Arts and Entertainment Editor
David Sedaris, the satirist and bestselling author of over ten humorist essay collections, took to the Granada Theater for the second time on Friday in what can only be described as true Sedaris fashion: keen, self-deprecating, and possessing a humor that sent feelings of both cringe and relatability. That night, he drew a full house, reading snippets from his diary entries, essay collections, and portions from his segment on CBS Sunday Morning.
However, despite Sedaris’ well-deserved popularity as a writer, his arrival to Santa Barbara seemingly lost on its college population, as the theater was completely packed with elderly people. Among the Granada’s sea of gray heads, Sedaris, himself, turned 65 last year, something that doesn’t disguise well in his writing or in-person: young people are frequently a target of his jokes. But, so are the disabled, the stupid, and of course, himself — a triad storm, that at times, spirals into a wreck of boomer jokes.
But such is the charm of Sedaris, a reason why his writing is acclaimed and regularly featured in publications such as the New Yorker. At his worst — a joke about the overly sensitive plight of today’s children — he reveals his age, but at his best — and Sedaris is frequently at his best — his shrewd observations pack a punch, balancing self-deprecation and the deprecation of others in every one of his readings.
Laughter frequently rang throughout the theater, eliciting a few smug grins from Sedaris at the podium. He seems wise to the effect deprecation can have on his audience and of course, wise to the nature of his audience itself. Jaded and unafraid to group himself among the mocked, Sedaris’ humor feels tailored for those who are dejected in life. As he wove through stories of his “gnome-like” father, cigarette-addicted sister, and his “servant” husband Hugh, it’s obvious that Sedaris is aware of his own cynicism, which is what makes his work truly shine. In the unending search for happiness and self-improvement, Sedaris’ pessimism and his subtle cruelty in describing the world — feels utterly refreshing as it feels relatable.
In hearing his stories, I couldn’t help but smile, myself, remembering why I fell in love with Sedaris’ work in the first place. He writes of his obsessive tics, from licking doorknobs and his habit of rocking himself to sleep at night to his IQ score that, if converted into dollars, “would buy you about three buckets of fried chicken.”
Sedaris is truly a character, and a relatable one at that. His performance at the Granada left me feeling as when I first began reading his work years ago, in desperate need of a laugh. Tongue-tied, knotted in admiration, I wondered if one day I could ever write something as weird, as honest, as this.
While getting my book signed, I told Sedaris I was writing a review of him and he assured me not to worry about his opinion “I won’t read it anyways,” he said.
As I thought, Sedaris is unafraid of what others think of him which is, perhaps, the secret to his comedic success. Grinning, he scribbled a picture of an owl on the book’s cover page, a long and scraggly speech bubble emerging from its beak: Jennifer, criticize away!