Sitting in the rarefied confines of London’s Cadogan Hall, David Sedaris’ soft, lilting tones and reserved manner make it easy to forget what he really is: a proper fucking weirdo.
David Sedaris is the politest rude person you’ll ever meet. The aforementioned voice (which he admits has often led to people calling him “Mrs Sedaris” on the phone) masks a heart of vicious hilarity and downright oddness. Tonight’s show is a little different than most, as Sedaris makes a short intro and then brings out author Akhil Sharma to read from his book Family Life. Apparently Sedaris usually promotes this book himself – “Because it’s good” – but Sharma just happened to be in town too so has popped in for a guest spot. His reading is very funny and there’s a healthy queue for his table at the book signing afterwards; there’s no doubt who the audience is really here for.
Resplendent in blue culottes with white polka dots (“Which I’ll talk about later”), a David Sedaris gig is an intimate affair. He reads excerpts from his diary alongside tales of family reunions and details of his life in rural West Sussex. It all sounds unbearably twee, but by cloaking them in these wholesome themes, Sedaris gets to tell us all sorts of completely bizarre and often downright filthy stories. There are very few people who will be interviewed by Desert Island Discs but also tell you about their plan to murder a mouse with a hammer, or indeed about the training strap-on dildo they found by the side of the road (“I would have taken it home, but I knew that the moment I put it in my backpack, I’d be hit by a car”), next to McDonalds cartons that drivers have crapped in (presumably while still driving). The tales vary wildly, from shopping with his sisters in Tokyo – a trip that involved:
Something my boyfriend refers to as a dress, but which is definitely a smock. It fastens in front with little straps. And also, for whatever reason… in the back.
… to having a small benign tumour removed at night in a small clinic in New Mexico. Sedaris takes the tumour home packed in ice and feeds it to a snapping turtle near his home. He then wanders off into a rambling chat about which parts of your body your pets would most like to eat.
Sedaris is very funny, but interposes the jokes with serious points that reveal a sincere, if slightly skewed worldview underneath. His reaction to gay marriage becoming legal is particularly hilarious and touching. He reveals that he welled up by the side of the road when he found out the law had passed, but also kind of hoped no one would ever take advantage of it: “However bigoted you were about gay couples, at least we didn’t make you sit through fucking weddings.” He also reveals how he had a change of heart after his accountant told him how much they’d save by getting married.
It’s a brilliant, relaxed evening that makes you come away realising that it’s totally okay to hate assholes who drop litter, or people who let their kids scream in restaurants, and it’s also okay to have weird interests and stay up all night watching “snake attack videos on YouTube.”
Sedaris is on until February 27th, and back in December, I suggest you go and take the time to ask him to sign a book afterwards – he drew an enormous green cucumber-penis in mine…