David Sedaris

He had me at hello. That nasal-y voice I’ve heard so many times on the radio over the years perfectly compliments David Sedaris’ small stature.  At his recent appearance in Amsterdam, the Netherlands – home to the world’s tallest people – Sedaris looked even smaller. 

For an hour David Sedaris stood in front of a packed audience at the historic Theater Carre in Amsterdam and read some of his essays, many of which were subjects that I personally identify with, such as expat life and travel.

Theater Carre in Amsterdam (photo via Virtualtourist.com)

Sedaris’ first reading, the essay I’m Not Running For President, published in the August 2011 Vanity Fair, is a satire on the American political process. He prefaced this essay by noting that living abroad provides a different prospective on American politics. But while Sedaris’ finds that the longer he’s an expat, the less involved and interested he is in American politics, my experience has been that my interest and involvement has increased.  I even made the pilgrimage to DC for President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, and have been involved with voter registration of Americans living abroad.

Sedaris’ next read Standing By, an essay that appeared in the New Yorker, which addresses the subject of travel features the following line, which, based on the look my neighbor gave me, caused me to LOL a little too loudly:

“I should be used to the way American dress when traveling, yet still it manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge, saying, “F*$% this. I’m going to Los Angeles!”

 An unpublished essay, Innocents Abroad, included a bit on the correct pronunciation of foreign words. Again, I laughed a little too loudly when I recalled a conversation with a British friend who sought to correct me on the pronunciation of Notre Dame, the university and my alma mater.  My friend insisted that it was pronounced no-tra dahm and my response was

“Though the beautiful cathedral in Paris is certainly pronounced no-tra dahm, the university with the football team and touchdown Jesus, is note-er daym.”

I was hoping that Sedaris would take advantage of having a captive Dutch audience and read his essay Six to Eight Black Men, in which Sedaris tries to understand the tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet from a foreigner’s point of view. Maybe hearing a non-Dutch person read about the tradition aloud would help highlight the WTH quality of it. 

Following the performance there was a Q & A session during which someone asked the author if his feelings regarding Sinterklaas had changed since he wrote the essay. Sedaris didn’t really answer the question, maybe it was because he couldn’t really hear it, which is very possible, due to the soft spokenness of the person posing it.  Or it’s possible that his feelings haven’t changed and he still thinks that Sinkerklaas, with his posse of six to eight black men, still ranks high on his ridicuList,  and not wanting to offend his largely Dutch audience, just kinda brushed the question off.

Not to worry, Sedaris is scheduled to return to Amsterdam for another performance in 2013. He can thoroughly address the Sinterklaas issue then. In the meantime, feel free to read my thoughts on the tradition here






Thank you to Theater Carré for providing me with tickets for this performance.