[ATTENDED: April 11, 2012] David Sedaris
I have enjoyed David Sedaris for a number of years now. When our friend Melissa went to see him a few years ago, she said he was hilarious. I’ve heard several readings done by him and had to agree with her–he’s very funny live.
I find that he’s much funnier when I hear him read his stuff than when I read it myself. Indeed, when I read his stories I try to imagine it in his voice, just so it will be funnier. Turns out he does a much better David Sedaris than I do. Each of the stories was very funny (tear-inducingly funny) and very typically Sedaris.
This show was him on stage reading from a number of his pieces and from his diary. I didn’t know the first piece, called “Understanding Owls,” which was about Owls and taxidermy. It was also about trying to find the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for his boyfriend of 20 years (wow!), Hugh. He wanted to buy a stuffed owl because of a long running joke about all of the owl tchotchkes in their house. The setup alone was hilarious and the sequence in the taxidermist was very funny and rather uncomfortable.
The second one (about getting a colonoscopy) was brand new and as yet unnamed. It tied back to a trip he took to Amsterdam in which it was discussed that there was a person alive right now who would live to be 200 years old. Sedaris was certain it would be his father. His father’s defining trait these days is trying to get David to have a colonoscopy (“you want to give me a birthday present? get a colonoscopy”). It was mean-spirited but hilarious.
He also read a piece that was in Prospect magazine called “If I Ruled the World.” His introduction was hilarious as he listed some of the other people who have answered this question (world leaders and heavy thinkers). He decided to write his from the point of view of a fundamentalist Christian who knew exactly what Jesus wanted. It was diabolically funny.
He also read a piece called “Dentists Without Borders” which was in the April 2 New Yorker. Normally I write about all of his pieces in the New Yorker, but I didn’t feel inspired to post about that one. I liked it but it didn’t blow me away. Well, although I was a little bummed he was reading something I had read, his delivery was outstanding and I enjoyed the piece so much more having heard him read it aloud. For instance, I read this line and thought it was funny. While the dentist was working on his mouth: “Ça va?” he’d ask every five minutes or so, meaning “All right?” And I’d release a little tone. Like a doorbell. “E-um.”” But hearing him make the “E-um” sound, which was so much funnier than I imagined it, had me in tears.
The one thing I noted is that may of his pieces are very dark–he even commented on his own dark interior. And many times the humor comes from the uncomfortableness that he raises. Some of these pieces seemed even darker than usual for him–as if he is really looking into mortality. It’s good he can get humor out of it at least.
Then Sedaris read from his diaries. Now these diaries are not like any other diary on earth–they are fully fleshed out entries complete with a set up and punchline. Sarah marvelled after the show that at some of these entries we were laughing at jokes that weren’t even his. Like when he saw a T-shirt that read: “What do we want? To find a cure for Tourette’s! When do we want it? Cunt.” Not his joke, but very funny nonetheless–it may have actually garnered the loudest, longest laugh of the night.
His longest diary entry was about poop. I’m not even entirely sure how he segued into a story about asking fans if they shit in their hand (and a surprising number of people have said they had!). I don’t know if this piece is available somewhere but holy cow I couldn’t stop laughing. My mother in law found it a little too gross for her liking.
And speaking of uncomfortable, I felt very bad for the family who brought their ten year old son–uncomfortable!
Sedaris likes to read a passage from his favorite book at each reading. This tour, he’s reading from Gordon Grice’s Deadly Kingdom: The Book of Dangerous Animals. It’s not a funny book, it ‘s all about how dangerous animals are. But Sedaris read a piece about monkeys and he simple could not stop laughing. When he got to the part about monkeys throwing rocks at cars, he had to put the book down. Cracking up he said, “monkeys are assholes.” ANd it wa s great ending point.
After the show, David was going to sign books. The line was short so I ran to the lobby and bought a book. When I got back the line was crazy long–I’d say easily a 35-45 minute wait. And since babysitters aint cheap, I gave up on my chance to meet the man. Oh well.
It was a lot of fun, and a good night out. Even though you can hear him read all of his books in audio format, there’s something fun about being out with a bunch of other people all laughing at the same time.