Writer, performer and 'literary funnyman' David Sedaris has announced his first ever UK tour next Spring. If you’re aware of him, you’ll know his observational, politically incorrect humour has drawn comparisons to Oscar Wilde and found a home with both hipsters and the high street, selling over 8 million books and getting three Grammy nominations in the process.
If you don’t know him, we say you should. Here’s a primer:
He Was An Overnight Sensation At 36
After years of plugging away at reading gigs and cleaning apartments to keep body, if not soul, alive, David Sedaris became an overnight sensation in 1992 when a radio show host heard him read from his diaries in a Chicago club. He describes the chance event as the start of his fantasy life.
Within months he found himself on America's National Public Radio (think Radio 4 without the lightness of touch) and then the phone started ringing. First it was the publisher Little, Brown, asking if he had a book they could publish, to which he lied, "Yes, it's right here in the drawer!" Then it was the prestigious New Yorker magazine asking if he'd like to write regularly for them, to which he replied a little more truthfully, "There is nothing I would like more."
Noone Writes Better On Dysfunctional Families.
His upbringing as one of six kids in an American Greek family was by all accounts riotous. The resulting stories - the best of which can be found in Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim and When You Are Engulfed In Flames - dissect family, friendship, sex and acquaintance and are informed by the skewed view of the terminal outsider.
“Someone in our family had taken to wiping his or her ass on the bath towels. What made this exceptionally disturbing was that all our towels were fudge-colored. You’d be drying your hair when, too late, you noticed an unmistakable odor on your hands, head, and face.”
His Stories Are As Good Written Down As They Are Read Out Loud.
It's been a quiet, word-of-mouth rise. He doesn't really do TV, apart from the odd Letterman appearance, preferring the buzz of 40-dates-at-a-time reading tours. While his stories books regularly make readers laugh out loud on trains, his readings add an extra quality.
“Reading something out loud, you can cheat; sometimes your biggest laugh you can get from looking up or pausing,” he says. “You don’t want to try and imitate that on the page because it looks cheap, like four double spaces or 17 periods on the page and then the word ‘Huh?’ It just looks gimmicky.” (Via Fast To Create)
With his distinctive voice and his unflinching dryer than dust delivery, his performances are definitely unique.
His Story About Going To Stay At A Nudist Colony Naked Might Just Be The Funniest Thing He’s Ever Written.
See for yourself: Naked by David Sedaris.
He Keeps A Meticulous Diary
Sedaris relies on his observations and has been keeping a meticulous diary since 1977, initially writing them on the back of beer mats when he went travelling, then getting more organised as his writing progressed.
Twitter could have been designed for him, but he claims not to have used the internet until 2010. While initially Googling "Squirrel" and "Chipmunk" earlier this year to see if the names had already been used, he got diverted by something random and was horrified to find someone claiming he used his book tours to pick up younger men.
He's A Regular Esquire Contributor
Sedaris has contributed some of his best work to our cousins at American Esquire. Including this essay he performed in Carnegie Hall. He’s also a prodigious contributor to The New Yorker who take nine stories out of every 10 he submits. The ones they reject he tends to agree are not up to par.
He's A Man Of The World
He's lived in Paris for years, with spells in Normandy and Tokyo and is a constant traveller, mainly because he likes to play the foreigner because people around him think they can say whatever they like because he won't understand it.
"And so they are themselves in a way that they couldn't be if they thought you understood what they're talking about. In England, a lot of times I might as well be from Bulgaria, and I like that aspect of it because I write and that's gold to me, whereas someone else might be hurt or insulted."
But He’s Never Really Written About England
Frustratingly, he's written little about England, routinely claiming that he can't "do" the accent when reading, but admitting to Esquire it's to do with not having quite cleared his immigration status and filled in all the forms yet.
He has owned a flat in Kensington however. "It's interesting, In England when you tell someone where you live you always get some lip. When I say Kensington, it's always, 'Ooh! That's posh! Isn't it?' And it's like, I didn't move here to make you feel bad, I just thought it was pretty.
And He’s Touring Next Spring
His first ever full UK tour, ‘An Evening With David Sedaris' starts next Spring and isaunched off the back of his second sell-out run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.