David Sedaris to read at Capitol Theatre tonight

By By Danny Letz

By Danny Letz

It’s rare that touring authors are allowed to read their works inside Capitol Theatre, much less charge patrons for admission.

Then again, it’s rare to find an author as acutely aware of how to write humor and portray self-deprecation without straying into sentimentality as David Sedaris is.

Humor isn’t Sedaris’ genre, though. It’s just his forte.

First and foremost, Sedaris is a writer, not a comedian. That he also happens to be one of the funniest American commentators and satirists of the last 50 years is simply incidental.

Focused primarily on sketches culled from a life of neuroses, an eccentric family history and the equally eccentric residents of rural France (where Sedaris currently resides), Sedaris’ sharp wit is visible in his simple and straightforward prose: Sedaris’ sentences lull the reader into a place of comfort before setting him or her on the floor in fits of laughter.

His recent works, Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, have gained instant recognition by critics and readers alike as they rise to No. 1 slots on The New York Times’ Best-Seller” list. In 2001, Sedaris was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor and was named by Time magazine “Humorist of the Year.”

Sedaris gained recognition in 1992 for a reading of his essay, “The Santaland Diaries” (an essay dedicated to Sedaris’ work as an elf for Macy’s department stores during Christmas) on National Pubic Radio’s “Morning Edition.” Sedaris’ spoken performances and readings-in addition to the book-on-tape recordings Sedaris performs for each of his works-are considered by some to be the best examples of the author’s talents.

Sedaris is a frequent contributor to Public Radio International and Chicago Public Radio’s “This American Life,” and his reading tours consistently entice sold-out audiences nationwide.

Why? The simple fact is that Sedaris on page is hilarious, but Sedaris live is singular: His performances are all about experiencing the artist at his best, in his element.

What the listener gains by hearing Sedaris speak his prose is not simply a retelling of his work, but rather a re-envisioning. The subtle nuances and heart-felt inflections of Sedaris’ readings are brought to life as he recounts humorous anecdotes-often while impersonating (or rather, re-enacting) the voices of his family, friends and not-so-welcome acquaintances.

Regrettably, Sedaris’ readings are often compared to stand-up comedy routines-an unfortunately reductive comparison, not because Sedaris’ works are non-comedic, but because they contain depth and substance otherwise absent in most stand-up routines.

Above all else, Sedaris is an author. The combination of his voice and prose is something beyond a typical literary reading or comedy performance. It’s an artistic event that shouldn’t be missed.

Sedaris’ reading at Capitol Theatre (50 W. 200 South) tonight starts at 8 p.m. and costs between $27.50 and $32.50.