A first colonoscopy, French dentistry and poetry about dogs may not sound like much of a thematic whole for one night’s reading between segments of ad-lib comedy.
But like the eight books that comprise his published oeuvre, and span an even wider array of themes, writer David Sedaris proved beyond doubt to his Sunday-night audience in Salt Lake City that comedy resides more in delivery and detail than mere subject-matter.
Even the title of his ninth and most recent book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, demonstrated the tangential nature of Sedaris’ dry, but delirious, humor. Reading before hundreds who packed Capitol Theatre to hear the best-selling author, Sedaris described how a literal interpretation of his humor can even multiply the laughs.
On the first leg of his national book tour in Charlotte, N. C., Sedaris described how event promoters strived to find him a diabetic person dressed in an owl costume for the release date of his new book. They instead settled for a pre-diabetic and Great Horned Owl.
“It was a beautiful night,” Sedaris told the crowd, perched behind a wooden podium, with glass of water at the ready.
The humorist who first got his start reading essays to fellow art students in the late 1980s, going on to sell millions of titles from 1994 onward, then regaled his audience with selections from his new book. Many, but not all, of Sedaris’ tales centered on the life he’s lived overseas in France and England since becoming a well-known writer and regular feature on “This American Life” distributed by Public Radio International.
Bank-shooting off the United States’ debate over socialized medicine, Sedaris described the almost familial relationship he carried on with the staff of his dentist’s office in France, after his French physician attempted to comfort him about the size of a mysterious growth between his ribs.
“Though it’s a stretch to call them friends, I think they’d miss me if I died of a fatty tumor,” he said.
Sampling one of six “Monologues For Teenagers” included in his new book, Sedaris joked about forgetting his father was still alive—”Who do you think answered the phone?” his mother asked—while commenting acerbically on the nation’s gun-rights debate.
“If you don’t think a mentally-ill person has the right to take a sawed-off shot-gun to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend, you’re part of the problem.”
Gigi Thorsen, a marketing and events manager for a Salt Lake City private school, said she took her college-age daughter Kiersten along for the reading for a simple good laugh. To hear a living author read his own works also satisfied her curiosity.
“It’s amazing how the tone of his voice makes such a difference,” Thorsen said.
Sedaris relished each punchline throughout, selecting bits from his own “tour diary” about pet theories and select observations, such as whether heterosexual men would ever split desserts in the fashion of some gay couples.
The Capitol Theatre crowd returned the love, responding in waves of laughter for Sedaris to gently ride. During a question-and-answer period, a fan even gifted the humorist with a chocolate-colored human skull, with a jaw opening to reveal an alarm clock inside.
Sedaris told aspiring writers not to worry at first about having their work published, but to instead perhaps “wait to be asked.”
“There’s a difference between writing and being published,” he said. “People think that when they write, they need to be published. But they’re completely different things.”