When humorist David Sedaris came out on the stage of the Mahalia Jackson Theater with just a bottle of water and a notebook April 29, the audience might have been primed for the sort of outrageous family tales that made him a best-selling author and an NPR star. Instead, they got outrageous essays and stories instead, which were no less funny for being fictional. In Just a Quick Email, a chipper, passive-aggressive yuppie sends words of encouragement to a much less fortunate friend (You can either live in the past as a bitter, broken paraplegic, or ...). Funniest of all were two selections from an forthcoming collection of essays Sedaris described as a bestiary. In one, a suburban Irish setter contemplates his unhappy marriage his wife is having an affair with the bulldog across the street and his immense relief when her puppies find new homes (I don't care what you hear about stepparenting; it is different when they're not yours).
Sedaris also read selections from his diary (a story about getting a haircut in a black women's salon in Memphis was the best), and took questions from the audience, which turned out to be time that could have been better spent on more storytelling such as his squirm-inducing wait in an endless airport line next to a proper old lady, while in front of them stood a teenage father with a baby under his arm and the words FREAKY MOTHAF***A printed on the back of his T-shirt. (Sedaris' explication of the choices the teenager might have found LESS acceptable for a flight had the audience roaring.) There were a few walkouts when he delivered some mild political material and ruminated on why you never see an unattractive Jesus on a crucifix, but the vast majority of the crowd loved it all and tromped happily to the lobby afterward for a booksigning. (The reading was part of the inaugural season of the New Orleans Speakers' Series, which concludes May 20 with an appearance by Garrison Keillor.)