New York-born, Raleigh-raised humorist David Sedaris strode onto the stage at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 23rd, for An Evening with David Sedaris, presented by (Broadway Series South. After a brief introduction by WUNC’s Eric Hodge and some not-so-brief comments by artist Jeffrey Jenkins, Sedaris launched into an evening of essays, diary entries, and random observations.
I won’t bore you with all of the nitty-gritty details (you have Google), but here is the need-to-know:
Sedaris made a splash in 1992 with a reading of his long autobiographical essay “The SantaLand Diaries” on NPR’s Morning Edition. Eight books (and matching audiobooks), a handful of plays, and stacks of New Yorker essays later, this spring saw the release of the first volume of an edited diary collection. Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) liberates a hoard of brief daily records that Sedaris has obsessively catalogued for most of his 60 years on Earth.
Attendees of his public readings have heard snippets of this before. It is one of the unique joys of seeing David Sedaris live — hearing the stuff that doesn’t get printed. Sometimes, it’s too weird; sometimes, it’s just too filthy.
In addition to the 528-page stockpile of introspection, David Sedaris Diaries: A Visual Compendium is on parade this tour. Sedaris’ childhood friend, graphic designer and Jeffrey Jenkins, meticulously scoured through a bookcase full of diaries to examine the sketches and collages that Sedaris created for each volume. Considering that Sedaris binds around four diary collections every year, it was not the briefest of inspections.
Acting as curator, Jenkins selected, scanned, and photographed hundreds of artistic elements that captured the spirit of Sedaris’s life from 1977 to 2002. The compendium is a hefty coffee-table book that serves as an artsy companion to Theft by Finding. If the diaries are David Sedaris’ logical left brain, the compendium is his emotional right brain.
“NPR David Sedaris” and “Live Reading David Sedaris” are not the same person. As authors do, on tour he reads a few tidbits from the new book and — in his case — often a soon-to-be-released New Yorker piece. This makes for a lovely and quite funny evening.
But I can read the book. I can listen to the audiobook. So, why bother with the show?
The reason to be in the room, to buy the tickets, to find a parking space, to brave the storm, is to hear the pure, divine obscenity that the radio — and casual readers — could not stomach. Little of the filthy tales and blue humor originate with Sedaris. Rather, he observes and reports the preposterous and repulsive things that people have said and done in front of him over the years. This stuff is not going to end up on NPR’s Morning Edition, lest a prude become so shocked that they drive into a ditch on the way to work.
In Raleigh last Monday night, during a preshow book signing in the lobby, the author warned that things were going to get rude. “I’m going to change clothes before the show,” said Sedaris. “I have to say [#&@%!] on stage tonight, so I should put on something more suitable.”
The suitable outfit was a bizarre, helter-skelter version of a suit, which he purchased in Tokyo. The family shopping trip — which featured his shopping “enabler,” sister Amy Sedaris — was described in 2016’s ” The Perfect Fit,” written for The New Yorker and performed live for us.
The clothing at Kapital is not only ill-fitting, but destroyed and monstrous — as if a zombie would wear them. Always intrigued by the grotesque and campy, David and Amy were kids in a candy store.
In his obliterated suit, with a red flower in his lapel, David Sedaris was practically giddy at the prospect of launching distasteful grenades toward a cheering, roaring, packed house of victims.
He shared bizarre insults from around the world (the Bulgarians favor “may you build yourself a house of kidney stones!”), a fantastic new essay about mid-flight bowel evacuation and touring with a gastrointestinal virus entitled “I’m Still Standing,” and a joke involving Italian cuisine and female genitalia that I cannot bring myself to type.
Not to say that the show was exclusively blue. Every now and then a tender moment snuck through. Memories of letters home to longtime boyfriend Hugh–as though at war rather than on a book tour–was a rare glimpse into the intimate, loving parts of their relationship.
As a lifelong Sedaris groupie (and a featured character in one of his essays), I adore the work of the soft-spoken storyteller. But I always relish the opportunity to see David Uncut: the stand-up comedian who delights in shocking the NPR sustainers until merlot comes jetting from their lips.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 18th Durham, NC Indy Week preview by Allison Hussey: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/to-an-anxious-isolated-teen-girl-david-sedaris-offered-far-more-than-funny-essays/Content?oid=8845528.
AN EVENING WITH DAVID SEDARIS (Broadway Series South, Oct. 23 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts).
SHOW: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/an-evening-with-david-sedaris-8705 and https://www.facebook.com/events/248377288969899/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=q6a7p6SyPSM, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do2cr1OWY9c, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NVRuwN56uw.
THE TOUR: http://www.davidsedarisbooks.com/tour.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south, https://www.facebook.com/broadwayseriessouthraleigh, and https://twitter.com/BroadwaySouth.
David Sedaris (Binghamton, NY-born humorist, radio commentator, and author): http://www.davidsedarisbooks.com/ (official website), http://www.barclayagency.com/sedaris.html (official bio courtesy the Barclay Agency), http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/lists/sedaris/ (National Public Radio bio), https://www.newyorker.com/contributors/david-sedaris (essays from The New Yorker), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/4863 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1358380/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/davidsedaris/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/davidsedaris (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sedaris (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor and director. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.