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Chapman audience gets a read on Sedaris’ unique sensibility

October 29, 2010

David Sedaris

“Is it that hard to tell an entomologist from a prostitute?”

Turns out, sometimes it is — at least in the absurdly hilarious world of David Sedaris, who filled Chapman University’s Memorial Hall with laughter Wednesday night.

Sharing stories from his latest book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, as well as from previous bestselling works, rejected radio works and even his diary, Sedaris proved that while his tales are indefatigably funny on the page, they take on a splendidly ludicrous elan when read aloud by the author.

Who else could turn a pretentious pronunciation of “Nicaragua” into 10 minutes of priceless humor?

Chapman President Jim Doti kicked off the fun with an introduction that included the news that he regularly swaps letters and e-mails with Sedaris.

“I love finding out my pen pal is my size,” David Sedaris said with a sliver of a smile as he peered over the top of Chapman podium and shuffled an inch-thick stack of pages.

By the end of the evening, audience members were left to sift through a wonderful jumble of quirky characters, indelible mental images and gleefully recited dirty jokes. The characters included a garden-pest rabbit named Screened-in Patio, a man who fantasizes about eloping with a John Deere riding mower, and a woman in a T-shirt painted by a dolphin with scoliosis.

Among the revelations:

Upon moving into a new place, Sedaris and his boyfriend, painter Hugh Hamrick, divided up the duties. “He’d replaster the walls of the attic, and I’d dress dried-up bees in suits of armor made from tin foil.”

The best thing on Sedaris’ IPod just might be a reading by actress Elaine Stritch of his story The Crow and the Lamb, which he shared with the audience.

Whenever he reads something he likes by another author, he writes the passage in his diary “because I want my fingers to be familiar with excellence.”

Sedaris is known for penning clever autographs.

All in all, it’s hard to imagine a more excellent way to rechristen the English Department’s Distinguished Writers Series at Chapman.

Before heading out to sign copies of his books for a line that stretched to Glassell Street, Sedaris made it clear that he enjoys interacting with those who brave the wait. He particularly solicited jokes of all stripe. So we’d love to hear from those of you who took him up on his offer.

What’s your favorite David Sedaris story?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    October 29, 2010 4:21 pm

    I always enjoyed “Big Boy” and “You Can’t Kill the Rooster” from the book Me Talk Pretty One Day.

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