David Sedaris

Last night Kish and I and Mr. and Mrs. JV went to the Ohio Theater for a visit by David Sedaris, the best-selling author, essayist, and serial contributor to National Public Radio.

Sedaris is an extremely funny man.  You might call him a humorist, the latest in a long line that stretches back to Mark Twain and Will Rogers and Bill Cosby of the late ’60s/early ’70s chicken heart era.  Rather than just throwing out one-liners, Sedaris tells tales of his childhood and his family, his beachfront home on the North Carolina shoreline, and his travels.  His stories build and twist and turn, hysterical and loving and mixed with social commentary all at once, always written with just the right observation and word choice.  It’s not easy to write something funny, but Sedaris makes it seem effortless.

Last night Sedaris read some of his pieces, then turned to selected entries from his diary, and finally fielded some questions from the audience.  The stories were vintage Sedaris — one about his effort to have a fatty tumor cut off by a random doctor who agreed to return it, in violation of federal law, so Sedaris could feed it to an old snapping turtle, another about his younger brother whose conviction that vaccinations cause autism is just one of many curious beliefs — and his diary entries, from around the world, touched upon his interest in having a different meal on Thanksgiving, the sensible British approach to what words may be used on radio, and other topics.  Along the way he threw in a few X-rated jokes about a snotty kid who gets a surprising answer when he asks his grandfather to “tell me something I don’t know” and a woman’s visit to her gynecologist.

Sedaris kept his audience well entertained with just a podium, a table with some liquids to wet his whistle, his notes, and of course his personality and his voice.  The setting recalled an earlier time, when Americans didn’t need to have loud music and constant visual stimulation to be entertained.  But be forewarned — while Sedaris’ venue is a throwback of sorts, his sensibilities and language are thoroughly modern and likely to veer suddenly into the scatological and sexual at any moment.  It’s not a show for kids.