David Sedaris: A Comedic Genius Who’s Sensitive Too

I came upon David Sedaris by accident while perusing a book on collegiate success. The writer of that book mentioned Sedaris during a lecture about taking time off and cited him as witty and hilarious. This was a hard time in my life. I was making a transition from high schooler to college student, from having my mom control every aspect of my life to coping with being on my own. Time management? A joke.

A joke, like David Sedaris and his lisp in Me Talk Pretty One Day (which surely could’ve been traumatic to him and, maybe it was), was made into something a little less serious. And the social justice warrior in me starting hiding.

Sedaris posing with a roll of toilet paper.

Sedaris did the same with hitchhiking in Road Trips, which, sure, could be used for comedic purposes in any other context as well but, there were also the couple times he almost died. The struggles of not knowing exactly where he wanted to go or barely knowing what he was or who he wanted to be. Working random jobs in random places. These were all funny but, they could easily be interpreted as a coming-of-age journey.

The instances reference were also all almost wildly problematic. Sedaris never fully crosses the line, but he sure as well may have with the little things he writes. For example, the story of how, in the Netherlands, Santa Claus is accompanied by “six to eight black men” who transitioned culturally from being his slaves to his “friends”. Living in the twenty-first century, we can see the problematic nature of that. Sedaris sees it too, and he makes you laugh at it.

Naked, my first David Sedaris book. I was hooked afterward.

That is not to say that David Sedaris cannot see the seriousness of the world. In fact, I’d argue that he sees it even more clearly than some of us do. There is something heart-twinging in each of his essays and memoirs. There is something more; I often found myself humbled by the end of them.

Writing well is not always writing in Old English or in the words of Shakespeare. Sometimes it’s just making your writers feel. That feeling could be warmth, laughter, or even shock—it could be anything, really. David Sedaris somehow manages to make us experience all of that even through a strange collection of animal-themed stories.

 

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