Friday, November 12, 2004

Humorist David Sedaris will share his observations and self-deprecating point of view 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Hawaii Theatre.

Insight of humiliation

Misadventures form comic

In his latest collection of personal essays, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," David Sedaris writes that when family members now tell him stories, they are generally preceded by the line, "You have to swear you'll never repeat this."

An Evening with David Sedaris

Where: Hawaii Theatre

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow

Tickets: $28 to $38

Call: 528-0506

"I always promise, but it's generally understood that my word means nothing," he writes.

And when filtered through his observant and self-deprecating point of view, it is we, his audience, who chuckle and guffaw over the tales that have made him one of America's most popular humorists.

While his books have consistently been best-sellers, what's made Sedaris' reputation is his live readings. Already known to fans for his regular contributions on public radio's "This American Life" and "Morning Edition," it's the contrast between his soft, unadorned voice and his hilarious escapades that puts him over the top with his large audience.

And, yes, he's even played a sold-out Carnegie Hall, to great success.

He arrives at the Hawaii Theatre tomorrow night with great anticipation as he will not only read from his latest work, but offer a glimpse into his works-in-progress.

Sedaris made his comic debut in 1992, recounting his strange-but-true experiences of his job as a 33-year-old elf at Macy's New York during the height of the holiday season, reading his "SantaLand Diaries" on "Morning Edition."

In addition to his regular essays for Esquire and The New Yorker magazines, Sedaris' work has been collected in the books "Naked," "Me Talk Pretty One Day," as well as "Barrel Fever" (which includes "SantaLand Diaries") and "Holidays on Ice." He and his equally talented sister Amy (who played Jerri Blank in the Comedy Central cult series "Strangers with Candy"), have also written several successful Off-Broadway plays.

IN 2001, David Sedaris became the third recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor for "Me Talk Pretty One Day," a collection of autobiographical essays in which the gay writer finds love -- as well as the perfect fixer-upper -- in Normandy, France, where he and his boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick, now reside.

Never mind that he moved there not speaking a word of French. As he put it, life in France turned out to be a "second linguistic childhood," thus the title of the book.

In his latest collection, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," Sedaris mainly recounts his childhood and adolescence, periods of time that are particularly painful and memorable for "boys who spend their weekends making banana nut muffins."

He begins by confessing that he played Peeping Tom to a family that lived in his childhood North Carolina neighborhood, a family that didn't own a TV. "What must it be like to be so ignorant and alone?" he queries, realizing that no television means these unfortunate souls are forced to actually talk to one another through dinner. Whatever pity he feels is quickly squashed when he's forced to share his Halloween candy with them.

Sedaris decides to wolf it all down instead -- the chocolate bars, the wax lips, the candy necklaces -- before his mother can take it away. When she, rightfully appalled, asks him to "really look at yourself," the adult Sedaris gives us this rendition of what the young Sedaris saw: "He's a human being, but also he's a pig, surrounded by trash and gorging himself so that others may be denied."

Also in the book are Sedaris' recollections of touring and secretly coveting Anne Frank's old house, and drowning a mouse in the dark of night. He's also there playing in the snow with his sisters, getting a job selling drinks, attending his brother's wedding, mopping his sister's floor, eating a hamburger and getting his blood sugar tested, finding humor and pathos in the most mundane situations.

New York Times reviewer Steven Metcalf wrote that "Sedaris is a little like Woody Allen -- he is physically small, self-obsessed, and has spun from his own humiliations a charming, and very marketable, persona ... It's (also) that voice his fans find so addictive: nerdy on the surface, like a Cabbage Patch doll hitting puberty; underneath, cool and adamantine in its many frank appraisals."

With that combination, David Sedaris should find a ready and appreciative audience tomorrow night.

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