Standing in overcrowded auditoriums or packed bookstores every night must mean he gets nervous, right? "I love attention. I love meeting people and signing books."
And he says he tries not to put too much thought into the way he reads because it can change from night to night. But he’s proud to say he thinks his delivery has improved since he was discovered telling National Public Radio listeners about the temporary job from hell: playing elf to a department store Saint Nick (The Santaland Diaries). I look back at the Santa thing, and I’m just so embarrassed. I don’t really think that when read out loud it flows rhythmically. Since that time, I’ve learned a lot.
Sedaris says it’s only natural that he’s the main target for his humor of humiliation because he feels he deserves it. I genuinely feel that at all times I’m the worst person in the room. I’m not faking that. And when something bad happens to me, I just feel that I deserve it. This is payback for something that I did. I don’t kill people, and I’m not mean to people to their face, but I have bad thoughts.
From those stories of humiliation comes a performance that for most artists is the apex of their careers, playing Carnegie Hall. "I was very flattered. I tried not to think about it. I worked very hard on the stories I wanted to read, and I practiced them all month. And I’m never nervous when I read out loud. So I got there, and I was fine, but the producers were ‘this is Carnegie Hall, this is Carnegie Hall.’ And I said, ‘What are you telling me that for? What are you trying to do to me?’"
Sedaris put off suggestions that he change his act for the venue, like adding prerecorded pieces or maybe a slide show. He says it felt it would be phony to him to add another element for the occasion. None of that was really me. Maybe the amazing thing about being at Carnegie Hall is that you can get there from just reading from a book and looking up every now and then.—Randy O’Brien