Thursday, August 26, 2010

David Sedaris in The New Yorker

I’m not a funny writer, but I’d sure like to be. I end up writing conversation-stopping lines like, “So, how about those pedestrians?” and having flashbacks to laugh-track situational comedies I’ve seen on reruns on TBS.

I admire humor and wish I had more of it. Maybe I can make friends laugh in person, but on paper? That’s not on my list of strengths.

I’ve been laughing while reading David Sedaris for years and have tried to mimic his style to try to improve my skills. {Insert more lame lines.} I haven’t succeeded and, perhaps to make myself feel better, I’ve decided that writing something funny is the hardest thing to do.

My husband and I heard him read recently at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Surrounded by the audience’s laughter, I kept shaking my head trying to untangle why I, too, can’t be funny. Sedaris’ narrative arc, use of repetition, everyday observations and making of the normal weird, all contribute to his humor. (And breaking it down like that makes it seem less funny, unfortunately.)

One of the pieces he read that night was Standing By, which was recently published in The New Yorker. This piece, about flying in the United States, had me laughing out loud again. I’m sorry that the full text isn’t available online yet, but if you are like me, you have recent New Yorkers buried under older New Yorkers and will find it again in a few months. And if you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ll recognize what he’s writing about.

You can read selections of his work on NPR or watch a few videos on his author website.

What is the (purposely) funniest piece of writing you’ve ever read?


Jen said...

I know this sounds crass, but part of it might have been being born into the wrong family. It seems your family was well-adjusted and loving and not filled with folks who used sarcasm as both a weapon and a defense, which both David and his sibling Amy learned to do. I agree, that he's brilliant, but there's such a correlation between seriously funny people and their incredibly hard lives/childhoods, etc.

Chloe Yelena Miller said...

My family will be happy to hear that :-)