David Sedaris and his writing have a way of making a two-thousand seat theatre seem as intimate as your own living room, inviting the audience into the world of his hysterical ponderings and life stories in his 90-minute set at the Music Center at Strathmore on Friday evening.
A multi-time New York Times best-selling author, Sedaris’ petite frame and meek demeanor barely peek up above the podium which is situated center-stage, but, the second he opens his mouth, you know that you’re in for an evening of comedic genius from a literary master class.
Sedaris, who is widely known for his 2013 collection of essays Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, first made waves in 1992 when his essay SantaLand Diaries was broadcast on National Public Radio, gaining critical acclaim and inspiring a sequence of stories and anthologies that would make him one of the most recognized and celebrated figures in contemporary humorist literature.
Sedaris began the evening by reciting a series of short stories about his recent life—offering glimpses into the life he shares with his partner Hugh at their residence in West Sussex, England, and humorous descriptions of his siblings and his father. What’s fascinating about his writing and speaking style isn’t necessary that his topic matter is outrageous—in fact, much of it is quite ordinary as he speaks about his upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina—but, rather, that his writing reflects his keen sense of observation, his ability to take the ordinary and transform it into something that feels magical and whimsical. With this, he is able to cut through absurd elements of popular culture and contemporary political correctness with his sharp wit and sardonic sense of humor.
His musings—which ranged from him telling us about his desire to cut off a benign tumor he had on his side and feeding it to a snapping turtle he had befriended near his beach house at Emerald Isle, aptly named “The Sea/C Section,” to him recounting lively stories about his travels through airport security—capture a certain playfulness about his feelings and the hilarious and often self-deprecating manner with which he writes.
The stream of consciousness manner with which Sedaris presents a story is sometimes hard to follow as he often jumps around from topic to topic—for instance, talking about snapping turtles one minute and his deceased mother the next—but Sedaris is able to do so in a fashion that ultimately moves the message of his stories forward. In doing so, the core messages of his stories—subtle, but there—never come across as pedantic, but rather, makes it feel as though the reader or listener has stumbled upon a treasure after a winding and convoluted scavenger hunt. His writing urges readers to stay on the edge of their seats until the final line—where they are granted a designed moment of clarity.
Sedaris varied the format throughout the evening—including a segment of questions and answers, as well as a segment where he read recent entries from his personal diary—keeping the 90-minute session engaging and stimulating.
Entertainment Weekly calls Sedaris, “the preeminent humorist of his generation” and the Chicago Tribune calls him “one of the greatest humorists writing today.” Sedaris’ return to Strathmore in his sold-out appearance is a testament to his candor and dynamicity.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
David Sedaris appeared for one night only on October 17, 2014, at 8 PM at the Music Center at Strathmore — 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, MD. Tickets for the continuation of Strathmore’s 2014-2015 season can be purchased here. David Sedaris’ remaining tour dates can be found here.