In most cases people don’t like to be lectured much less pay for the privilege of listening to said lecture for nearly an hour and half. In the case of college students what I just described is simply part of the price of admission for a higher education but not exactly an activity one would want to participate in outside the classroom. Unless of course the man standing at the pulpit was David Sedaris and the lecture was a wry and witty look into the foibles of human nature and the best way to feed a tumor to a snapping turtle with a growth on its head.
This past Thursday evening Sedaris thoroughly enthralled a delighted audience at Kingsbury Hall with stories of ribaldry mixed with just the right amount of raunchy humor delivered at the perfect moments. The scene at Kingsbury Hall was a shining example of simplicity as all that graced the stage was a pulpit and a stool with bottled water bathed in a single spotlight. And of course there was David Sedaris who made a rather dignified entrance with his arms filled with books and papers and much like a university professor proceeded to lecture for nearly an hour and half.
While that may not seem like a recipe for a night of laughter to most people the fact of the matter is Sedaris is not like most comedians and his show was not exactly standup comedy despite the fact he stood the entire evening. Sedaris spent the evening reading a collection of essays and journal entries from his current tour all while the audience laughed itself silly at his unique brand of dry humor that is a mix of perfect comic timing and the end result of near brilliant writing.
Sedaris is best known as the author of humorous books like “Naked” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” that generally hit the New York Times best seller list literally the moment they are published. However it’s his talent as a master story teller that allows him to pack theatres around the country at nearly $60 a ticket for the privilege of hearing Sedaris read his essays from a pulpit on the stage. One minute we are hearing a story about Ebola and the next minute it veers into a much larger narrative about how upset he was that it was illegal for a doctor to give him his own tumor when all he wanted to do with it, besides having it removed, was to feed it to a snapping turtle near his beach home in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The magic of his storytelling is that somehow you find yourself sympathizing with his plight while he proceeds to make it seem like it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to have one’s tumor removed on the wrong side of the tracks in El Paso by a unlicensed doctor who is willing to send the tumor on ice back to his home via FedEx.
I mean who couldn’t find the humor in something like that? Especially when delivered in such a dry matter of fact voice that makes it seem perfectly normal to want to feed a tumor to a turtle or have a brother who answers the phone by making it seem like the caller just caught him in mid sentence screaming at his wife.
Sedaris is a master of not only storytelling but perhaps most importantly social observations that he manages to capture perfectly in his writing and then even more so in his comedic delivery. Whether it’s making fun of a fat women with a helper monkey or commenting on just how delicious the angel food cake is at the Little America Hotel Sedaris manages to make everything he says hilarious. An hour and a half with Sedaris seemingly flies by as the audience is taken on a literary fueled ride of comedy that leaves everyone on board unsure of where it’s taking them but positive it will leave them busting their guts with laughter at the end. By the time Sedaris made his way off stage to a standing ovation a very satisfied audience was left no doubt wanting to buy every one of his books and eat from the dessert menu at the Little America. Such is the power of the pulpit and the man behind it.