AN EVENING WITH DAVID SEDARIS ★★★1/2
Hamer Hall, January 16-17
In the age of Netflix and TikTok, it’s encouraging that writer and humorist David Sedaris can still pack out Hamer Hall with his largely gentle, but razor-sharp, brand of comedy after numerous visits to Australia.
It doesn’t get much more lo-fi than this, with Sedaris casually strolling up to a lectern armed with a stack of loose-leaf paper and a pencil and reading a few of his essays, yet the audience was utterly gripped for 90 minutes.
The 63-year-old gained a cult following for his autobiographical musings on an unconventional life in the early 1990s, after his essay about working as a department store Christmas elf was aired on in-the-know podcast This American Life. He has since published a collection of wry tales every few years, with the latest, Calypso, again homing in on his long-suffering partner Hugh, his ageing father, his offbeat family (including his equally beloved sister, actress Amy Sedaris) and their North Carolina beach house The Sea Section. His later work seems more focused on revealing truths about life than on firing off sharp barbs.
On this night, Sedaris read two longer stories, one of which had appeared in The New Yorker, plus a handful of shorter vignettes and a delicious scattering of bon mots plucked from his recent diaries. Like a more risque Bill Bryson or a less neurotic Woody Allen, Sedaris has the ability to swing from scathing, to outrageous, to poignant in a single turn. He’s occasionally political, but never ranting, expertly observing human nature with a fierce wit that elicited amused chuckles rather than belly guffaws.
Sedaris’ breezy, expressive reading voice and comic timing bring the stories to life in a meditative way, with 2500 people listening attentively in the dark. At the end of the show, before the marathon book signing which finishes every appearance (and gives him more material), the writer took questions from the audience, where it was clear to see his brilliant brain whirring with rebuffs and retorts. Sedaris has earned the status of a living treasure, and is always a welcome treat for fans.