Humorist and former mall elf David Sedaris returns for a reading and signing at 8 p.m. Friday at Symphony Hall at the DECC.
Sedaris last visited Duluth in 2009 for a reading and signing at Northern Lights Books & Gifts as part of his “When You Are Engulfed In Flames” tour. We weren’t able to snag Sedaris for an interview this time around, so here are some pieces of old conversations to get you in the mood.
GETTING THE INTERNET
DS: I got the Internet in June, a year ago. And I got e-mail. A year ago. I feel, in a way, that I’ve almost forgotten how to make friends. You know how, like, when you have a mate, you don’t really try that hard. You just think “Eh, I’ll just use his friends.”
But I’m also just too sort of shy. Maybe I’d meet somebody and like that person, but then I’d think, If I call, they’ll think: “Damn, why did I give him my number?”
As far as the Internet is concerned, I had lunch with an old editor on Friday and he told me about Zach Galifianakis. And told me I needed to go on YouTube and look at “Between Two Ferns,” which are fake celebrity interviews that Zach Galifianakis did. I went right back to my hotel room and looked at them and now Zach Galifianakis is my favorite person in the world.
I love that my old editor told me about it and two hours later I can be watching it. I like that I then wrote to people and said “You’ve got to look at this.”
READINGS WHERE THE AUDIENCE IS VISIBLE vs. NOT
DS: You go to the person who’s been dragged there. You focus on — it’s usually a guy — you focus on him. And you think “That person hates me. Like, he wants me to finish so he can go home. I guess I better finish now.”
Last night, I saw that guy in the audience. I sent someone to fetch him. I said “I’m signing your book now so you can go home.” I couldn’t enjoy myself. I was sitting there running my mouth to everyone. I could see him sitting there going, “Shut up! Shut up!”
Of course, he was delighted. I just saved him two hours of his life. He tried to deny it. I was like, “No! You don’t even have to deny it. I’ve been doing this long enough. I recognize you.”
DS: I can be on stage for an hour and a half in a theater, and I can walk into the lobby through the audience and they don’t even know who I am. I was just on stage. You’ve been looking at me for an hour and a half and you don’t even know who I am.
You’d think they’d recognize the tie or something.
The other day I was in New York and I was walking back to my hotel and someone said “Love your work.” I remember saying that to someone in that same neighborhood before my first book ever came out. Deborah Eisenberg was walking into Barney’s and I said, “Love your writing.”
You’d have to ask her if it was an annoyance to her. I don’t really imagine it was. I didn’t stop her. Just like this guy didn’t stop me. He just said it. And I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t feel utterly fantastic.
It’s just a little midget celebrity. Reading celebrity. You could do a shampoo commercial and more people would know who you are. Stephen King, you might know him from the glasses.
There’s always something that exists in other people’s minds. Like I was in Raleigh, N.C., and there was this woman I’ve known many years who lives there. We were getting together for coffee. I ordered coffee and she said, “See, they don’t even know who you are.” I said, “I wouldn’t expect them to know who I am.” Her thing was that I was going to walk into this coffee shop and of course everyone … that’s the sort of thing that only exists in other people’s minds.
THINGS HE MIGHT SIGN IN YOUR BOOK
DS: This woman said: “I’m getting married. This book is for my bridesmaid, and I want you to write, ‘For Amanda, laughter heals all things.’”
I said, “Hmm. … That’s not really the kind of thing I would say.” So I said, “Let me rephrase it.”
So I wrote, “Laughter cures diabetes and heart disease.”
She looked at it and said, “No you have to write ‘Laughter heals all things.’”
“Laughter heals diabetes and heart disease” is really so much better than “All Things.” But she was really aggressive.
I always imagine the book ending up at the Goodwill. I don’t want them to see “Laughter heals all things.” Last night I wrote in someone’s book, “Skin cancer for everyone.” I don’t know why that seemed a good thing to write in books.
Last year I met this woman and … I drew a weathered board. I realized, “Oh! That’s a sign. It’s like an old sign that somebody tacked up in front of their business. I wrote on the sign, “Abortions, $3.”
The woman got back in line. Two hours later she came back (to the front of the line). She said, “You know, I’m an open-minded person, I’m a liberal person, but I can’t have this in my book.” So I wrote, “Abortions, $13.
I didn’t really see what else I could do, you know?
DAVID SEDARIS ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNET
Here’s a piece of a review from a review of a recent reading in Ohio, pre-election:
Sedaris discussed one of his problems with the election process. He doubts that undecided voters actually exist. “They’re just starved for attention,” he said. He compared the election to picking one of two meals on a hypothetical airplane ride, where the choices are chicken and human waste, and reckoned that an undecided voter would ask the flight attendant, “How’s the chicken cooked?”
If you’ve seen Sedaris read, you know that he likes to hand-sell books by other writers during his shows, which is pretty nice of him. That’s just a fact and it has nothing to do with this: Sedaris was recently featured on a New Yorker podcast reading the short story “Roy Spivey” by Miranda July. This is a little like (insert famous band) covering a great song by (insert kind of famous band that also does performance art and directs and stars in movies). He says in the beginning that he hadn’t heard of July until he picked up the copy of the New Yorker that included this short story: “I felt like I was a different person when I finished it.”