On the heels of his dual reading with Lena Dunham in New York and a sold-out show in Denver last Monday, David Sedaris lit up the Paramount Theatre yesterday afternoon with his comfort-food storytelling style. Delivering stories from last summer's' Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls, as well as his recent New Yorker essays, a few diary entries and some unexpected riffing on bone marrow, Sedaris appeared more at ease on stage than ever. He's a man who has clearly come to terms with his fame, but still retains some joy and playfulness at the center of every public appearance.
Remembering the trials of being a domestic dandy in his college-dorm years, Sedaris recounted the tale of being fed up with his sloppy roommate and eventually hustling a room of his own. "Greg would drop by every once in a while and say 'nice place,'" Sedaris said, reading aloud. "'Yours could be nice too,' I told him, 'you just have to be...have to be... ' The word I was looking for, I later realized, was: gay. If you want a room with cinderblock walls to be nice, you have to be gay."
With all the air being constantly sucked out of the room by laughter, I began to assume that Sedaris had no interest in taking a hard right turn by reading "Now We Are Five," the recently published New Yorker essay about his sister Tiffany's suicide last spring. He'd read the story the previous Wednesday at Carnegie Hall; I wondered if it had brought the mood down then and he preferred to keep this event more light-hearted.
But apparently not: While he didn't read this story, Sedaris still seems to relish the grimmest of tales, giving long, seemingly improvised rants about Nothing to Envy (a book about North Korea's government imposed famine in the 1990s) as well as the merits of donating bone marrow (he'd invited an organization on tour with him that was offering mouth-swab DNA tests in the lobby for possible marrow donations).
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"We're not a horrible couple, but we can have the types of fights that can begin over a misplaced sock, and suddenly be about everything," Sedaris later said of his longtime partner, Hugh, in a story about guest rooms. "'I haven't loved you since 2002,' he hissed, during a recent argument about which airport security line was moving the fastest. 'What happened in 2002?' I wondered."
After relating a tale of pranking his dad with the suggestion that he'd been diagnosed with cancer, reading from his diary about when he met a Chinese man named "Rich Jew," and then getting a huge applause after declaring the Tattered Cover "one of the best bookstores in the country," Sedaris happily took questions from the audience, which ranged from audio-book recommendations to details about his sister's suicide.
For a writer, Sedaris navigated inquiries about his personal life with a surprising amount of grace and humor, never brooding or standoffish as many authors (even the ones who write autobiographical stories) can often be. Clearly, he's still having a good time.
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.