Wearing a dress-length shirt and “literal clown shoes” that he purchased in Hong-Kong, David Sedaris delighted the Pantages Theater audience on May 5 with his humorous, heartfelt, and often wildly inappropriate anecdotes. Despite his flashy, some may say outrageous style, Sedaris manages to tell stories that connect all humans through humor and pain.
Sedaris was touring in support in of his latest book, Theft by Finding: Diaries 1972-2002. The book features excerpts from the prolific author’s diaries over a 30-year period. While some of the readings Sedaris performed were from his book, he also read from a wide variety of published — and unpublished — works.
One particularly poignant reading came from his piece in the New Yorker, “Why Aren’t You Laughing?” about his mother, who struggled with alcoholism. The piece and his reading of it dealt not only with the struggles of loving an alcoholic, but also of enabling one. Sedaris paints a picture of a woman who viewed the world as her audience and whose favorite line was, “I got them laughing,” but also of a woman who, as she aged and her children grew and left home, became increasingly angry, sullen, and drunk.
A human portrait of an addict that can make you laugh and feel sorrow in equal measures is a rare and impressive feat. There’s no doubt many in the audience know their own version of Sedaris’ mother, the star that shines brightly and burns out just as spectacularly.
Sedaris also shared that he’d be speaking at a college graduation in coming months, and he read from a rough draft version of the speech he’d give. Aside from telling the grads that as twenty-somethings, “You’re built for rejection and poverty. Why? Because you’re so f—ing good looking,” he also shared some sage advice. Get good at writing thank you letters — not texts and not emails — because people like to give to those who are grateful.
The final story Sedaris told involved a painful tooth, an insider’s tour of Hong Kong, and a cat’s “pink asterisk” of a behind. But I won’t give away too much.
If you’re eager to hear more of Sedaris’ unique and sharp blend of humor and the human condition, his book, Theft by Finding: Diaries 1972-2002, which he teased would be the first of two volumes, is a good place to start.
A chance to view the world through the lens of a man who has not only seen the world (he mentions homes in Paris, Sussex, and Raleigh) but seen the lowest of lows, and the highest of highs, is not one you will not want to miss. To slip into the mind of Sedaris is to become privy to observations and perspectives you won’t get anywhere else.