David Sedaris Live

October 10, 2006

My wife and I are huge fans of David Sedaris, the writer who gained much fame originally via NPR’s This American Life radio show. His books are funny, but they can’t truly be appreciated unless you hear him tell the stories. His audio recording for Me Talk Pretty One Day forced us to pull the car over at one point because it was too hilarious for safe driving.

He was in Cleveland Friday night and I had snagged tickets early, so we had very good seats. We were excited to see him, and excited for a night out.

I was disappointed.

I’m not sure how fair my disappointment was, but here’s the story. First, after adding service charges, two tickets cost $83.00. No problem. And yet, for $83, I guess I expected something more than a short reading and a Q&A session at the end. He did some readings, which were at several points extremely funny, (the “I’ve seen a cockatoo” line was right up my alley) but he was done in less than an hour I think, and then the Q&A session was hardly amazing.

I would have preferred a couple more readings over the Q&A–and this is where I might not be fair. Sedaris probably looked at this as your traditional book signing/reading (and he was very generous with his time in doing book signings both before and after the show), so the reading followed by Q&A lasting a bit over an hour was probably pretty standard. I’m not a regular book readings attender, though, and the whole event was surprisingly short to me.

I also got annoyed with him at one point. During the Q&A, an audience member told Sedaris how much he had enjoyed a theater production based on Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries, the story of Sedaris’ time as a department store elf, a story that was the first introduction to Sedaris for a lot of people. Well, Sedaris basically said that he made a mistake agreeing to license the SantaLand Diaries for these theater productions and that he had never seen one and wasn’t really happy that they were out there being done, but there was nothing he could do about it. (Sedaris said he originally agreed to it when he thought Pee Wee Herman was going to play the lead role.) He also seemed to be saying that he was no longer a fan of the SantaLand Diaries in general, as if it was an unfortunate piece of his past instead of one of the things that helped propel his career. He did say to the audience member, “I’m glad you liked it, though.” I’m sure that by the time Sedaris was finished responding, the person who asked the question either felt like an asshole or thought David Sedaris was an asshole.

I’ve always had a problem with performers who dismiss their earlier works, especially to fans who are standing right in front of them telling them how much they enjoyed a song/book/movie/whatever. Musicians especially seem to do this a lot, especially if they had early success and no one wants to hear their new material but just want the hits. It’s understandable an artist might tire of a long ago creation that fans want to talk about over and over again. But, in my opinion, keep it to yourself instead of making your fans feel like you have contempt for their appreciation of your work.

This is all coming across harsher than it should–there was some very funny stuff. It just didn’t live up to my expectations, and maybe it couldn’t.

Here are a couple of others who were at the same show but did not share my views: this one and this one, who practically had a nervous breakdown upon meeting Sedaris (and whose dad appears to have peed in a cup during Sedaris’ reading.)

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world. 



  1. Adam,
    Good review. I appreciate the mention of my blog, but I wanted to clarify a bit. I was making the point related to my industry (sports) about good writing.

    I’ve seen Sedaris 5 times now, and while I like his stuff a lot…this was indeed the weakest of the five shows I have seen. I was surprised how short it was, it seemed he was missing a story or two in the middle. I also was surprised to hear some of the same material as last year (his diary reading was done last time).

    If you read him a lot (and it sounds like you do) I think he can be pretty salty and clearly isn’t the type to really enjoy live performances…and on a night like Friday that seemed to show more than other shows I have seen.

    This being the worst of the 5 shows I have seen I would certainly give him another visit if he came to Cleveland again, but I can understand your reaction.

    Kind regards,


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