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Comedic giant David Sedaris visits UNM

Acclaimed author and comedy writer David Sedaris regaled a capacity crowd at Popejoy Hall with readings from his essays and diaries during his one-night appearance Friday Nov. 17.

Audiences roared consistently, as he unleashed a steady stream of his well-tested comedic musings. The crowds seemed rapt by his skillful mixture of sometimes bawdy prose, along with random observations about things such as how toenails taste or how to pronounce “fresh avocados.”

"We’ve had David Sedaris in our hall before, and he’s become a favorite for many of our patrons. We do all we can to bring excellent entertainment to New Mexico. By having a best-selling author on our stage, we do just that. His stories are funny, engaging and very human," said Terry Davis, Popejoy Hall Marketing Manager.

No topic was off limits. Despite his previous appearances, the playbill’s understated warning that the show “may contain mature content” proved to be about as informative as cautioning that a Tyrannosaurus with a toothache may be slightly cranky.

Sedaris began his performance by reading from an essay about curses that drivers might scream at each other in various parts of the world. The performance immediately got colorful as he explained that some Dutch drivers, refer to fellow motorists with various illness-related name calling, such as “cancer whores.”

Sedaris went on to note that some eastern Europeans seem to be particularly inventive when it comes to insults, which can refer not only to anatomical details but also to defiling the memory of one’s deceased parents. In Turkey some motorists even wish curses upon fellow drivers including, “may you build a house from your kidney stones.”

“Reading you makes my jaw drop,” a member of the audience told Sedaris during a Q&A period after his performance.

Another member of the audience asked if there was anything that Sedaris regretted writing, to which he replied that he wished he had shown the softer side of his French teacher whom he depicted as throwing chalk at the class and even stabbing one student in the eye with a pencil for failing to pay close enough attention.

Sedaris also spoke of his sometimes exasperating experiences with his aging father, Lou, now in his 90s, but still living independently by choice in the community of Emerald Isle in North Carolina.

Sedaris described his father’s penchant for saving money, despite having considerable financial means, which included walking around the house with a flashlight, “like a burglar” rather than turning on the ceiling lights, in order to save on electricity. Sedaris quipped that his father’s longevity may simply be due to the fact that “he is late for death,” like his father has been late for so many other things in his life.

Sedaris also made some references to other members of his family including his sister, Amy, an actress and comedian known for shows such as “Strangers with Candy” and voicing the character Jill in Disney’s 2011 animated movie “Puss in Boots.”

Sedaris readily shared his many personal quirks, such as his compulsion to pick up litter, and his fanatical devotion to meeting his Fitbit walking goals, even when desperately ill with diarrhea.

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He readily acknowledged that there is “nothing more boring than someone with a cause,” but said picking up litter in Britain has gotten him invited to Buckingham Palace, a place where his very properly-mannered boyfriend, painter, Hugh Hamrick, would fit in perfectly.

Sedaris has lived in a variety of places and now lives in England, in West Sussex with Hamrick, after having lived in Paris, New York and Tokyo.

New Mexico State Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto happened to be in the audience and expressed his thoughts about the show. He said he liked past performances by Sedaris at Popejoy Hall as well and looked forward to upcoming events there, such as “The Book of Mormon.”

“We really did enjoy the performance,” Ivey-Soto said. “We are fans of David Sedaris. It is really thoughtful humor, which is what we liked about it.”

He not only appeared to be a fan of Sedaris; he was also a fan of the venue.

Ivey-Soto said, “We are really grateful that a place like Popejoy Hall exists. It’s something that we need to make sure we maintain as an asset in New Mexico. And that includes, from the legislative side, that we need to be sure to invest in Popejoy.”

It appeared many audience members also enjoyed the show.

Despite his five-foot-five-inch stature and modest demeanor, it was clear from his performance that Sedaris truly is a comedic giant.

Aaron Cowan is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball and men’s and women’s golf. He can be reached at or on Twitter 

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