The world is filled with long-winded storytellers and boring status updates about babies and dinner. Unless you're Keith Richards, Ozzy Osbourne, Richard Branson, or some other filthy-rich British person, there's a good chance your life is pretty mundane. Still, there are the rare few who can take a seemingly unexceptional existence and extract from it insight, wisdom, and hilarious stories about middle-aged prostitutes and giant turds.
David Sedaris possesses precisely such a talent. He has a keen eye and sharp wit, plus an obsessive need that borders on some sort of personality disorder, to fill journals with everyday observations.
The author, humorist, and radio contributor has penned several collections of essays and short stories and appears regularly on NPR's This American Life. His tales often focus on family dysfunction, his struggles to achieve any real semblance of adulthood, and his travels, which have taken him from his home city of Raleigh, North Carolina, to his current home in England with his boyfriend, Hugh.
On Thursday, Parker Playhouse hosts "An Evening With David Sedaris." It'll be
"We were no longer calling our mother. Now we were picking up the telephone to call our mother with cancer." We'll begin with the least funny of Sedaris' stories, "Ashes." It's a tribute of sorts to his mother and the struggles Sedaris and his siblings encountered as they tried to figure out a way to express their emotions in a family that was never touchy-feely. The children wind up stoned and discussing how best to treat her but, ironically, leave her alone in a motel room smoking cigarettes.
At one point or another, we've all had to deal with someone else's shit. In "Big Boy," this happens both figuratively and literally. "...and there, in the toilet, was the absolute biggest piece of work I have ever seen in my life — no toilet paper or anything, just this long and coiled specimen, as thick as a burrito." Yes, this story might ruin Mexican food for a few people, but come for the poop jokes, and stay for the self-discovery.
"Dinah, the Christmas Whore"
Every Christmas, American television is inundated with cheesy network films that purport to remind us what the holiday spirit is all about. The lighting is always a soft glow, and the actors are people you haven't thought of in a very long time (this Hallmark movie has Melissa Gilbert and Patrick Duffy? Hot damn!) Still, how many of us can say they've taken in an alcoholic prostitute in the middle of a violent domestic dispute and count it as one of their favorite Christmas memories?
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Musicians have that one hit single that propels them to the top of the charts and first dibs on the giant pile of cocaine. "Santaland Diaries" was that for Sedaris (perhaps minus the blow.) If he were Celine Dion, it was his "My Heart Will Go On" but with elves and a terrible job at Macy's during Christmas shopping season.
"Six to Eight Black Men"
One of the more interesting aspects of Sedaris' writing concerns his travels abroad. Growing up, for the most part, in the South during the latter days of desegregation and an often aggressive and unaccepting culture toward homosexuals, Sedaris is well-schooled in the nuances of what we'll politely call "American idiosyncrasies." During one of his trips, he gets to compare the American version of Santa Claus to the Dutch version and his slaves, er, helpers. "In the early years, if a child was naughty, Saint Nicholas and the six to eight black men would beat him with what Oscar described as 'the small branch of a tree.' " The best part of this story? How he connects good-
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21 at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $70 to $125. Call 954-462-0222, or visit parkerplayhouse.com.