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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Review: An Evening with David Sedaris

A sophisticated comedy show

My expectation of David Sedaris, the contemporary American humorist and writer, was different than my experience at his lecture at the Mondavi Center on May 9. His legacy and writing exudes sophistication, clever wit and a seasoned wisdom — he writes for The New Yorker and has ten books under his belt, after all. His social commentary combines serious intellect with a relatability that’s accessible to the layman. Even his headshot reminds me of a Manhattan socialite, always knowing the right thing to say at every moment. While the last comment remains true, the seriousness I was anticipating was flipped on its head.

My first instance seeing the writer in person was outside the Mondavi Center before the show. His driver parked his car perpendicular to the sidewalk (parking spots don’t seem to exist to a man like Sedaris). Out he stepped, adorned in a long linen shirt and MC Hammer-style pants, walking confidently to the side entrance. What an entrance; what a badass.

My first time hearing him speak that night also dismissed my preconceived notions of the man. The stage mentally prepared me for a well-structured lecture: a podium was centered in the middle of the stage, a stool with his water placed on top. His low-hanging pants soon made their debut, and he welcomed the crowd. The surprise came from how high his voice is, which again dismissed the deep, serious voice I was expecting to hear. He told the crowd he wasn’t nervous to speak in front of us; he was already winning since we paid to see him. Laughter ruptured from the audience. I was expecting commentary, his views on our political and social commentary. He gave us a better one: humor.

He began his evening reading an excerpt from a recent essay about a piece of gravel that got caught in one of his molars and the chaotic road to getting a root canal. As he told of his travels to different cities — and different dentists —  he weaved in the hard truths of growing older: the physical and emotional pain you become accustomed to, but the miraculous way we overcome it.

He later presented the commencement speech he will be giving at Oberlin College — ironic, considering the limited number of college students in attendance. In the speech, he gave some advice: only buy high-end scented candles, and send handwritten thank-you cards for any and every occasion. Each time his talk hit a hard, serious tone, the audience drew silent. But always he found the wit, the humor and the positivity to embed in those moments.

What was surprising, and an aspect of him that I both forgot and possibly failed to notice, was how raunchy and un-politically-correct he was. Don’t get me wrong, he did not cross a line, but sex jokes frequently made their way into his lecture. He mentioned there are few things in this world that he genuinely cares about, but of those things, you should fight for them, stand up for them.

Sedaris is real; he doesn’t make himself bigger than he is. His humble being and presentation was captivating and enthusiastic. What I — and the audience — got from the night was a conversation with David Sedaris.

This was indeed not a formal lecture, but rather, a comedy show. I found myself continuously laughing throughout the two hours, and so was the crowd. Nevertheless, I was intellectually stimulated throughout the evening. His beauty lies in his ability to combine the most serious of topics within the context of creativity and smart humor. Sedaris gave us a gentle reminder of what we really need: a conscious, deliberate thought — an ever-so present humorous perspective.



Written by: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org


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