David Sedaris, author, humorist, playwright and more, spoke at the Landmark Theater in downtown Richmond Tuesday evening.
Sedaris read from a New York Times essay he had written about people in airports.
“When an airport delay happens to you, it’s a national tragedy,” Sedaris said. “When it happens to someone else, it’s just a bore. When you fly enough, you learn to go brain-dead if you have to.”
Sedaris opened his talk with excerpts from his newest book, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk,” in which Sedaris created a bestiary, or stories about animals that act like people.
In one tale about a purebred male dog and his owner returning from a little breeding rendezvous with another purebred female, the dog and owner stumble upon a house that’s on fire and decide to check it out. The dog chats with a longhaired dachshund being held by its owner after they had rushed from the flaming building.
“I learned that [the dog] was the single thing she had reached for when she smelled the smoke and realized her house was on fire,” Sedaris read. “Which is nice and everything [the dachshund said], but she’s got a teenage son in there.”
“As the woman reached down to snatch [the dachshund] back up, [the other dog] caught a glimpse of the poor guy’s future. ‘I could have saved anything and I chose you.’ Who wants to live with that kind of pressure?”
Sedaris’ latest book takes aspects of human nature and issues such as divorce, public manners and adultery, and brings them into the forum of the animal world.
Sedaris has published collections of personal essays including “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and “When You are Engulfed in Flames,” all of which became bestsellers, according to the Barclay Agency website. He has also authored other books and is a regular radio contributor to This American Life, of Public Radio international.
In a reading from one of his sardonic pieces, “I Brake for Traditional Marriage,” which addressed Proposition 8 on same-sex marriage in California, Sedaris parodied a conservative older man who decides his whole life, marriage and morals are shot to hell the moment the law is passed.
“If the guy who does my mom’s hair is free to marry his boyfriend, then why can’t I marry my pizza?” Sedaris said.
He closed his remarks on same-sex relationships with sarcastic words of advice.
“As long as you keep your eyes shut, it’s really not that bad,” he said.
Sedaris visited the Landmark Theater two years ago and said he thought the local YMCA was fantastic.
“The pool was great. It was clean, and there was a cheerful lifeguard playing Earth, Wind and Fire,” Sedaris said.
Most of the attendees at the show were Richmond residents and Virginia Commonwealth University students, but University of Richmond students were few and far between.
Megan McNamara, a senior, said she hadn’t seen Sedaris before but that she had thought he was funny.
“I have his CD on my iTunes, and it’s pretty witty,” McNamara said.
Jan van den Bos, a senior, said he had seen Sedaris when he visited Richmond two years ago.
“He just has this amazing skill to be able to be funny and engaging, with his writing and especially when he answers questions on the spot,” van den Bos said.
Modlin Downtown, an offset of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts, hosted the event.
A book signing after the performance made for a crowded lobby. Christine Newell, house manager of the Modlin Center, was organizing the crowds, and has been at the Landmark the last few times Sedaris has come to Richmond.
“One of the best things about Mr. Sedaris is that he does not want the line rushed,” Newell said. “He wants to spend as much time with each of his fans as are willing to come through. It has gone as late as 2 a.m. in years past.”
Sedaris addressed each question during the question-and-answer period with the same quip carried off in his prepared writing.
He said he would be visiting 35 cities in 35 days and then after just four days off, would visit 20 more cities.
“I am going to all of the top bed bug cities,” he said. “On the bright side, they don’t carry diseases. I haven’t met anybody who’s had a problem with them. Maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places. If you have, I’d love to hear about it.”