David Sedaris

Well-known funny-man David Sedaris comes to Pittsburgh for a reading of new stories and for the chance to meet you.



Photo by Ann Fishbein

Best-selling author, radio storyteller and much-recorded memoirist David Sedaris would love to talk to you when he comes to Pittsburgh this month. Yes, of course, he’ll also read to you as part of an inevitably large audience in Benedum Center—such houses usually fill up way in advance, and tickets have been selling fast—but he also cherishes one-on-one face time post-reading in the lobby. Unhurried. Sedaris wants it that way. “I learn a lot,” he commented in the Louisville Courier-Journal, and he has no intention of being rushed. “I can’t do that,” he said.

Or, you might encounter this rather unprepossessing 52-year-old man, whose face many people don’t recognize, while washing his minimal wardrobe at the local Laundromat or taking a swim. He often does that on the road. But it’s his voice that’s most likely to make you perk up; it’s his sound that people especially warm to.

Sedaris, the creator of six best-selling books of personal-humor essays, more than a dozen CDs and many pieces in The New Yorker and Esquire, is here for just one day for a program presented by The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust amid equally short visits to 30 cities in a biannual national tour. His agent, Steven Barclay, explains that Sedaris wants to focus most on writing and can’t do that if he’s spending a lot of time and energy being public. Which also means he turns down interviews with magazine writers like me and with broadcast hosts. Face it—celebrities can lose creative momentum bogged down in chatter. And they may say something they regret, leading someone to latch onto the negative.

Now that Sedaris’ name—and voice—have become widespread, kind of like corduroy or denim pants on over-eaters (Sedaris fans: Note the reference to the book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim), and because there’s a total of 7 million copies of his books printed in 25 languages, there’s always someone who wants to uncover the man behind the curtain. So Sedaris has been accused of messing around with reality: his own, his family’s and other people’s. He’s often acknowledged that he exaggerates for effect, especially in dialogue. “It comes with the territory,” he said on NPR’s “Fresh Air” show. “A memoir is the last place you’d expect to find the truth,” he pointed out in The New York Times.

The 2001 winner of both the Thurber Prize for American Humor and Time magazine’s “Humorist of the Year,” he doesn’t, though, create material out of thin air. In an ever-present diary, he keeps extensive notes on what he sees, hears and thinks. “Pulling it out makes people more nervous than a camera,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “[They] think I’m writing down their license-plate number.” Later he transcribes, edits and rewrites, then gives public readings, gauging the effect of his writing, highly valuing audience response. That means, by the way, that much of what he’ll read in Pittsburgh will be new. And he never reads anything already published in his books. He feels audiences deserve something fresh, even keeping another diary telling him what stories not to repeat in revisited places.

Diaries play a key role in Sedaris’ career. In fact, it was those personal notebooks that put him on the national map. In this case, it was his “SantaLand Diaries,” an essay where he recounts his time working as a Christmas elf at a Macy’s department store. He first read parts on NPR just before Christmas in 1992, when he was in his mid-30s. But the success he found was no overnight fluke. He’d been keeping diaries for about 15 years already and started performing publicly in Chicago after moving from his family home in Raleigh, N.C., in 1983.

While studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he occasionally appeared in variety shows. Interpreting his writing in a Chicago nightclub, Sedaris was admired by Ira Glass, then a local radio-program host. Glass invited him to read on the air, and Sedaris’ life took a major turn. Now he performs regularly on Glass’ nationally syndicated weekly show, “This American Life,” with more than 50 pieces archived on the website (thisamericanlife.org).

Sedaris’ other big interests include going to movies. And taxidermy. According to the Boston Phoenix, his collection of stuffed dead animals includes a squirrel, two fruit bats, four Boston terriers and a baby ostrich.

He’s not really into modern technology, although he finally started writing on a computer. Web-savvy? Barclay says, “It’s not something he’s really interested in.” And he doesn’t have a cell phone. To communicate, Barclay may call Sedaris at the London apartment shared with his longtime boyfriend, painter and theater designer Hugh Hamrick. The phone there is not that busy, though; evidently few people call. Sedaris doesn’t seem to have a circle of friends. “He’s a solitary person,” Barclay remarks. “He spends a lot of time at home.”

After around 20 years together with Sedaris, Hamrick turns up often in print as do other family members, including David’s mother, his brother Paul and his writer/performer sister Amy. But another sister, Tiffany, asked to be left out, finding their previous home life painful, not funny. But she finally gave permission in 2004 after discovering his recent writing was “more soul-searching, more sensitive,” as she said in The Boston Globe. Clearly Sedaris remains full of surprises. Maybe that’s why he delights so many people.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.
Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Environmental Art Project to Light Up Pittsburgh Bridge for the Holidays

Riverlife hopes the temporary project will lead to permanent, decorative lighting of all three of the city's Sister bridges.
Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

Mt. Lebanon Native Daya Nominated for MTV Video Music Award

It's the first MTV nomination for the 17-year-old singing sensation.
Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Remembering A Rescuer of Gentle Giants

Richard Kohl devoted most of his adult life to caring for homeless large-breed dogs.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in August

The month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

ReplayFX Turns Convention Center Into Giant Arcade

The second annual gaming festival at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center brings 8-bits of weekend fun.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Eat, Drink and Learn: The Three Day Blow is Coming

Eat, Drink and Learn: The Three Day Blow is Coming

“A food and drink festival that’s deeply rooted in place — in this case Pittsburgh and the Rust Belt" is coming to Pittsburgh at the end of August.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Garfield Bar Mixtape Is a Great Hangout (And a Good Bar, Too)

Part craft-cocktail joint and part coffee bar, the welcoming spot wants you to stay a while.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Optimism With An Asterisk As Good As It Gets In Steelers Training Camp

Although NFL teams never simply pick up where they left off the previous season, there’s reason to believe the 2016 Steelers could resemble the team that came agonizingly close to knocking off the eventual Super Bowl Champion Broncos in Denver last January.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
"Bad Moms" and a Bad "Bourne" Make For a Rough Weekend

"Bad Moms" and a Bad "Bourne" Make For a Rough Weekend

Reviews of "Jason Bourne" and "Bad Moms," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

A Whimsical Wedding in Wonderland

This Pittsburgh bride brought all the details together for a flawless “Alice in Wonderland”-themed wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Coming Soon: Historic Lawrenceville Building Ready for Makeover

Real estate crowd-funding platform Small Change Pittsburgh is raising funds to transform the Butler Street building.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments