An Evening With David Sedaris

Today I had the distinct pleasure of sitting in Hill Auditorium with a thousand or so other people for a 2pm book reading, fittingly titled “An Evening with David Sedaris.” This quirky error aptly represents the type of borderline uncomfortable humor that filled the immense halls of Hill for two hours. Although Sedaris was technically reading excerpts from his new and previous publications, it felt as though he were merely delivering an intellectual stand up comedy routine. His writing, strictly creative non-fiction, is littered with his crass and dry humor, and he can hardly get through more than a few sentences without allowing the audience time to laugh. Joke topics ranged from his wacky sisters to oral sex to conservative Republicans, and each one maintained his seemingly innocent charm.

His personality is the reason Sedaris can get away with all of the jokes. His Woody Allen type mannerisms, coupled with his bubbling and genuine kindness gives off a very personable and genial air. Due to a slow seating process, the event started twenty minutes late; but instead of having the audience members twiddle their thumbs and assume the delay was due to Sedaris’ apathy, he came out on stage before being introduced for an impromptu question and answer segment to entertain us. This set the tone for his uncanny ability to give off the impression of being everyone’s best friend, even to those of us on the Balcony, about a hundred feet above him. Which of course only increased the audience’s tendency to laugh openly at his jokes, even the ones that also made us cringe, and there were plenty of those. Twice Sedaris made a joke about having cancer, one focused primarily on performing oral sex on Willie Nelson and another attempted to analyze the components of uterus lining. To reiterate, all of this material came from his published work.

Sedaris’ portfolio is not all inappropriate, however. The bulk of his material stems from stories about his family: his parents and three sisters, as well as his partner Hugh, are mentioned frequently. The art of his craft is so brilliant because he is able to blend candid stories about these people with his tasteless humor in the most hilarious and polished way possible. At some points I had trouble noticing the extent to which how insensitive his jokes were because of how elegantly he writes them. Furthermore his delivery does not change according to the humor; he told a joke about having an intellectual conversation with a college student and one about his penis’ inability to cease urinating in the same breath. I walked out of the auditorium wrangling with this very conundrum, simultaneously chuckling at his last crack and shaking my head at just how tactless it really was. Still, once you learn to overlook the distasteful details, he is an absolute delight to see in person.

David Sedaris

Alex Winnick

Alex is a senior at Michigan. He studies English, environmental sustainability, and methods of being funny. He enjoys riding his bike, drinking cold water and tutoring. He would like to see a world in which everyone helps each other as much as they possibly can.

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