American humorist, comedian, and essayist David Sedaris is known for his self-deprecating yet relatable humor and wit.
David Raymond Sedaris was born in New York but grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is the second child of six, and the brother of actress Amy Sedaris. In his teens, he also dabbled in visual and performance arts. After high school, Sedaris studied in both Western Carolina University and Kent State University. In 1983, he moved to Chicago where he attended and completed his degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
After college, Sedaris returned home to Raleigh and moved around Chicago and New York working several odd jobs before being discovered in a Chicago club by Ira Glass. Glass invited him to appear in his weekly local program, The Wild Room, where he read entries from his diaries. He later debuted on National Public Radio (NPR), where he read a radio essay titled “SantaLand Diaries,” discussing his experiences as an elf at Macy’s during Christmas. The essay was such a success that he recorded more diary entries for NPR. He also signed a book deal with Little, Brown and Company and, in 1993, announced that he published his first essay collection. Barrel Fever, a collection of both essays and stories, was published in 1994.
Sedaris’s popularity grew well into the ’90s and the new millennium. Glass started a new hour-long show on Chicago Public Radio called This American Life, where Sedaris was a frequent contributor. Sedaris started writing for Esquire and the New Yorker in the late ’90s.
He published a second collection in 1997, called Naked. The book contains compositions about Sedaris’s life: his upbringing in Raleigh, his experiences with drugs and alcohol, and his self-discoveries as a young adult. The collection won a Randy Shilts Award in 1998.
In 2000, he published his next book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. The collection is divided into two parts, separated by his move to Normandy, France. The first part includes his childhood and life in New York. The second part deals with his life in France with his partner Hugh Hamrick and his frustrations learning French. The book received rave reviews and won the 2001 Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Three years later in 2004, he published Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which reached number 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List for Nonfiction. The audiobook also received a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album and a Grammy Nomination for Best Comedy Album.
Sedaris continued to publish books well into the 2010s: When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2007), Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (2010), and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013). His next collection, Calypso, is set to be published in May 2018.
Other than his independent work, he also collaborated with his sister Amy under the name “The Talent Family.” Together, they have written six plays produced at La Mama, Lincoln Center, and the Drama Department. Their plays include Stump the Host, Stitches, One Woman Shoe (recipient of an Obie Award), Incident at Cobbler’s Knob, and The Book of Liz.
Today, Sedaris lives in West Sussex with his partner Hugh. Over ten million copies of his books have been sold worldwide, and his books have been translated into 25 languages. He was also awarded the Terry Southern Prize for Humor this year.
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