Monday, 23 January 2012

David Sedaris Teaches Us a Thing or Two at the Opera House

David Sedaris appeared like a grinning Buddha 
when he appeared on the stage at the Sydney
 Opera House last week during his Australian 
tour. In fact by the end of the night I'm sure 
there was an aura of unsaintly goodwill 
surrounding the entire crowd caused by his 
outrageously funny set.
As a first-timer hearing David speak, not having seen him before or heard him on 
the wonderful This American Life radio programme, I was completely won over 
- by his voice!  Whilst I've read many of his books, I have to say the pieces that he 
read on the evening were made complete by his voice alone.  This is a man who 
could read the phone book - a la Tracy Jordan - and give us all a good chuckle.   
So his smart, very naughty and extremely incisive wit were just added extras.
He begun in character, that of Cassie Hasselback, a fundamentalist Southern 
Christian and regaled us with a world full of woe and retributionunder the 
heading of "If I Ruled the World".  Very funny, but kinda scarytoo.  Too 
scary obviously for the magazine that didn't publish it - shame on them.
The majority of the evening however was spent on pieces about David's 
engagement with language, mostly foreign, and of airports.  I'd love totranscribe 
every hilarious word he spoke about these things, but thecouple of times I've 
attempted and failed to retell the story about the dreadlocked, 18 year-old Dad 
who was wearing a t-shirt inscribed "freaky motha focka" tells me that I just 
won't do it justice.  And farting stewardesses and announcements requiring Hitler 
to pick up the white phone ... you had to be there.
My favourite piece of the night, which I will take the time to recall, was about his 
travels in Japan.  Whilst many of us who are familiar with his writing will know 
that he went to Japan to quit smoking - in this piece he talked of his problems 
getting to know people with only a limited knowledge of the language.  The Pimsler 
language tapes which he uses tell him how to say "Hello" and "Sorry" - very 
important anywhere you go - didn't really give him the facility to tell people about 
himself.  Herecalled being in a taxi and dutifully asking the driver "How many 
children do you have?"   When the driver reciprocated the question, he could only 
answer from his prepared list of responses.  What he wanted to say was "Oh I'm a 
middle aged homosexual with a niece and godson", butwhat he told the driver was
"I have three children, two boys and one girl who is getting very big now."  A 
personal aside I'm someone very lazy with learning languages so I love that you 
could just learn that sentence rota - however language tapes and Lonely Planet 
phrasebooks are a world apartin David Sedaris' world.  Reciting some of the things 
he learnt whilst perusing a Korean phrasebook made me blush from head to toe, 
but I guess dating, love and sex talk are as important travelling tools as where, how
long and how much ... On completing the Tokyo article and having it published, 
David received an email from Pimsler thanking him for mentioning them in his 
article and attached was a special audio which consisted of, "When asked by a taxi 
driver,''How many children do you have?'', this is how you say, "Oh I'm a middle 
aged homosexual with a niece and a godson".  How wonderful.  Good on you 
Pimsler, someone who works there has a sense of humour.
David Sedaris is a wondrous medley of charms.  Like most observational writers 
of our generation, his experience of the world is broadly found, yet his most 
noteworthy pieces are about everyday concerns, like badt-shirt slogans, 
swimmers worn inside out at the pool, planes that keep on getting delayed 
and telephone calls that hinder our bowel movements. Kinda silly, yet it's true, 
these are the small trials that test us everyday.  And whilst there are those that 
would consider that we should not judge, if we do, whether it be by political 
affiliations, belief systems and social class, David Sedaris has material for that too.   
Afterall, most of us are just trying to get by and failing miserably by mismatching 
our underwear.
Written by Megan 


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