Last night, I had the pleasure of introducing David Sedaris at a sold-out reading at Benaroya Hall. This is the seventh time I've introduced Sedaris, and it's always a thrill. The best part of introducing David Sedaris is you get to hear him read after the introduction is done; he's simply the best reader I've ever seen. He'll be back in town next year on November 16th; I'll let you know when tickets go on sale. Here's my introduction from last night.
A few weeks ago, I happened across an article on the blog of a radio station from Maine. More specifically, the radio station is from a shithole town in Maine called Biddeford. I can call Biddeford a shithole town because it happens to be the town where my dad was born and raised. You should know that Biddeford is where Maine puts all the French Canadians, the professional workers' comp frauds, and the people who love alcohol more than they love their own toes.
Anyway, the blog post was titled “My Co-Worker Karen Had a Bad Encounter With Funny Man David Sedaris.” The post begins:
Karen has been a sales person here at the radio station for over 30 years and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. While recently attending a David Sedaris book signing, she got to meet the man himself… a one-on-one encounter with someone you’re a fan of … a great opportunity, most of the time.”
And then he quoted Karen’s Facebook page:
I attended the October 21, 2015 show in Portland, Maine. It was my third time seeing him in Portland. (now my last time seeing him). My first time at the book signing table. I was really looking forward to meeting him.
DS: “What’s your name?”
DS: “Do you have children?”
Karen: “I have a dog”
Okay, let me break into the story for a second, here, to insert a public service announcement. Ladies and gentlemen, I say this as someone with no children and no pets, so therefore I have no skin in this game. If someone asks you if you have children and you don’t have children, please don’t respond by saying that you have pets. It’s just not the same thing. I could go into elaborate detail about why this is, but it boils down to this: if you die in your easy chair of a heart attack on a Friday night, your children are probably not going to eat you by the time Saturday morning rolls around.
Anyway. Back to Karen’s Facebook page, where David Sedaris replies to the news that Karen is the proud parent of a dog:
DS: “What’s his name?”
DS: “How old?”
Karen: “He’s 12.”
DS: “Oh, he’ll die soon. Yes, he’s 12, he’ll die soon.”
"After the conversation," the blog post continues, Sedaris "proceeded to draw a gravestone on the title page of his book above his autograph with 'R.I.P. Cosmo' engraved on it." Sedaris then drew weeds on Cosmo’s grave "because she’d forget about him and get another puppy.”
The blog post ends, “She was shocked and pretty much speechless.”
Now, I don’t want to judge Karen from Maine, but I’m not sure who the hell she thought she was waiting in line to meet. Because that sounded pretty much like an ideal encounter with the David Sedaris I came here tonight to see.
They say that in the old days, court jesters were the only people who were allowed to tell kings the truth. They could point out that the king was mortal and would die one day without fear of decapitation, for example. This is a right and a privilege that we all extend to our comedians even today. And one of the best practitioners of this right is David Sedaris. But he understands that “you’re going to die one day” isn’t a very graceful punchline. His modernized versions of this ancient practice tend to be a little more indirect, referring instead to cold sores, or taxidermy, or dental surgery.
If you’re the kind of person who would get offended by a reminder that sometimes pets die, you might be in the wrong place. But if you do hear something tonight that makes you uncomfortable on a personal level, I want you to think about why you’re uncomfortable, and examine what you do with that discomfort. You might learn something valuable about yourself.
Anyone who’s met David Sedaris in the autograph signing line, or I guess I should say everyone who has met him in the autograph signing line except for Karen, knows that he is genuinely interested in people, and he’s glad to spend the time getting to know us. He responds to people with compassion, and curiosity, and kindness.
If you’re a fan of painfully funny stories rendered in meticulous, crystalline prose, you’re in the right room. We’re in this wonderful place to hear a very smart man tell us true things that are maybe so honest that we have no choice but to respond with laughter. You don’t need me to tell you that that makes tonight a very special night. So now that I’ve told you what you already know, let’s get on with it. Ladies and gentlemen, David Sedaris.