David Sedaris Thinks I’m Funny

I’m so proud of this anecdote (originally written in an actual paper journal) that it gets its own page on Couchtime.

Meeting David Sedaris

November 28, 2010

I met David Sedaris last week, which is how I ended up with this journal. He read from his, and it was hilarious. I  want to be hilarious, so I bought a journal. So far, it hasn’t worked.

The crowd at the reading was huge, and filled with hipsters. I saw one guy dressed in jeggings – those stretchy, skintight “denim” “pants” designed for women who can’t be bothered with a fly. There were a lot of large glasses, beards and chunky sweaters as well.

After the reading Sedaris started signing books. I jumped the velvet rope in front of me, because any time there is a red velvet rope you want to be on the inside of it. So did my friend, but she got caught. The Chapters Nazi had a manic look in her eye and demanded that my friend return to the other side to mingle with the masses. I stayed, as being on the inside of the rope meant a much shorter wait in line.

Sedaris had told us all he collects jokes on the road, and was asking people if they had any as they got their books signed. I’ve never been able to tell a joke, especially ones that I’ve heard from someone else. I can never remember the punchline, or even the lead-up. All I can muster is a brief synopsis. “It’s something about a snail,” I’ll say. “It gets kicked and then two years later it shows up again and says ‘What the hell?’” I don’t tell it like a joke, I tell it like the summary of a recent news story I found interesting.

I waited in line for about an hour, so I had plenty of time to panic about what I’d say. I listened to the group of hipsters in front of me discuss their jokes. They sounded confident, which made me panic even more. I snuck a picture of the guy in jeggings on my phone and posted it on Twitter, where I could mock him to make myself feel better. It didn’t help. Many of my friends on Twitter had already met Sedaris and said he’d been incredibly charming and engaging. There it was. He’d be wonderful and I’d be a socially anxious bore. I’d be that person at the cocktail party who talks about his car or recent ailments or something. I hate that person.

When it came time for my turn, I still had nothing. “Should I ask what his favorite movie is?” I thought. “Or should I tell the story of the time I bought a ‘Goddess of Wisdom’ candle, lit it to study, knocked it over and scorched my study notes? That’s funny, but at my own expense.”

My hands were sweating as I said hello. We began with some pleasant but dull talk of This American Life, and then he asked the dreaded question.

“Do you have any jokes for me?”

I couldn’t go off the cuff. The girl before me had improvised with a long and convoluted math joke (she’d been planning on telling a much better story about her sister) and had totally bombed. I didn’t want to be her.

“No,” I said. “I’m not very good at successfully delivering jokes.”

“I’ll teach you one,” he said, reaching for a brownie off the plate of sweets beside him. “What did the princess say when she got to the ball?”

“Um, I don’t know,” I said, wishing I’d been able to provide a clever guess.

Sedaris gave a loud and prolonged choke, and I laughed.

“Now when you tell it, don’t just give it a little cough,” he said.

“Right, you’ve got to sell it,” I replied.

“Yep,” he said, and wrote “Sell the balls part” in my book.

“What do you do for a living?” he asked.

“I work for a politician, and on the side I write a blog about television,” I told him. I knew he wouldn’t care about the blog. I’m 99% sure he doesn’t watch TV. He’s too busy being witty and amazing.

“Will you ever run for office?” he asked. I said no. “Why? Do you have a dark past?”

“No,” I said. “But I’d hate to rule out the possibility of one day having a dark past.”

Sedaris laughed. “Well put,” he said, writing the words “well put” in the book. “That was very well put.”

And that’s how I ended up buying the journal.

Addendum: That Christmas, I found out what he’d written in one of the books I’d gotten signed for my sister: “Your charming sister dazzled me.” I’m charming! I dazzled David Sedaris!

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