David Sedaris

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David Sedaris
A bust photograph of a white man in spectacles; he is wearing a white patterned shirt, blue jacket, and a jaw-mounted microphone. He is facing the camera, looking to its left.
Sedaris at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018
BornDavid Raymond Sedaris
(1956-12-26) December 26, 1956 (age 64)
Johnson City, New York, U.S.
EducationSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago (BA)
PartnerHugh Hamrick
RelativesAmy Sedaris (sister)

David Raymond Sedaris (/sɪˈdɛərɪs/; born December 26, 1956)[1][2] is an American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. He was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "Santaland Diaries". He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. He is the brother and writing collaborator of actor Amy Sedaris.

Much of Sedaris's humor is ostensibly autobiographical and self-deprecating and often concerns his family life, his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, his Greek heritage, homosexuality, jobs, education, drug use, and obsessive behaviors, and his life in France, London, and the English South Downs.

Early life and education[edit]

Sedaris was born in Johnson City, New York,[3] to Sharon Elizabeth (née Leonard) and Louis Harry "Lou" Sedaris (1923-2021), an IBM engineer.[4][5][6] His mother was Anglo-American.[7] His father was born in the U.S. to immigrants from Apidea in Greece.[8] His mother was Protestant and his father was Greek Orthodox,[9] the faith in which David was raised.[10][11]

The Sedaris family moved when David was young, and he grew up in a suburban area of Raleigh, North Carolina, as the second child of six. His siblings, from oldest to youngest, are Lisa, Gretchen, Amy,[12] Tiffany,[13] and Paul ("the Rooster").[14] Tiffany died in 2013, a subject David deals with in the essay "Now We Are Five", published in The New Yorker.

After graduating from Jesse O. Sanderson High School in Raleigh, Sedaris briefly attended Western Carolina University[15] before transferring to and dropping out of Kent State University in 1977. In his teens and twenties, David dabbled in visual and performance art. He describes his lack of success in several of his essays.

He moved to Chicago in 1983 and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987. (He did not attend Princeton University, although he spoke fondly of doing so in "What I Learned", a comic baccalaureate address delivered at Princeton in June 2006.[16])


While working odd jobs across Raleigh, Chicago, and New York City, Sedaris was discovered in a Chicago club by radio host Ira Glass; Sedaris was reading a diary he had kept since 1977. Glass asked him to appear on his weekly local program, The Wild Room.[17] Sedaris said, "I owe everything to Ira ... My life just changed completely, like someone waved a magic wand."[18] Sedaris's success on The Wild Room led to his National Public Radio debut on December 23, 1992, when he read a radio essay on Morning Edition titled "Santaland Diaries", which described his purported experiences as an elf at Macy's department store during Christmas in New York.

"Santaland Diaries" was a success with listeners,[19] and made Sedaris what The New York Times called "a minor phenomenon".[17] He began recording a monthly segment for NPR based on his diary entries, edited and produced by Glass, and signed a two-book deal with Little, Brown and Company.[17] In 1993, Sedaris told The New York Times he was publishing his first book, a collection of stories and essays, and had 70 pages written of his second book, a novel "about a man who keeps a diary and whom Mr. Sedaris described as 'not me, but a lot like me'."[17]

Collections and mainstream success[edit]

In 1994, Sedaris published Barrel Fever, a collection of stories and essays. He became a frequent contributor when Ira Glass began a weekly hour-long PRI/Chicago Public Radio show, This American Life, in 1995. Sedaris began writing essays for Esquire and The New Yorker. In 1997, he published another collection of essays, Naked, which won the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Non-Fiction from Publishing Triangle in 1998.[20]

His next five essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008), became New York Times Best Sellers.[21]

Me Talk Pretty One Day was written mostly in France over seven months and published in 2000 to "practically unanimous rave reviews."[22] For that book, Sedaris won the 2001 Thurber Prize for American Humor.[23]

In April 2001, Variety reported Sedaris had sold the Me Talk Pretty One Day film rights to director Wayne Wang, who was adapting four stories from the book for Columbia Pictures.[12][24] Wang had completed the script and begun casting when Sedaris asked to "get out of it", after he and his sister worried how their family might be portrayed. He wrote about the conversation and its aftermath in the essay "Repeat After Me". Sedaris recounted that Wang was "a real prince ... I didn't want him to be mad at me, but he was so grown up about it. I never saw how it could be turned into a movie anyway."[25]

In 2004, Sedaris published Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which reached number 1 on The New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List in June of that year.[26] The audiobook of Dress Your Family, read by Sedaris, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album; the same year, Sedaris was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for his recording Live at Carnegie Hall. In March 2006, Ira Glass said that Sedaris's next book would be a collection of animal fables;[27] that year, Sedaris included several animal fables in his US book tour, and three of his fables were broadcast on This American Life.[28][29][30]

In September 2007, a new Sedaris collection was announced for publication the following year.[31] The collection's working title was All the Beauty You Will Ever Need, but Sedaris retitled it Indefinite Leave to Remain and finally settled on the title When You Are Engulfed in Flames.[32][33] Although at least one news source assumed the book would be fables,[citation needed] Sedaris said in October 2007 that the collection might include a "surprisingly brief story about [his] decision to quit smoking" along with other stories including about chimpanzees at a typing school, and people visiting [him] in France.[32]

In December 2008, Sedaris received an honorary doctorate from Binghamton University.[34]

In April 2010, BBC Radio 4 aired Meet David Sedaris, a four-part series of essays, which Sedaris read before a live audience.[35] A second series of six programs began airing on BBC Radio 4 Extra in June 2011, with a third series beginning in September 2012.[36] In July 2017, the sixth series was aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra. In 2010, he released a collection of stories, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.[31][32][37] Sedaris released a collection of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, in 2013 and, in 2017, published a collection of his 1977–2002 diaries, Theft By Finding. Also in 2013, the film adaptation of an essay from Naked was released as a feature-length movie, C.O.G.

In July 2011, Sedaris's essay "Chicken Toenails, Anyone?", published in The Guardian,[38] garnered some criticism over concerns that it was insensitive towards China and Chinese culture.[39][40]

A frequent guest of late-night US talk show host Craig Ferguson, in April 2012, Sedaris joined Ferguson and the cast of CBS's The Late, Late Show in Scotland for a theme week in and around Ferguson's hometown between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The five weeknight episodes aired in May 2012.[citation needed]

Sedaris's ninth book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, was released in April 2013.

In 2014, he participated in Do I Sound Gay?, a documentary film by David Thorpe about stereotypes of gay men's speech patterns.[41]

He appeared along with his sister Amy as special guest judges on season 8, episode 8, of RuPaul's Drag Race.[42] He also appeared as a guest in the Adult Swim television series FishCenter Live.[43]

In 2019, Sedaris was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.[44]

Truth of nonfiction work[edit]

In 2007, in an article in The New Republic, Alexander S. Heard stated that much of Sedaris's work is insufficiently factual to justify being marketed as nonfiction.[45] Several published responses to Heard's article argued that Sedaris's readers are aware that his descriptions and stories are intentionally exaggerated and manipulated to maximize comic effect,[46] while others used the controversy as a springboard for discussing the liberties publishers are willing to take when calling books "nonfiction".[47]

Subsequently, in the wake of a controversy involving Mike Daisey's dramatizing and embellishing his personal experiences at Chinese factories, during an excerpt from his theatrical monologue for This American Life, new attention has been paid to the veracity of Sedaris's nonfiction stories. NPR will label stories from Sedaris, such as "Santaland Diaries", as fiction, while This American Life will fact check stories to the extent that memories and long-ago conversations can be checked.[48] The New Yorker already subjects nonfiction stories written for that magazine to its comprehensive fact-checking policy.[49]

The Talent Family[edit]

Sedaris has written several plays with his sister, actress Amy Sedaris, under the name "The Talent Family". These include Stump the Host (1993), Stitches (1994), and The Little Frieda Mysteries (1997). All were produced and presented by Meryl Vladimer when she was the artistic director of "the CLUB" at La MaMa, E.T.C., and The Book of Liz (2002) was produced by Ania A. Shapiro.[citation needed]

The New Yorker[edit]

Sedaris has contributed over 40 essays to The New Yorker magazine and blog.[50]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2019, Sedaris lives in Rackham, West Sussex, England, with his longtime partner, painter and set designer Hugh Hamrick. Sedaris mentions Hamrick in a number of his stories,[51][52][53] and describes the two of them as the "sort of couple who wouldn't get married."[54][55] Sedaris is known to regularly wear a headlamp at night and spend hours removing litter from nearby roads and highways.[52] Due to this hobby, he is locally known as "Pig Pen" and has a waste vehicle named after him.[56][57]


Story and essay collections[edit]

  • Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays. Boston: Little, Brown. 1994.
  • Holidays on Ice. 1997.
  • Naked. Boston: Little, Brown. 1997.
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day. 2000.
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. 2004.
  • Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules (editor, 2005)
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008)
  • Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (2010)
  • Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (April 2013)
  • Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977–2002) (May 2017)
  • Calypso (May 2018)
  • The Best of Me (November 2020)
  • A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003–2020) (October 2021)



  • Santaland Diaries and Seasons Greetings (1998)
  • The Book of Liz: A Play by David Sedaris and Amy Sedaris (2002)

Audio recordings[edit]


  1. ^ Oswalt, Patton (May 29, 2017). "David Sedaris's Diaries Track a Path From Struggle to Success". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  2. ^ "Dec. 26, 2015: birthday: David Sedaris". The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. Archived from the original on October 24, 2017. Retrieved July 9, 2017.
  3. ^ PBS-Finding Your Roots Episode 9
  4. ^ Sedaris, David (2006). "Dix Hill". Naked (1 ed.). London: Abacus. p. 90.
  5. ^ "TNR".
  6. ^ "TNR".
  7. ^ Stated on Finding Your Roots, PBS, November 18, 2014
  8. ^ "Louis H. Sedaris obituary".
  9. ^ Sedaris, David (June 5, 2001). Me Talk Pretty One Day: Books: David Sedaris. ISBN 0316776963.
  10. ^ Sedaris, David (June 5, 2001). Me Talk Pretty One Day. Back Bay Books. ISBN 0316776963.
  11. ^ "Amy Sedaris Interview". www.amysedarisrocks.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Lafreniere, Steve "Amy and David Sedaris", Index Magazine, 2001. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  13. ^ Moore, Jina (August 15, 2004). "Sister in a glass house". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 2, 2019 – via boston.com.
  14. ^ Weisbecker, Lee (May 23, 2005). "Built from the floor up". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  15. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]
  16. ^ Sedaris, David (June 26, 2006). "What I Learned". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c d Marchese, John. "He Does Radio And Windows", The New York Times, July 4, 1993. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  18. ^ St. John, Warren. "Turning Sour Grapes Into a Silk Purse", The New York Times, June 6, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  19. ^ "Sedaris and Crumpet the Elf: A Holiday Tradition", NPR.org. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  20. ^ "Publishing Triangle Awards". The Publishing Triangle. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Richards, Linda. "David Sedaris", January Magazine, June 2000. Retrieved October 9, 2007.
  23. ^ "Past Thurber Prize Winners". Thurber House. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  24. ^ Fleming, Michael. "'Wave' duo pilot cable; Wang's 'Pretty' deal", Variety, April 5, 2001. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  25. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh. "10 Questions For David Sedaris", Time, June 21, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  26. ^ "Best Sellers: June 20, 2004", The New York Times, June 20, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  27. ^ Glass, Ira. Chicago Public Radio pledge drive, March 24, 2006.
  28. ^ Sedaris, David (December 23, 2005). "An Animal Farm Christmas". This American Life. Episode 305. WBEZ. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  29. ^ Sedaris, David (February 10, 2006). "So A Squirrel And A Chipmunk Walk Into A Bar". This American Life. Episode 308. WBEZ. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  30. ^ Sedaris, David (February 24, 2006). "Hello Kitty". This American Life. Episode 309. WBEZ. Retrieved January 31, 2016.
  31. ^ a b Isaac, Mike. "David Sedaris announces new book release" Archived October 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Paste, September 20, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2007.
  32. ^ a b c Hambrick, Greg. "David Sedaris is Taking Notes", Charleston City Paper, October 3, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2007.
  33. ^ Why Does David Sedaris Keep Changing the Title of His Book? The Man Himself Explains Archived October 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine The New York Observer. February 21, 2008. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  34. ^ "Binghamton University to hold second Fall commencement" (Press release). Binghamton University. December 8, 2008. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  35. ^ "Meet David Sedaris". Radio 4. BBC.
  36. ^ "Meet David Sedaris". Radio 4 Extra. BBC.
  37. ^ Releases worth a bookmark. September 8, 2010. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  38. ^ "David Sedaris: Chicken toenails, anyone?", The Guardian, July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  39. ^ Yang, Jeff (July 29, 2011). "David Sedaris Talks Ugly About China", San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  40. ^ O'Connell, Joe (July 23, 2011). "Your letters: Tell us what you think". The Guardian. London. Retrieved January 21, 2012.
  41. ^ "'Do I Sound Gay?': Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter, September 8, 2014.
  42. ^ "Drag Race's Book Ball showcases the strength of season 8". AV Club. April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
  43. ^ Argyle, Samuel (March 29, 2019). "A fantasy getaway in a fish tank". The Outline. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  44. ^ Fedor, Ashley. "2019 Newly Elected Members". American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  45. ^ Heard, Alex. "This American Lie: A midget guitar teacher, a Macy's elf, and the truth about David Sedaris", The New Republic, March 19, 2007. Retrieved June 15, 20085.
  46. ^ Balk, Alex. "David Sedaris May Sometimes Exaggerate For Effect!" Archived August 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Gawker, March 14, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  47. ^ Villalon, Oscar. "Public's taste for nonfiction has publishers playing fast and loose with labels", San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2007.
  48. ^ Farhi, Paul (May 14, 2012). "Style". The Washington Post.
  49. ^ Lyall, Sarah (June 8, 2008). "What You Read Is What He Is, Sort Of". The New York Times.
  50. ^ "Contributors – David Sedaris". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  51. ^ Granberry, Michael (April 25, 2019). "David Sedaris, who long ago mastered a sense of surprise, ruminates on anger, trash and Texas". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  52. ^ a b Wakeford, Dan (November 12, 2018). "Humorist David Sedaris Was Invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen for 'Picking Up Rubbish'". People. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  53. ^ David Spera, Steven M. Birkland and Todd Hanlon Bright Ideas Design. "David Sedaris – Gay and Lesbian Travel". Passport. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  54. ^ Schrobsdorff, Susanna (May 29, 2008). "David Sedaris on Writing, Reading and Gay Marriage". Newsweek.com. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  55. ^ "BBC Radio 4 – Ramblings, Series 23, David Sedaris". BBC. March 9, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  56. ^ "South Downs litter picker has truck named after him". West Sussex County Times. Horsham. July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  57. ^ Tim Dowling (July 31, 2014). "David Sedaris? Who? Oh, you mean the local litter-picker". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  58. ^ Sedaris, David (November 29, 2004). "Reflections: Old Faithful". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  59. ^ Sedaris, David (June 26, 2006). "Annals of Commencement: What I Learned". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  60. ^ Sedaris, David (April 2, 2012). "Socialized Medicine in Old Europe". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
  61. ^ Liz McAvoy (October 6, 2010). "Author, humorist David Sedaris enlivens Landmark Theater". The Collegian. University of Richmond (Virginia). Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  62. ^ David Sedaris (December 2, 2005). "David and Goliath". This American Life. WBEZ. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  63. ^ Online version is titled "David Sedaris: Why aren't you laughing?".
  64. ^ Online version is titled "Personal History by David Sedaris: Father Time".

External links[edit]