"..a bardy view!"

David Sedaris – Put a Lid on It!

SedarisI must admit to being mildly amused by David Sedaris, and
have occasionally spouted a moderate chuckle at some of his tales, but no more than at the musings of the fictional character Sheldon
in The Big Bang Theory.

Why do I equate the two? Sedaris is a humorist who
specialises in self-deprecating autobiographical musings. Similarly Sheldon's
appeal stems from a constrained evangelical upbringing in Texas.

Often a soliloquy
from Sheldon invokes a childhood within which he was the odd one out – the boy
who was always chosen last for making up a team, the boy who was different from
the rest. The boy who was outside of the mainstream; more intelligent; more
remote; a prodigy from the realities of life.

Sheldon is a theoretical physicist who believes that his
reason for being is to change the world. Sedaris by comparison merely believes
that he has a duty to make his mark upon it. 

Both are gifted individuals, both are never lost for words,
and both use the English lexicon to precise cutting wit. In Sheldon's case it
is more often by accident than design.

Sedaris by contrast is clinical. Listening to him appears to
invoke a bygone age, akin to the 1940's or 1950's; and yet, he was born December1956. He began writing his diary in 1977, mainly about
his education and employment – At 20 years old. A reasonably privileged young man in a rather comfortable situation – but who cares when there's a good story in it? He got a break by a radio host and made his
debut on the airwaves in 1992 – almost 36 years to the day that he was born. Since
then his observations have resulted in him being lauded and applauded with
messianic reverence. And currently being promoted by the BBC.

He acts his part well, using his family as principle
subjects. The father comes across as
Frasier's dad, a grounded witty patriarch who sees irony and humour in his offspring. His sister, who he frequently refers to, is a conglomerate of women, be they
smart and clever, or with simple, scatty brained innocence (think Friends) indeed
much of his subjects are a hotchpotch of individuals from US sitcom caricatures through the years – unwittingly perhaps, but that’s the basis of
his popularity – with an edge.

Maybe Sedaris is the
adult Bart Simpson? But his parents are not Homer and Marge. Perhaps his sister
is Lisa? Astute, but vulnerable? Les Dawson did the same and used his
observations about the people around him with great humour, successfully getting more laughs in five minutes than Sedaris gets in an hour. The difference is that
Sedaris spins the narrative; the jokes are spun out, into essays. We have to
follow the story, always in anticipation of the clever line, which invariable requires attention to grab it.

Perhaps we are more sophisticated now, maybe we need to see
a picture painted painfully slowly before we see its meaning?

Take a diary entry from
Sedaris's recent broadcast on Radio 4 (the point of this post  - be quick – the BBC doesn't keep these things available for long): He was remarking on a survey taken by the
Huffington Post about the ignorance of some students. "Name some countries
surrounding the USA" one student was asked. "South America" she said. "Name two counties beginning with U". "Europe and Utopia"
another replied. These are old jokes, but it was the way he told them.They are
not new observations, yet Sedaris uses them as new and contemporary in his diaries. Edwardians told those jokes 100 years ago. It's easy to resurrect a joke when the only people who can remember them are dead.

Sedaris is not funny, but he's very clever. Just like
Sheldon Cooper. We know that at least one of them is a fictional character.


October 21, 2012 - Posted by | Culture, Education, Humour, USA | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Never heard of him to be quite frank and now I’m jolly glad I never did.


    Comment by spookmoor | October 22, 2012 | Reply

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