5 of David Sedaris' Funniest Essays

by Claire Luchette

Happy 57th birthday to David Sedaris: writer; humorist; former shopping mall elf; nudist colony visitor; smoking-quitter; frequent flyer; boyfriend to Hugh; brother to Amy, Tiffany, Paul, Lisa, Gretchen. In eight collections of essays including the most recent, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris delivers wry observations of his family, friends, self, and the weird people with whom he finds himself.

To celebrate another year of Sedaris, let's take a look at five of his funniest essays.

"SantaLand Diaries"

This classic Sedaris essay is even better post-Christmas. He describes his experience working as an elf at Macy's in New York City. He first read the story on NPR in 1992, and it never gets old.

"Interpreters for the deaf came and taught us to sign, 'Merry Christmas! I am Santa's helper.' Thy told us to speak as we sign and use bold, clear voices and bright facial expressions. They taught us to say,'You are a very pretty boy/girl! I love you! Do you want a surprise?'

My sister Amy lives above a deaf girl and has learned quite a bit of sign language. She taught some to me and so now I am able to say, 'Santa has a tumor in his head the size of an olive. Maybe it will go away tomorrow but I don't think so.'"

"Long Way Home"

Sedaris recounts how he was burgled while vacationing in Oahu, Hawaii. The thief took his laptop and passport, which had his ever-important visa. Calamity ensues.

"There are only two places to get robbed: TV and the real world. In the real world, if you're lucky, the policeman who answers your call will wonder what kind of computer it was. Don't let this get your hopes up. Chances are he's asking only because he has a software question."

"Standing By"

As a frequent traveler, Sedaris has more than his fair share of airport horror stories. His observations are very timely, and guarantee a laugh while you're waiting for a delayed flight.

"Fly enough, and you learn to go braindead when you have to. One minute you're bending to unlace your shoes, and the next thing you know you're paying fourteen dollars for a fruit cup, wondering, How did I get here?"

"Letting Go"

Sedaris details his history as a smoker, including his cigarette selection process and how his habit allowed him to bond with his mother.

"I may have been a Boy Scout for only two years, but the motto stuck with me forever: 'Be Prepared.' This does not mean 'Be Prepared to Ask People for Shit'; it means 'Think Ahead and Plan Accordingly, Especially in Regard to Your Vices.'"

"Author, Author?"

Sedaris recalls how his book tours are bookended by humorous trips to Costco. In the first visit to Costco, he bought a pound of condoms as a gift.

"I'd later wonder what the TSA inspectors must have thought. My tour began, and every few days, upon arriving in some new city, I'd find a slip of paper in my suitcase, the kind they throw in after going through all your stuff. Five dress shirts, three pairs of pants, underwear, a cop kit full of Band-Aids and safety pins, two neckties, and several hundred rubbers — what sort of person does the mind cobble together from these ingredients?"

Bon anniversaire, David! Thank goodness for Sedaris.