Sedaris talks pretty for one night


Chico Performances

David Sedaris: author, essayist and comedian.

After signing a small portion of his own material, best-selling author and humor savant David Sedaris stood in place behind a lectern in gold, rose-patterned culottes. On Nov. 2, Sedaris made an appearance at Laxson Auditorium for a book signing and live reading of his short stories and personal essays. 

He opened the set with his piece “A Better Place,” a wry reflection on his father’s recent death and impact on the lives of Sedaris and his siblings, both positive and neutral. The story was published in The New Yorker on Aug. 30, four months following his father’s death.

After being discovered by radio journalist Ira Glass in 1992, Sedaris’ work has been heavily featured on NPR and publications like Esquire and The New Yorker.

Sedaris is acclaimed for his dry voice and the satirical wit enveloping his stories. He has a knack for turning topics like sex, suicide, abuse and drug use into comedic fodder until the audience is roaring with laughter. 

His second reading “Lady Marmalade” is a story featured in his unreleased book “Happy Go Lucky.” It recounts subtle instances of sexual abuse dealt at the hands of Sedaris’ father during his childhood. Much of his father’s behavior throughout the story slides through a scale of inappropriate remarks to accusations of rape. 

Sedaris’ sister Tiffany, the second youngest of six, accused their father of sexually abusing her as a child but couldn’t provide any details when asked. Their family found ways to explain troubling behavior and broken memories.

“This is what happens in a family when these kinds of charges are leveled against someone,” Sedaris wrote. “You think ‘well, that couldn’t have taken place here.’ Not in this house: the one where I had my asshole stared at, where [my sister] was invited to pose topless.” 

The audience howled at this line; not because of the implications, but because of Sedaris’ delivery. His voice during live readings remains distinctly upbeat and deadpan despite the taboo subjects that grace his essays. 

Sedaris followed this piece with the lighter “Pearls,” featuring domestic life with his long-time partner Hugh Hamrick and how it changed during COVID-19. 

“After 30 years together, sleeping is the new ‘having sex,’” Sedaris said.

Sedaris ended his session with various segments from his latest book “The Carnival of Snackery,” a series of personal diary entries from 2003 to 2020. Ranging from short, overheard jokes to long-form entries — each story packed a punch that left the audience raucous.

In 2007, Sedaris was criticized for being featured on journalistic outlets like This American Life while adding embellishments to his work. His publishers have argued that as a creative non-fiction writer and comedian, Sedaris takes creative liberties in his work for the sake of comedy. 

He has gone on to call his work “real-ish” being based in reality for more or less. While the more personal aspects of his work is dramatized for comedic effect, the substance of each story is real.

“Anyone who wants to write a personal essay should subject themselves to the New Yorker fact-checking policies,” Sedaris said. “For my story about Hugh, they checked everything: the price of the pearls, the piano … I couldn’t be off by a bit.”

The book signing after the reading brought a crowd that looped around the outside of Laxson Auditorium. Many attendees in line brought multiple books and copies for Sedaris to sign for their friends and families. Armed with a stack of markers, Sedaris left personalized signatures and drawings on each title page.

Sedaris’ upcoming book “Happy Go Lucky” will be released in June 2022. His next appearance on tour will be at The Soraya Great Hall in Northridge, California on Nov. 10.

Michaela Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @MichaelaRH21 on Twitter.