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Saturday, May 02, 2009

David Sedaris @ UCLA's Royce Hall



This past Wednesday, I had the unique opportunity to see David Sedaris speak at UCLA's Royce Hall. The consummate literary comedic voice of our generation was on point, delivering stories, essays, and journal entries from the past 5 years or so. In addition to that, he very plainly mentioned his new found love of all things Ambien, while frequently requesting pills from the celebrity-peppered audience. Instead of succumbing to his wishes, I merely sat in awe as the storyteller went on, at length, about the way he sees the world (nothing new to those familiar with his literary depictions of family life, social culture, and the foreign view on the U.S.).

Among the most intriguing of his essays, Sedaris mentioned a trip to Australia where he met a guide so rooted in her ways, it was hard not to acknowledge her message as a narrative arc. Her theory: success is a 4-burner range, and one must shed at least half of their obligations from that burner to truly achieve success. The four tenets of success inhibition you wonder? Family, friends, health, and love I think? Maybe exercise? The last is escaping me right now, which totally ruins my point. But I could really relate to what he was saying and found his words hauntingly true.

Conversely, one thing becomes clear after seeing Sedaris: his comedy, whether he knows it or not, is for the "haves" and not the "have nots" in today's society. None of the jokes would even play to someone who's living the blue collar life. Between his backhanded contempt for the common man to his lack of ever piloting an automobile first-person, Sedaris leaves a few questions of life's most pedestrian and mundane moments to be answered. Why? Because he hasn't experienced them himself. That being said, can he really be the comedic voice of the people when he inadvertently places himself in such high regard? Does attending his lecture only affirm his status as the voice of an educated-well-off-liberal-white left that I myself categorically fall into? You could certainly surmise as much. I did. And I left more confused and affirmed as I'd ever been.

More importantly, his knowledge of the English language (the way words work, the way they play together) is only topped by his knack for performance (his father cited that Sedaris was always "a better performer than a writer," an opinion I urge you to attempt to prove true). Indeed, Sedaris has landed himself in the center of the white-educated-elite, but he is certainly a writer first and a orator second. If Joyce did comedy, Sedaris would certainly draw parallels.

Check out Me Talk Pretty One Day and tell me what you think. It's my contention that Sedaris has the ability to tell stories so true and personal that even if we haven't experienced what he has, he makes us feel like we were there all along.

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