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David Sedaris has answers to unasked questions

Essayist David Sedaris shared insights and personal experiences with a large, happy audience Friday at the Mondavi Center.

A current trend among some entertainers these days is to present their act as "A Conversation With ..," turning what would be a stand-up performance into a Q and A session with the audience. Robin Williams and Ricky Gervase are among those letting (or making) the audience do half the show’s work. Not David Sedaris, who appeared Friday night at the Mondavi Center in Davis and is scheduled to perform tonight at the Center for the Arts in Nevada City.

The essayist, radio personality and public speaker did include a question-and-answer session — but only after — a 90-minute program in which he actually structured a presentation of monologues, readings from his journals and essays, and a selection from a book by another author for whom he expressed great admiration ("The Bill From My Father: A Memoir" by Bernard Cooper).

One of the most enjoyable of those exchanges was Sedaris’ answer to a question about why he has chosen to live with his partner in England. Sedaris, who speaks French, Greek and some Swedish, answered in a way that reveals much about his personality. "It’s easy to love Paris," he said. "It’s like having a crush on the cutest boy in class –it doesn’t take much imagination. Loving London takes a little more work."

In addition to having a wicked sense of humor, Sedaris likes a challenge.  Perhaps his biggest challenge was maintaining a relationship with his father. One of the evening’s more revealing essays was "The Happy Place," about Sedaris’ submission after years — nay, decades — of prodding by his father to have a colonoscopy. His father told him repeatedly about the pain and humiliation of the procedure as he had experienced it and always ended with, "You should get one now!" When he finally did submit, the sedation-enhanced procedure was nothing like his father had led him to believe. It was even pleasant, he said. "I’d give anything to (always) sleep so soundly and wake up so warmly fuzzy, love radiating out." That’s not how he initially reported the experience to his father, though, finding it necessary to throw in a false note of tragedy. It might have been a "gotcha" moment, but it had the feel of a familial modus operandi.

Sedaris has a good — surprisingly good — relationship, though, with his sister Lisa, who played a large part in Friday’s presentation. On a long automobile trip together, the two discussed their various disappointments and near-suicidal emotional low points. At each of Lisa’s revelations, Sedaris countered with a worse one. "I always do this with depressed people," he admitted, "one-up them." Then he observed that "Everyone lives with a low fever of depression," that "crazy people are just regular people with more problems" and offered this telling pychological insight into his sister: "The one who’s bothering her is her."

A highlight of the evening was Sedaris’ reading of the title essay from his soon-to-be-published book: "Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls." The humorous tale incorporated learning to speak and write Greek, foreign travel, his sister and, of course, his father.

Ginning up interest in his new book may be the reason for Sedaris’ appearance, but whatever brings him here, the opportunity to spend some time with a clever, erudite speaker and writer makes for a rewarding evening.



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