Review of ‘An Evening with David Sedaris’

Best-selling author David Sedaris spent an evening at the Mondavi Center Friday reading humorous short stories from his upcoming book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and several entries from his diary, consequently making the entire theater shake with laughter at his extreme absurdities.

Few authors can make reading from a book into a riotously comedic show, but Sedaris, with his keen observations of the ridiculous moments of everyday life, absurd written persona and contrastingly deadpan exterior, is able to out-do the best of stand up comedy.

Sedaris records everyday moments, family tensions and his encounters with strange characters, and describes them with sharp wit and eccentric humor to shed light upon the ridiculous nature of humanity.

He mocks his suicidal sister, he tells his father he has cancer when he’s actually perfectly healthy, he says, “Only needles have ghosts as friends” in a Greek lesson and he describes his colonoscopy as a dizzyingly happy moment.

Sedaris treats life with irreverence, but this is what makes his stories so powerful and so humorous. We feel all kinds of tensions, but he allows us to channel our energy into laughter. It’s a relief.

Somehow, he ingeniously converts a sad, sentimental moment — like a conversation with a depressed sibling who is contemplating suicide — into a painfully hilarious story.

He discusses his strained relationship with his father, how he once forgot he was still alive and how he hopes his father won’t be the first to live to 200, but describes it with painfully sharp humor. He forces you into an uncomfortable situation in which your moral and civil conscience questions your laughter, but there’s no way of suppressing your mirth.

After reading stories from his upcoming book, he read some excerpts from his personal diary. These were short and hilarious descriptions of people he’s seen and talked to on tour, with several jokes of his own devising about pissed-off snails and sex with Willie Nelson thrown into the mix.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls will be released in 2013. Listen to his original pieces on National Public Radio’s “This American Life” series, or find his bestsellers at a bookstore.
CRISTINA FRIES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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