David Sedaris is a national treasure Stateside - at least to US lefties (and yes, they do exist). But since his relocation from Paris to a West Sussex farmhouse, we get to claim him as one of ours. He even reveals his new hobby is litterpicking in hedgerows. For disclosure's sake, I am a fan, both of his best-selling books and his transatlantic radio appearances for This American Life and the BBC. That said, I'm curious to know what, if anything, is gained by hearing him read in person as opposed to over the airwaves.
Judging by the liberal applause that greets him at the EICC lectern, I'm not the only groupie. And with a smile as gentle as his voice, Sedaris opens with a story from his recent collection, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, a sort of American Aesop's Fables, except "mine don't always have morals". Perhaps, but this one does have a killler punchline. There follows a parody of Rick Perry's presidential bid, hot off the Vanity Fair press, including Perry's lament for the woman he would have married had she not been cruelly aborted by her selfish, Democrat-voting mother.
With each new reading, the Sedaris sweetness masks a sharper spear. That he gets away with such blatant Republican bashing is only because he's just as tough on his own moral hypocrisies. But it does feel like a sermon to the converted, however funny, and I'd have loved to see him choose at least one reading with more emotional weight. This is the Fringe, but it's not just about playing it for laughs.
It's certainly a treat to see the comic timing of his writing prefaced with a wicked twinkle in the eyes. And who knew Sedaris was a zombie nut? But I think I still prefer him as a disembodied voice in my ear.