David Sedaris

Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center, April 26

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Photo by Erik Kabik

He talk pretty that night.

Impishly misanthropic and delightfully contrarian, author/essayist/storyteller David Sedaris—who gifted us Me Talk Pretty One Day among his hilarious books—riffed to a couple thousand friends in Vegas.

Primed to laugh—some people were giggling before the jokes, just anticipating them—the audience was safely in his pocket the moment Sedaris strode up to a podium. Though not a stand-up comic, Sedaris is like a literary Bill Cosby, triggering laughs by dropping out-of-left-field asides while casually conversing, as if telling a story at a cocktail party and making his listener suddenly do a spit-take.

Whether recalling visiting a taxidermist, his bafflement at his father’s obsession with his son getting a colonoscopy—his dad said that as a gift, he’d like his son to either take the tube up his ass or buy him an iPhone—or his own preoccupation with his gap teeth, Sedaris is a nerdy, nasal-inflected raconteur. Deploying a shruggy, did-I-say-that? delivery, he diffuses the danger of material that could be squirm-inducing. Say, such quick hits as: “Let’s carve jack-o’-lanterns to the light of a burning Bible.” Or detailing his dismay at a taxidermist’s disembodied, 400-year-old corpse of a teenage girl, which in Sedaris’ hands is a macabre riot. Other throwaways are Steven Wright-like in their absurd cleverness: “Let’s fight cancer with our bare hands,” and “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, if you piss them off, they are a mile away. And barefoot.”

Reciting established and new pieces, Sedaris mined humor out of ludicrous imagery, such as when, reading his recent New Yorker piece, “Dentists Without Borders,” he complains that a dentist in Paris dismissed his concerns about his gap teeth and asked why he wants them fixed: “Because I can floss with the sash of my bathrobe.” Describing a woman’s face, he notes: “Tiny moles shot across her face like buckshot.” Chronicling his travels with his life partner, bemoaning a doctor’s simple diagnosis (“for my $50, I want to leave the doctor’s office in tears”), ridiculing his own high-pitched voice (“hotel operators call me Mrs. Sedaris”), the man delivered an evening of observational gold. He talk funny that night. ★★★★☆

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