by Lawrence Ferber
David Sedaris doesnt take travel very seriously.
In fact, he mines it for laughs. Thats 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 Santas
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 2008s 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 experiencesso
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 somethings
going to happen. If by some weird, freakish chance nothing
does, theres 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
What is your most memorable experience
mixing with locals while traveling?
In Italy many people live with their parents until
theyre 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 cant 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 didnt 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 youre
not allowed to smoke out on the streetyou have
to go to a [special] smoking area. That whole law came
about because people were being burned by lit cigarettes.
It didnt have anything to do with health. It has
to do with Comme des Garçons jackets.
Youve 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, its
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 youre 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 youll 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 dont 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. Theyre 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.
Its a lot bigger than most people think, its
a complex. Its Anne Franks pied-a-terre
is what it is. I was thinking the American Embassy in
Paris but I dont like that neighborhood so much,
so I would just move eight blocks over and live in Catherine
Would you let Catherine stay?
(laughs) No. No, I wouldnt let her stay.
Who would design the David Sedaris
airline outfits and planes?
Margaret Howell. Im not a fancy clothes person
but I like her stuff.
What is the most essential item in
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 its not worth it. That
and a little guidebook to NPR stations across the country.