April 25th, 2011

Best Friend Rings: David Sedaris Reads at Jones Hall

The tickets for David Sedaris at Jones Hall were almost beginning to turn yellow as they hung between the pictures and groupons on my refrigerator – that’s how long ago I bought them. Hell, I think I bought those tickets before I bought a couch. Like most Sedaris fans, I’ve loved him forever, and also like most Sedaris fans, I picture frolicking around the French countryside with David and Hugh, telling jokes, drinking coffee, and just doing typical bestie things.

I was really looking forward to the reading.

Before the show (and after), Jones Hall was like a clown car of people. They were spilling out the front doors, languishing in the lobby, meeting and greeting. The atmosphere felt similar to the Ira Glass show I saw here a few months ago.

[Note: Did you know Ira Glass discovered David Sedaris when he was reading from his diary in a Chicago club? How great is that? Don’t you wish your diary/journals were funny and club-worthy? Well, maybe yours are. This will come as a shock, but mine are mostly expletives that then go off on tangents that then turn into grocery store/to do lists.]

As everyone began to sit in their seats, there was almost an electric buzz. I sent a text message to someone I knew was attending the reading as well, and it was something low-key like “Hi! I’m here! Up front! Let’s meet up after the show! Yay!” I was just a big ol’ giggly exclamation point in the flesh.

The lights dimmed, and Sedaris came out from the side and did a little jog to the podium. It was definitely not a walk; it was a cute, kind-of- awkward, arms-down, Napoleon Dynamite-ish run to the podium. It killed me with cuteness.

“Did anyone hear the music playing in the lobby before the show?” was the first thing he asked. Eager to not be late, I pretty much ran through the lobby and threw myself into my seat like I was stealing home base.

“That’s exactly the kind of music I like,” he said, “and they’re teenagers. What talent!” Then he brought out the four teenagers and each of them introduced themselves into the microphone. Dressed in their nicest Sunday clothes, each was young and stunned and smiley. He suggested the crowd give a few bucks to tip these talented teens into a rectacle he would have set up outside after the show – and that we should definitely contribute to them over buying any of his books. I think at this point I said aloud to my boyfriend, “A-dor-a-ble” in a sing-songy voice that one typically uses on animals and babies. I’m not sure if he thought I meant the teenagers, and while they were cute in an aww shucks way, I was referring to my future bestie, David.

He began with the title story from Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a book I regrettably haven’t read yet. It was great; a story that makes you simultaneously laugh and shake your head in that “I know how that feels” way that he has so wonderfully mastered. My boyfriend commented that he wraps his stories up well, the ending images are strong and leave an impression. I couldn’t agree more, and this story was no exception.

He continued to read from a few other stories he’s working on, read some from his diary, and told some jokes he had heard from audience members of previous readings. Lastly, he said he always recommends a book on tour, and the book he represented this time is The Barrack’s Thief by Tobias Wolff. A mere 100 pages, he said we could read it in a night and then get to brag we read an entire book when asked what we did the night before. His effusive thumbs up was enough for me to know I’ll be buying it. Then he read a small part of it, and I understood. I mean, I would have bought it anyway (Sedaris is my Oprah), but the few paragraphs he read had me ready for more.

My personal favorite reading of the evening was a new story he’s working on called “Memory Laps”. A member of the country club swim team when he was young, Sedaris seethed with jealousy of Greg, the team’s fastest swimmer – and the object of all of Sedaris’s father’s praise. A master storyteller, every row of the packed Jones Hall could almost smell the chlorine and envy as he talked about the dreaded meet days – and even worse – hearing his father recount Greg’s superior swimming abilities to the car load of Sedarises on the way home from the club.

At times, the audience even elicted audible “ohhhh”s, myself included. We knew what he meant. We’ve been there too. We’ve all known a Greg. We begged our mothers to stay home too. That car ride home was our car ride home.

That’s why I love David Sedaris. Yes, he’s laugh out loud funny. But his ability to take the universal or mundane – and spin it into cathartic, comedic gold are what keep me on the look-out for our best friend rings.

— Sarah


Tea Jones — Tuesday, April 26, 2011 9:42 am

SMC is a twisted Aesop’s Fables. Very enjoyable! I hope Houstonians put a better foot forward than we did in Me Talk Pretty. Why am I always out of town when he makes a visit? Damn the luck.

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