnoxious. I promise that if you make the effort to buy his books, read his articles, or hear him speak, you will laugh your head off and learn how to find more humor in your life.
Final Grade: A+
TRR Comedy Show Revue by Stephanie Taylor
Note: Mr. Sedaris, if you’re reading this, I know this grade does not compare to a rave review in The New York Times, but I hope it brings a “good-time” smile to your face nonetheless.