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David Sedaris
by Lawrence Ferber

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David Sedaris doesn’t take travel very seriously. In fact, he mines it for laughs. That’s how the openly gay humorist (and sibling of actress Amy Sedaris) approaches and exploits all aspects of life, from his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina to more recent years spent living overseas in France and England with longtime partner Hugh Hamrick. His deliciously acerbic, observational essays that include working as a department store Santa’s elf, clashes with the bad-seed next-door, and quitting smoking, can be enjoyed in the bestselling collections: Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and 2008’s When You Are Engulfed In Flames. True to form, the author shared skewed, hilarious anecdotes throughout his VIP Lounge interview, conducted during one of his increasingly rare returns stateside for a reading tour.

You spin comic gold from your experiences—so what destination should we visit if we want a great, funny anecdote out of the trip?
All you have to do is go to Manila and something’s going to happen. If by some weird, freakish chance nothing does, there’s a bar called Hobbit House owned and operated by dwarves and midgets. You walk in and see trays moving at waist height across the room and then you realize there are people underneath, and within ten minutes it becomes the most normal thing in the world.

What is your most memorable experience mixing with locals while traveling?
In Italy many people live with their parents until they’re in their 40s. I was in Bologna signing books for this guy and his girlfriend and I said, “Okay, you live with your parents, how do you ever get together?” and the guy said “camporella!” That is a word for having sex in your car or on the ground next to your car. (laughs) When you say camporella to an Italian person they can’t believe you know that word.

If you could own any hotel room in the world, which would it be?
I might take a room at the Fairmont in Vancouver. I have stayed in fancier hotels but I think that was the biggest suite I ever had. Actually, the biggest suite I ever had was at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, Texas. My room was so big that my legs got tired going from one end to the other. The minibar was a full-size refrigerator and there was a billiards room [plus] a private terrace that was bigger than my entire apartment in Paris. But I liked the feeling of the Fairmont more.

What is your number one travel tip?
Watch other people and do what they do. When we went to Tokyo for the first time, the first thing I did was light a cigarette. I looked around at thousands and thousands of people on the street and noticed none of them were smoking, and I didn’t see any trash or trashcans. I thought, okay, I need to put this cigarette out and put it in my pocket. I found out later you’re not allowed to smoke out on the street—you have to go to a [special] smoking area. That whole law came about because people were being burned by lit cigarettes. It didn’t have anything to do with health. It has to do with Comme des Garçons jackets.

You’ve written about experiencing culture shock when you moved to France. What is the most important rule of etiquette gays should observe when visiting France?
To lower their voices. Americans are so loud, it’s something you notice when you come overseas. All Americans like to shout. But that rule would be no different than it would for straight people overseas.

Imagine you’re the spokesperson for your current home base of London: what is the one thing we must do when we visit?
My life is so small, it really is. I would go to Lily Road. First you’ll come to a public swimming pool where people shit in the pool a lot. I was in that pool and they emptied it because for the third time that day someone shit. I don’t know how they do it. To me, you really have to work to shit in a pool. If you go further on the road, there are a bunch of antique stores. They’re not like super-fancy and you can always find a little something. There used to be a medical curiosity store and they had a skeleton of baby Siamese twins that died at birth.

If you and Hugh could live in any famous house, castle, or domicile in the world, which would it be?
I might live in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. It’s a lot bigger than most people think, it’s a complex. It’s Anne Frank’s pied-a-terre is what it is. I was thinking the American Embassy in Paris but I don’t like that neighborhood so much, so I would just move eight blocks over and live in Catherine Deneuve’s apartment.

Would you let Catherine stay?
(laughs) No. No, I wouldn’t let her stay.

Who would design the David Sedaris airline outfits and planes?
Margaret Howell. I’m not a fancy clothes person but I like her stuff.

What is the most essential item in your suitcase?
A little travel radio because I like to listen to the radio in the bathtub, and when you try to unplug your clock radio and bring it into the bathroom you have to reprogram it and it’s not worth it. That and a little guidebook to NPR stations across the country.

[Published: November, 2008]

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David, you are a very funny man. Where did you get your sense of humor? Do you think it is your family or upbringing that has made you so funny? Or perhaps the dysfunction itself? That is where I credit my sense of humor, survival skill. Thanks!
- Angela Brinskele , Los Angeles

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