David Sedaris deftly balances humor, heartbreak at Hanover.
David Sedaris pays particular attention to what people wear.
It's not that he's a snob, really, even though he travels the world and owns homes in Britain and France. He's just curious about why someone would shell out money for airplane tickets or seats at his typically sold-out shows, and then decide to don a Count Chocula T-shirt.
"I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me,'' he wrote in an essay he calls "Standing By.'' "It's as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, '(Expletive) this! I'm going to Los Angeles!' ''
This summer he had Jon Stewart in stitches while recounting what he called his "ice-breaking question'' to fans at a book-signing in Reno: "Why did you choose THAT T-shirt?''
Tuesday night the humorist came to Worcester for a reading at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. And, save for some understandable Red Sox hats and sweatshirts in the audience, the city seemed sartorially suitable for an evening of Sedaris' unique and fluid observations of the human condition.
No one is better than Sedaris at pointing out the absurdity of life in America and his adopted countries, and he was in full flower last night with his laugh-out-loud musings about travel, language, vacations and family, the latter accounting for much of his material.
He pokes gentle fun at the South, with its residents telling everyone to "have a blessed day,'' a salutation he likens to "having been sprayed with God cologne.'' He also read from one of his monologues from his latest book, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls,'' along with some quirky diary entries and a Q&A with the appreciative audience.
His second reading was a bit unusual: a new essay written for The New Yorker called "Now We Are Five,'' which recounts the suicide of his 49-year-old sister, Tiffany, who lived in Somerville. Only Sedaris can take such a tragic topic and find the poignant humor of a family struggling for answers as they vacation off the coast of North Carolina shortly after her death, and the reading veered from melancholy to trenchant introspection.
"Doesn't the blood of every suicide splash back in our faces?'' he asked.
But he never lingers on the dark side. Sedaris has a dry, sophisticated wit that incorporates the self-deprecation of Woody Allen with the comic timing of Dave Barry. Yet his style and writing are all his own, and he makes his prose seem so effortless that no writer on Earth can read his stuff without envy.
His matter-of-fact musings belie the genius behind the material. While typically subtle and almost prim at times, his performance at The Hanover contained so many off-color quips that they can't be recounted in a family newspaper. That's too bad, because his joke about a gynecologist and his diary entry about the swears people employ in Europe were priceless.
During the Q&A, a member of the audience asked Sedaris the secret to life. He considered, only briefly.
"RuPaul's Drag Race,'' he replied.
If you've never seen him live or read his essays, you're depriving yourself of a national treasure.