David Sedaris on gender, walking and ‘shabby hotels’
Acclaimed comedian and best-selling author David Sedaris kicked off the 2022 US Book Show lineup to talk about travel, life on the road and his upcoming book, Happy-Go-Lucky. To view the video, click here to register for the US Book Show.
Sedaris’ conversation with Kathleen Myers, his publicist, demonstrated the same witty, branded honesty that readers are accustomed to. “I want to be able to choose which bookstore category I fall into,” he said, after Myers called him a comedian. By calling his work a comedy, according to the author, he saddles up an essay that can touch on other subjects with potentially unfair expectations.
Fresh off a 44-city speaking tour, Sedaris said he felt at home on the road after being attacked during the pandemic. It helps him both in his writing process and in connecting with his audience.
“I always note where the laughs are,” he said. Known for making conversation with every reader at his events, no matter how long it takes to complete a signature, the author explains how “by asking people questions, you end up listening and discovering that he might be something in their history”.
When asked if he was, as the title of his book suggests, a “happy” person, “I think I am,” he replied. “I mean, maybe I’m not happy, but I don’t want to spread unhappiness. If you were to read my essays, though, you’d be like, god, this guy is sour.
Myers recently brought up a top readership topic, social media and cancellation, asking Sedaris what he thought it meant to be canceled if you’re not on social media. “I don’t think my audience knows that,” Sedaris said. The one area where he could see frustration and anger bubbling among social media circles would be over writing about something people don’t think he should be writing about. “I can’t imagine getting into this,” he said. “Someone says something bad about you and your book, that’s none of my business.”
On the topic of off-topic writing, Myers steered the conversation to topics he might never touch on. Sedaris was quick to say, “I don’t write about sex. It was never my subject. He then offered a humorous example, with a potential reader telling him that they had had a strange sexual encounter. “Maybe I would write about it, because it would be fascinating,” he said, “but I would never write about myself having sex.”
Sedaris travels so much — more than 175 days a year, and sometimes around 200 — that it requires a lot of coping mechanisms and routines, he said. One Sedaris is known for its walking. “Walking allows me to eat whatever I want,” he explained. He uses an Apple Watch and has meticulously tracked his steps for thousands of days. “I’m just taking the time.”
Being on the road, Sedaris appreciates the possibility of stories, and they don’t always come from five-star hotels either. “You always leave a seedy hotel with a story. Still. Stay in a crummy hotel and you walk away with 50 floors.