Laughing along with Sedaris at the Arts Centre
Chris Fotinopoulos asks whether the audiences the Arts Centre laughed at David Sedaris’ readings because he was funny, or because he was a celebrity, and comes to the conclusion that he’s funny celebrity.
As I was queuing for my David Sedaris ticket at the Hamer HalI box office counter, I noticed a diminutive male figure dressed in a silk necktie, crisp pastel shirt and pressed slacks sitting at a desk not too far from where I was standing.
It was David Sedaris dutifully signing copies of his latest book for a group of predominately female fans just twenty minutes or so prior to when he was due to go on stage.
He looked like a geeky Greek middle-aged "accountant" type that any Greek mother would love their frumpy middle-aged daughter to marry which, of course, could never happen on account that David Sedaris is openly and proudly gay.
I am familiar with Sedaris' work, particularly his writing for the New Yorker magazine, so I was expecting a few a laughs, which came the instant he found it necessary to inform his audience that the opening story was to be delivered in a female voice, which is virtually indistinguishable from David Sedaris' real 'masculine' voice.
Those who came to hear Sedaris deliver a laugh-a-minute account about growing up Greek and gay in American suburbia would have been disappointed.
Unlike the self-effacing hilarity that Nia Vardados is renowned for, Sedaris' cheeky satire focuses on the wickedly funny side of the human condition.
Sedaris opening story, crafted in email format, has a newly wed woman expressing feigned gratitude for a fourth rate wedding gift received from her disabled sister.
Sedaris' take on sister rivalry is more like a shorthand exchange between Blanche and Jane from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane than the formulaic Hollywood ethno shtick associated with my Big Fat Greek Wedding.
As I was ushered to my seat, I was surprised to find twenty or so women encircling me.
I thought that this is probably what it's like to be part of an all-girls weekend away at a Daylesford spa retreat, which was coincidently the setting for his second story, 'Kookaburra'.
I often wonder why Australian audiences cackle with so much gusto at comedy shows.
Is it because they find the performance really funny, or does it have more to do with our need to please celebrity guests, particularly those who travel vast distances to entertain us? In the case of the Sedaris, it is a bit of both.
The predominantly female audience - sprinkled with the odd gay and heterosexual couple - seemed to lift whenever Sedaris spoke of his long-term partner Hugh and his sister Amy. Indeed, it is his openness and cheeky irreverence mingled with self-deprecating humor that makes him particularly endearing to his fans.
His stories about his fears, anxieties, joys and awkward moments are like sleepover banter between a gay man and his best girlfriend.
The audience particularly enjoyed his account of the time when he accompanied his Greek brother-in-law for a spot of shopping at a Costco store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The story about a neatly dressed man and a slightly older man pushing a shopping trolley that contained "a mess of condoms, which came in a box the size of a cinder block" along with a tray of strawberries would make any man, let alone one who looks like Sedaris, feel "patently, almost titanically, gay".
The story, delivered in the Sedaris' trademark elf-like voice, is representative of Sedaris' work.
If you are amused by cheeky satirical insights into the mundane, then any of the many books that Sedaris has been churning out since he was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay Santaland Diaries deserves to be on your bedside table.
And if you can catch him reading his stories on one of his many book tours, it would make for a very entertaining encounter.
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