David Sedaris to speak at Irvine's Barclay Theatre

"When forced to leave my house for an extended period of time, I take my typewriter with me, and together we endure the wretchedness of passing through the X-ray scanner. The laptops roll merrily down the belt, while I'm instructed to stand aside and open my bag. To me it seems like a normal enough thing to be carrying, but the typewriter's declining popularity arouses suspicion and I wind up eliciting the sort of reaction one might expect when traveling with a cannon.

"'It's a typewriter,' I say. 'You use it to write angry letters to airport security.'"

― David Sedaris


One can only imagine what goes through David Sedaris' head as he makes his way down to Orange County to speak at the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

(We would include a typical quotation here of Sedaris sharing his opinion of the suburbs, but this is a family newspaper.)

Sedaris, 54, is a Grammy-nominated humorist who thrills in lampooning cultural oddities, political correctness and social conservatism. He has appeared at the Barclay five times.

Saturday will mark his sixth entrée through the Orange Curtain to speak here; he is known for spending much of his life on tour.

Sedaris' trademark is his no-holds-barred wit, which has touched on everything from "little people" and French grammar to undecided voters and excrement.

Beyond (or possibly due to) the poetic use of choice naughty words, Sedaris has achieved a sublime ability to hone in on a particular euphemism, cultural trait or tradition, and either break it down or bring it to its natural conclusions. His ability to satirize literally anything, as an equal opportunity offender, has given him a perch as a world-class observer of humanity.

Perhaps his most beloved attribute is his inclination to self-deprecation, evident in Sedaris' semi-autobiographical essays, which take true subject matter and build upon it for comic effect.

He has published several novels and pseudo-nonfiction bestsellers, as well as a series of fables featuring animals, most of which can be found in his latest release, "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary."

Sedaris' work also can be found in The New Yorker and on NPR, as well as in several audio recordings.

His sister Amy Sedaris, also a successful author and humorist, collaborates with him as a playwright.

The two, along with four siblings, grew up in the suburbs of Raleigh, N.C., and Sedaris attended several colleges before graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sedaris' high school experience has proved a rich stomping ground of literary fodder. He was unavailable for an interview, but here is a snippet of his writing:

"When asked 'What do we need to learn this for?' any high-school teacher can confidently answer that, regardless of the subject, the knowledge will come in handy once the student hits middle age and starts working crossword puzzles in order to stave off the terrible loneliness."

A common misnomer is that Sedaris attended Princeton University. This was due to a baccalaureate address he gave there in 2006 in which he pretended to be a Princeton graduate, which he said made his father exceedingly proud.

"I needed to temper his enthusiasm a bit, and so I announced that I would be majoring in patricide," Sedaris once wrote. " ... My mom was actually jealous."

Sedaris was first "discovered" by radio host Ira Glass while reading aloud from his diary in a Chicago club. Glass asked Sedaris, who was working odd jobs at the time, to speak on his program, "The Wild Room," and thus began his rise to fame.

In 1992, NPR invited Sedaris to read his essay "Santaland Diaries" about his time as an elf at Macy's during the holidays.

From there he published books of essays and short stories like "Naked" and the critics' darling "Me Talk Pretty One Day," and began contributing regularly to NPR and The New Yorker.

"At first, writing for The New Yorker was very scary to me. I couldn't imagine anything that I would write in that typeface."

He now alternates his time between writing and touring, and lives in Europe with his beloved typewriter. He relies strongly on routine, taking time to write every day.

"At the end of a miserable day, instead of grieving my virtual nothing, I can always look at my loaded wastepaper basket and tell myself that if I failed, at least I took a few trees down with me," he wrote.

If You Go

What: An Evening with David Sedaris

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine

Cost: $35 to $55

Information: (949) 854-4646 or thebarclay.org

David Sedaris' Recommended Reading

•"River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze" by Peter Hessler

•"The Barracks Thief" by Tobias Wolff

•"Among the Thugs" by Bill Buford

•"An Obedient Father" by Akhil Sharma

•"Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore

•"Blue Angel: A Novel" by Francine Prose

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