Yes, really. That’s one thing to take away from last night’s talk by David Sedaris at Symphony Hall. Sure, there were the amusing essay readings. About an hour’s worth of Sedaris. But then…the monkey.
(Cue the flashback)
The supposedly sold-out appearance by essayist David Sedaris at Boston’s Symphony Hall on Wednesday night — there were a smattering of empty chairs, and yet people stood on the crowded sidewalk outside hoping to find anyone selling tickets. Local satirist Baratunde Thurston, whom I knew had extra tickets thanks to MySpace, met me outside and took my extra ticket, selling off his in the process. But enough about him. Back to Sedaris. The audience clearly loved him, even before he opened his mouth. Then when he did, my mind immediately wandered. First thought: Perhaps Sedaris, with his quirky voice and quirkier nonfiction worldview, is our generation’s Truman Capote. Listen to Sedaris here, thanks to NPR. In Boston, he chose to read his current essay in The New Yorker, two other essays from the magazine (one past, one future) and his yet-to-be-completed graduation speech that he intends to deliver June 4 at Princeton University. "I’m completely Ivy League struck," Sedaris said of accepting the commencement speech request.
That kickstarted a few other thoughts in my head. Thought No. 2: What a weird small world it is, Sedaris mentioning Princeton as his first graduation speech, since well, I went to Princeton and served on the senior year committee to pick my class’ speaker — we chose Garry Trudeau, who also views current life through a humorous yet serious prism. Thought No. 3: Sedaris isn’t known as a comedian, but he is funny. Moreover, he is best known simply for writing and reading his essays aloud. Over the past 10 years, I’ve struggled at times to figure out how best to present my own humorous take on the madness that surrounds us. Seeing Sedaris behind the podium reminded me of where my own quest began — even farther back than 10 years, back to when I was still in high school, standing behind a podium in the school’s chapel, reading my essays aloud to the congregation and hearing their laughter and capturing their complete attention. And that reminded me of something I learned and relayed to my schoolmates back then. Something so simple it can fit on a fortune cookie.
Stop searching forever. Happiness is right next to you.
Maybe it’s time I heed that advice again.
Oh, right. I forgot about the monkey. Sedaris said his appearance and much of the fees raised would be going to a local nonprofit called Helping Hands, which, strange but true, raises and trains capuchin monkeys to befriend and help quadriplegic people. After an hour of reading, Sedaris introduced a woman from Helping Hands and a monkey — funny at first, but once the woman went on for close to a half-hour about the organization, the event truly made the leap from sublime to ridiculous. They took a few questions, though not mine (which I almost got Baratunde to ask, if only they would’ve called on him): Aren’t they the least bit concerned that training these monkeys to be slaves, that some day the slave monkeys might rise up against their human oppressors and start a war that ends with monkeys ruling the planet? Well?