Imagine paying the equivalent of your mortgage on a ticket to see the Rolling Stones and in return the seminal British band hits the stage and opens with a bunch of new songs. Then, to make matters worse, instead of making up for the lackluster beginning, Mick, Keith and company proceed to stomp through nothing but more new songs and unreleased tunes during a 90-minute set that does not include “Satisfaction.” Needless to say, you'd be bummed, but that's basically what writer David Sedaris did last night at UCLA's Royce Hall. The only difference is, the sold-out crowd didn't mind one bit.
The 53-year-old wore his business/casual attire – blue collared shirt and a tie – and sipped from what was either a glass of water or a whole lot of vodka while burning through two stories about animals, an essay about flying, a slew of supposed diary entries and a brief question-and-answer session.
Before launching into two animal stories featured in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (set to be released in October), Sedaris told the audience that originally he described his creature-themed tales as fables, but “fables have morals.” This joke elicited a massive roar of laughter from the crowd, the first in a night full of laugh-out-loud moments.
From there, the humorist tore through an array of hilarious one-liners that included, “I don't have a dog, but I think they would eat tonsils” and “Have you ever raped a deaf girl?” During his diary-reading segment, Sedaris explained his favorite Prop. 8 protest signs (“Jesus Had Two Dads” and “You Keep Making Gay Kids”), how a bus featuring an ad for atheism led him to believe that hell “just might” exist and how he knew the American public school system was destined to fail once he learned about a school for at-risk children that was using a real-life horse dressed in sneakers to help students learn to read.
A Q&A session following the reading included the revelations that Sedaris, who has lived in France for more than a decade, has yet to visit the Louvre Museum and his recent discovery of cell phone apps, and, more specifically, Pandora. The author closed the evening with a recommendation of a collection of short stories titled Irish Girl by Tim Johnston and said the book was so dark, it made him lose hope for humanity, but then allowed him to re-gain hope for humanity because the writing was so good that something positive must exist in the world.
Sedaris' set provided more laughs per minute than any comedian not named Chris Rock, proving that reading essays in front of an audience does not have to be as boring as a seventh grade book report.