David Sedaris is the American humorist and author whose life is one big joke. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, he has made a career our of telling stories about his experiences, most of which involve his seemingly outrageous family that includes younger sister Amy of “Strangers with Candy” fame.
He has written several best selling books including Me Talk Pretty one Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, is involved in a radio network that reaches 10 million plus people and is on a never-ending lecture tour of the world. As a part of what he called his ‘tourette’ of Australia he spoke at His Majesties Theatre here in Perth on Tuesday night, and for a most part it was a success.
The thing that makes David Sedaris so likeable and his stories so funny is that he writes with earnest and without pretention. In his anecdotes he and his family member’s are always the butt of the joke for their numerous shortcomings and odd habits, this translated well when the man himself stood before the full house reading out loud with his very distinct high pitch voice. Sure, there was a part in the night when the repeated punch line in a story was racist impersonations that the crowd seemed to love but he mostly just told stories that were endearing as well as humorous.
He told a great story about his last visit to Australia when he fed a Kookaburra (David pointed out he knew the correct pronunciation but couldn’t help saying ‘Kewk-a-burra’) which led to a story about how angry his father got when he and his younger sister kept singing ‘Kookaburra sits in the old Gum Tree,’ over and over. The story was finished off with a reflective ‘and the Kookuburra laughing… laughing,’ which immediately took me aback because he doesn’t usually end his stories in such a sappy way. He immediately drew attention to the ending, saying he’s always wanted to finish a story with the same word twice in that kind of deep, introspective way and I laughed with relief.
Stories from his life that have made Sedaris such a success but at the show he gave us a preview of his upcoming work of fiction, a series of fable like stories which, along with a fictional email he read out, were the weakest parts of the night. It’s only natural that he branch out and try writing different things but to be frank, I found his fictional stories really boring for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps he’s hoping to break into a new market with his fables (or ‘foibles’ as he put it) about single cell’s, rabbits and unicorns but I think his fan base will be, for the most part, uninterested.
I guess it’s a bit ironic that the biggest laughs came from what was unplanned. After about an hour of reading out his stories he brought along with him, David asked to have the house lights brought up and invited the audience to ask him questions. The stunned silence that usually follows such a request was eventually broken when some members of the audience dared to raise their hands. The funniest stories were about fans that he had met while doing signings. One woman he met, who knew he loves Japan told him all about how on her last trip there she had gotten a hold of a copy of a Japanese video game that’s been banned all over the world. The game is called RapeLay, the premise of which is that you are a rapist who was dobbed in by a victim and you extract your revenge by tracking down and raping her mother and sister.
The highlight for me though, was a story about what happened when David, just wanting to keep things interesting, asked a woman who wanted her book signed, ‘when was the last time you touched a monkey?’ and the woman responding with, ‘Ohh, can you smell it on me?’ It turned out the woman happened to work for a company that helps train monkey helpers for quadriplegics. That story, like his others, proves that in the life of David Sedaris, reality is stranger than fiction.