About the show
With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s preeminent humor writers. For almost 20 years, this internationally acclaimed humorist has entertained audiences with his astute, satirical assessment of the human condition. Most of his work is autobiographical, and gives insight into his family life, drug addictions, homosexuality, and life as an expatriate residing in France and England.
As the thinking man’s raunch, Sedaris’ humor is intelligent yet unafraid to offend if the realities of the story demand it. His anecdotal observations, presented with dry, deadpan delivery, are at once acerbic and strikingly humane. In addition to reading from his extensive body of published works, Sedaris occasionally reads works in progress, and even notes from the Moleskine journal he keeps in his breast pocket.
Besides his individual success, Sedaris also collaborates with his sister, actress Amy Sedaris. Under the name “The Talent Family,” they have written multiple plays including Stump the Host, Stitches, and One Woman Shoe, which received an Obie Award®.
The Early Years
One of six children, David Sedaris was raised in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. Originally interested in a career in visual and performance art, he decided to give it up after a lack of success. Sedaris went on to attend West Carolina University, and then Kent State University in Ohio, where he dropped out. He eventually earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and then went on to work a variety of odd jobs.
One evening, radio show host Ira Glass heard Sedaris reading excerpts from his diary in a Chicago club. Glass was so impressed that he asked Sedaris to read on his program, The Wild Room. This led to an appearance on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition where Sedaris read “The SantaLand Diaries.” The story, which details his experiences working as a Christmas elf at a Macy’s department store, was hugely popular and became a holiday staple on NPR.
From Macy’s Elf to Bestseller
David Sedaris’ first book, Barrel Fever, was published in 1994, and includes “The SantaLand Diaries.” Around the same time, he also began publishing essays in Esquire and The New Yorker. In 1997, he published his next book, Naked, which includes stories about drug and alcohol abuse, and the death of his mother. The collection also featured “A Plague of Tics,” a detailed recollection of his childhood struggles with Obsessive-compulsive disorder. In 2001, Sedaris received both the Thurber Prize for American Humor and the title of “Humorist of the Year” from TIME Magazine for his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames was released in 2008, and features an essay about his decision to move briefly to Japan in order to finally quit smoking. In a departure from his traditional essay format, Sedaris’ Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary was released in 2010. Originally titled “Beastiology,” the book is a collection of animal fables, and features illustrations by Ian Falconer, best known for the award-winning Olivia series of children’s books.
Sedaris’ latest collection of narrative essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, debuted in hardcover in 2013 at Number One on the New York Times Bestseller List. Janet Maslin of the New York Times said that “oddball minutiae are to Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls what raisins are to raisin bread.” There is no story in this volume with the book’s title, nor is there one that addresses the subject suggested thereby. However, there are stories such as “Understanding Understanding Owls,” “Dentists Without Borders,” and “Now Hiring Friendly People.” The book also features something new from Sedaris: monologues like “Mind The Gap” and “The Happy Place.” Sedaris decided to include these works after many of his high school-aged fans told him they wanted something to present in speech, debate, and theatre classes.
Sedaris’ works have been translated into 25 languages. In a recent article for World Literature Today, translator Myrsini Gana examines the pleasures and (occasional) pains of translating his works for a Greek audience. When asked what his work might gain in translation, Sedaris said that “perhaps it underlines the feeling of foreignness I bring to most of my stories.”
Story and Essay Collections
- Barrel Fever (1994)
- Naked (1997)
- Holidays on Ice (1997)
- Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000)
- Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004)
- Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (Editor, 2005)
- When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008)
- Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (2010)
- Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013)