Excited crowds thronged the elegant, glassy lobby of the Overture Center before David Sedaris, well known humorist, author and comedian, graced the stage with his two-hour solo performance on Wednesday.
Fans, still chilly from walking the leaf strewn streets outside, perused a table laden with Sedaris’s books and lined up to get autographs from Sedaris himself, who sat demurely at a long table, appearing rather reserved in his proper suit top and spectacles — how misleading this initial impression of prim innocence was.
The crowd migrated into Overture Hall. The lights dimmed, and after an announcer introduced Sedaris as being part of the Overture Center’s “Celebrity Series,” he walked onstage to thundering applause.
The black curtains were drawn closed around a simple podium illuminated by a spotlight. Before he even reached the podium, the audience laughed at his flamboyant combination of a tail coat and baggy pants. Sedaris arrived at the podium and looked out at the crowd, somehow demanding the absolute attention of everyone in the theater.
His high, slightly nerdy voice rang through the theater — conversational, dry and unquestionably funny. The audience was captivated right away.
He started his set by mentioning that a young person had approached him after one of his shows and told him that he had not included a trigger warning at the beginning of his set.
He paused for a moment, looking matter of factly out at us, and said, “Well ... watch out.”
From that point on, the audience was taken on a rollercoaster of satire, dry sardonic humor and shocking vulgarity. Sedaris has a rare quality that allows him to make vulgar joke after vulgar joke while still sounding strangely elegant and matter-of-fact.
He spent the first half hour or so talking eloquently about the variety of ways people around the world insult and swear at each other. If any other comedian had used the same jokes, they would’ve fallen flat 99 percent of the time, but the straight-faced, authorly descriptiveness that Sedaris employed while stringing together shockingly crude sentences was just plain hilarious.
It felt as if Sedaris was simply having a conversation, albeit an incredibly eloquent one. Sedaris has kept diaries since 1977 and has compiled them into essays and a new book called “Theft By Finding.” During the set, he read a few of his essays and excerpts from his book. Each story he told was unabashedly realistic, not even withholding the most embarrassing personal details. He even spent around 30 minutes telling the audience about a six-day gastrointestinal disease during which he constantly felt that he was going to relieve himself in public. Through these stories, he felt very relatable to the audience, as if he was granting us an exclusive view into his life — each mundane, yet hilarious moment.
Sometimes, Sedaris would begin to delve into very personal, sad aspects of his life — such as the frailty of his elderly father — yet, he would always lighten the mood with a joke. Sedaris does the job that not many people can handle — making the best out of the worst moments in life and turning sadness into laughter.
Many times, Sedaris jumped the fence of political correctness, which could’ve been detrimental to his comedy. Somehow, though, one finds it hard to be offended by Sedaris, who, as a gay man, has had his share of abuses and who is trying to make everyone feel better about their own problems. His material was well written and funny, yet accessible and a little bit nostalgic. There were moments of tenderness in which he talked about his partner, Hugh, and moments of utter sadness that related to his relationship with his father.
It is difficult to find problems with the show, although perhaps it could’ve gone on for longer. I have never attended a comedy show where the laughs were so frequent or so robust. Sedaris is a truly honest performer with the honorable goal of making people laugh, and there is no question that Sedaris met that goal.