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Amy Sedaris Essays For Scholarships

Amy, photographed by Michael Lavine

Amy's mom, Sharon
Amy Sedaris was born to Lou and Sharon Sedaris on March 29, 1961 in upstate New York. The new baby girl was the fourth child born to the Sedarises, after older siblings Lisa, David, and Gretchen. Her early childhood years were spent in the town of Endicott, New York. Sharon's family was from nearby Binghamton and Lou's Greek mother, known to the family as "YaYa", lived a little further away in Cortland. Most of Amy's formative years, however, were spent in Raleigh, North Carolina, after her father had been transferred there by his employer, IBM. Amy's younger sister Tiffany had been born shortly before the big move, so the youngest Sedaris sibling, Paul, is the only member of the family who is a native southerner. Many amusing anecdotes about life in the Sedaris household can be found at any bookstore within brother David Sedaris's hilarious collections of short stories and essays, Barrel Fever, Naked, Holidays on Ice, and Me Talk Pretty One Day.

Lou and Sharon Sedaris with their kids: Lisa,
David, Gretchen, Amy, Tiffany, and Paul
Amy, David, Gretchen, Paul, Lisa, Tiffany

Much of her later "laughter through the tears" dark style of comedy probably stems from an event from her childhood that she feels played a big part in shaping who she is today, failing first grade in elementary school. She was also influenced by the sibling rivalry in her family, through which she and her brothers and sisters vied for their parents' attention, especially that of their mother. Amy also acquired her penchant for wearing wigs and costumes early in her childhood. She used to love to disguise herself during outings to the supermarket with her father. She has always enjoyed wearing uniforms and, in fact, she remained in the Girl Scouts even into her high school years. She honed her vocal talents, improvisation abilities, and character development skills by making prank phone calls, impersonating the voices of her parents' friends and doing impressions of other acquaintances and strangers.

After graduating from Jesse O. Sanderson High School, Amy moved away from Raleigh and joined David in Chicago in the mid 1980's. He enticed her to the Windy City and encouraged her to pursue a comedy education with the famed Second City troupe. Before she knew it she was on their Main Stage. During the time of her stint at Second City, other notable comedians such as Tim Meadows, Chris Farley, Steve Carell, Ian Gomez, and Nia Vardalos also appeared there. Amy met and worked with some of her future collaborators (Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Mitch Rouse, Jackie Hoffman, Cynthia Caponera, David Pasquesi, Greg Hollimon) during this serendipitous period, too. The Sedaris siblings had then begun collaborating on their wacky stage plays that are presented under their "Talent Family" moniker.

Amy moved to New York City in the early 1990's and teamed up with Colbert, Dinello, and Rouse for their first television series, "EXIT 57". The quartet developed this half-hour sketch comedy series, which co-starred Jodi Lennon and featured Cynthia Caponera, for HBO Downtown Productions. "EXIT 57" aired for two seasons (1995, 1996) on cable television's Comedy Central network. The show received five CableACE nominations for Best Writing, Performing, and Comedy Series.
The "EXIT 57" creative team reunited in 1998 to put a satirical spin on that good old 1970's television staple, the After-School Special. The result was "Strangers With Candy", Comedy Central's first live-action, narrative series. During it's three-season, thirty-episode run, "Strangers With Candy" earned heaps of critical acclaim and a very strong cult following, reportedly including the likes of Cher, Tina Turner, Conan O'Brien, Beck, Janeane Garofalo, Al Pacino, and Winona Ryder among its fans.

Amy has become quite an enterprising young renaissance woman. Besides writing and starring in a television series and waiting tables, she has also written for The New Yorker, Abercrombie & Fitch Quarterly, Show People, and other notable publications. Somehow she has managed to still find the time to co-write and star in numerous Talent Family plays, which had become a highly anticipated semi-annual event.

Amy turns it on and becomes Jerri

"Stitches", "Stump the Host", "The Little Frieda Mysteries", "Incident at Cobbler's Knob" (commissioned by Lincoln Center), the 1996 Obie award-winning "One Woman Shoe", and "The Book of Liz" are some of the plays that have kept the Sedarises at the forefront of the New York theater scene. However, these stage shows have become less frequent since Amy has been making more appearances on screens big and small.

In addition to acting and writing, Amy Sedaris has also been an accomplished career waitress. One long-term place of employment within the food service industry was Marion's Continental in the Bowery, but this was at the same time that she was doing "Strangers With Candy", so her acting schedule made it rather difficult for her to schedule any shifts after a while. In mid 2003 she started working part time at a popular eatery in her neighborhood, Mary's Fish Camp. Yes, she's allergic to shellfish so, yes, there was a potential for a bad physical reaction, but for Amy that was part of the fun.

As if all of that activity isn't enough, Amy also still tries to find some time in the wee hours of the night to bake cupcakes and mix up batches of her famous cheeseballs, which she sells out of her apartment and in theater lobbies after her stage performances to make a little extra cash. Don't forget to tip her, though. With the Sedarises it's all about the tip!  Keep that in mind if you're ever at one of brother David's book signings and you ask him to perform his much-requested rendition of Billie Holiday singing the "Oscar Meyer Wiener" song.

Greenwich Village denizens can also find Amy's homemade specialties at Joe (141 Waverly Place), The Original Espresso Bar on Bleecker Street (between Christopher and Seventh), and a French bistro at the intersection of Hudson and James. And occasionally you can find her cheeseballs at the Gourmet Garage location at 7th Avenue and 10th Street.

Marion's Continental

Amy's Talent Family productions haven't been her only stage performing experiences. She has also added roles in Paul Rudnick's "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" (with Alan Tudyk and Orlando Pabotoy), Douglas Carter Beane's "The Country Club" (with Peter Benson and Callie Thorne), and David Lindsay Abaire's "Wonder of the World" (with Sarah Jessica Parker and Alan Tudyk) to her stage résumé.

On the big screen she's had small parts in School of Rock, Elf, Maid in Manhattan, and Bewitched. And on the small screen she's had big parts, making guest appearances on shows like "Just Shoot Me", "Sex and the City", "Ed", and "Monk". You can also add her roles in a number of short films and some TV hosting gigs to her ever expanding career-ography.

Alan Tudyk, Kathryn Meisle, and Amy Sedaris in Paul Rudnick's The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told. Photo: Joan Marcus

She gained a lot of attention in the media at the beginning of the 2004 Fall TV season when she found herself at the top of the list of rumored replacements for Craig Kilborn as host of the Letterman-produced CBS "Late Late Show". She was even scheduled to helm that show on September 29th, but when she realized that the other temporary rotating hosts were basically using the gig as an audition for the permanent position, and since she had no desire for the job she bowed out gracefully.

No true Sedaris fan's "total Amy experience" is complete, however, without hearing her as a reader on the audio versions of her brother David's books: "Barrel Fever", "Naked", and "Holidays on Ice". By all means, read the print versions, but don't miss out on the audio books. Both the print and audio versions can be found in box sets, so look for them.

As for her home life, Amy shared her eclectic Greenwich Village apartment with her rabbit Tattletail, until the bunny's death in late 2002. In early 2003 she adopted another leporine housemate, whom she named Dusty. Her pal Todd Oldham even built a designer "rabbitat" for the new companion.

Some of the offbeat features that might be found in her kitschy home are a child-sized rocking chair, taxidermied woodland creatures, rabbit paintings, a hallway with walls covered in Chinese ginger candy wrappers, and a plastic roast turkey set on the fireplace mantel. Her typical day (when there are no professional commitments) doesn't really get started until after midnight, when she makes those famous cupcakes and cheeseballs.

(click on the pix. The ones with pink borders were taken by
Photographer/Fashion Designer Extraordinaire Todd Oldham)


Amy's Career-ography

    • Slow Moses (as Annie; dir. Jullian Dulce Vida; 2009)
    • Jennifer's Body (as Toni Lesnicky; dir. Karyn Kusama; 2009)
    • Semi-Pro (as Heckler [scene deleted]; dir. Kent Alterman; 2/29/08)
      [Note: Amy's deleted scene and some improv outtakes appear on the "Two-Disc Unrated 'Let's Get Sweaty' Edition" DVD that was released on 6/3/08]
    • Tanner Hall (as Mrs. Middlewood; dir. Francesca Gregorini, Tatiana von Furstenberg; 2008)
    • Shrek the Third (as Cinderella; dir. Raman Hui, Chris Miller; 5/18/2007)
    • Dedication (dir. Justin Theroux; 2006)
    • Snow Angels (as Barb; dir. David Gordon Green and Jesse Peretz; 2006)
    • Puberty: The Movie [aka To Life!] (voice of Paulie the Penis; dir. Eric Ledgin and Stephen Schneider; Puberty Pals animated segment by Ken McIntyre and William H. Club of The Toilet; 2006)
    • Full Grown Men (as Trina, the student clown bartender; dir. David Munro; 2006)
    • I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (as Ms. Clark; dir. Jeff Garlin; 2006)
    • Romance & Cigarettes (as Frances; dir. John Turturro; 2006)
    • Strangers With Candy: The Movie (as Jerri Blank; dir. Paul Dinello; 1/24/05—Sundance premiere; June 2006—limited release)
    • Chicken Little (as Foxy Loxy; dir. Mark Dindal; 11/4/2005)
    • Stay (as Toni; dir. Marc Forster; 10/21/2005)
    • Bewitched (as Gladys Kravitz; dir. Nora Ephron; 6/24/2005)
    • Neurotica (as Renee; dir. Roger Rawlings; 2004)
    • My Baby's Daddy (as Annabelle; 1/9/2004)
    • Elf (as Deb; dir. Jon Favreau; 11/7/2003)
    • School of Rock (as Mrs. Haynish; dir. Richard Linklater; 9/24/2003)
    • Maid in Manhattan (as Rachel Hoffberg; dir. Wayne Wang; 12/13/2002)
    • Jump Tomorrow (as other student in class; dir. Joel Hopkins; 2001)
    • Six Days, Seven Nights (as Robin's secretary; dir. Ivan Reitman; 1998)
    • Commandments (as a scholar; dir. Daniel Taplitz; 1997)

    • Gym Teacher: The Movie (as Abby Hofmann; dir. Paul Dinello; 2008; Nickelodeon)
    • "Rescue Me" (as Beth Feinberg: "Solo" 8/8/07, "Cycle" 8/29/07; FX)
    • "The Early Show" (guest: 5/16/07; CBS)
    • "The New Paul O'Grady Show" (guest: 4/27/07; Channel 4)
    • "Andy Barker, P.I." (as Rita Spaulding: "The Lady Varnishes" 4/12/07; NBC)
    • "The Megan Mullally Show" (guest: 12/7/06; Syndicated)
    • "The Saturday Early Show" (guest: 11/25/06; CBS)
    • "The Martha Stewart Show" (guest: 10/23/06; Syndicated)
    • "Today" (guest: 10/16/06, 5/8/07; NBC)
    • Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars: A Benefit For Autism Education (answered calls on the phone bank: 10/14/06; Comedy Central)
    • "My Name Is Earl" (as Judy: "Larceny of a Kitty Cat" 10/12/06; NBC)
    • "Sesame Street" (as Snow White: 8/22/06; as herself, with Cookie Monster: 9/27/06; PBS)
    • "The Colbert Report" (guest: 7/10/06; Comedy Central)
    • "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" (guest: 6/28/06, 11/1/06; CBS)
    • "Book Expo America" (guest author: 5/20/06; C-SPAN2)
    • "Ellen" (as herself: May 2006; Syndicated)
    • "Todd Oldham's Handmade Modern" (guest: "Pattern" 9/29/05; HGTV)
    • "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" (surprise appearance: "Paolo P." 6/14/05; BRAVO)
    • "Oprah Winfrey" (as Betty, aka Betsy Lou: "Jon Stewart Speaks His Mind Plus Cameron Diaz's Big Adventure" 4/18/05; ABC)
    • "Wonder Showzen" (as Miss Amy: "History" 4/15/05; MTV2)
    • "Sex, Love & Lies" (co-host: Jan/Feb 2005; Lifetime)
    • "The Wrong Coast" (celebrity voice: 2004; AMC)
    • "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (as Charlie Donato: "Head" 5/18/04; NBC)
    • "WB-11 Morning News" (interviewed briefly by Emily Frances: 5/7/04; WPIX, Channel 11, New York)
    • "Anderson Cooper 360°" (guest: segment taped 5/5/04; CNN)
    • "Film Fanatic" (host: Apr/May 2004; TRIO)
    • "Cracking Up" (as Marla: "Prom Night" 4/5/04; FOX)
    • "Ed" (as Kate McCormick: "Hidden Agendas" 1/16/04, "Pressure Points" 1/23/04; NBC)
    • "The Caroline Rhea Show" (guest: 5/9/03; Syndicated)
    • Untitled New York Paul Reiser Pilot (as Connie: 2003)
    • "Monk" (as Gail Fleming: "Mr. Monk and the Earthquake" 10/4/02, "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater" 8/1/03; USA)
    • New Orleans Jazz Festival (host: 8/17 & 8/18/02; TRIO)
    • "Sex and the City" (as Courtney Masterson: "Unoriginal Sin" 7/28/02, "Cover Girl" 8/11/02, "Plus One is the Loneliest Number" 8/18/02, "Lights, Camera, Relationship" 7/20/03; HBO)
    • "When I Was a Girl" (interviewee: 2002; WE—Womens Entertainment)
    • "Just Shoot Me" (as Betsy Frayne: "The Two Faces of Finch, part 1" 10/11/01, "The Two Faces of Finch, part 2" 10/18/01; NBC)
    • "The Late Show with David Letterman" (guest: 9/6/01, 10/31/01, 3/25/01, 7/25/02, 11/28/02, 2/24/03, 6/4/03, 10/8/03, 4/14/04, 5/14/04, 10/22/04, 1/14/05, 4/27/05, 1/6/06, 6/21/06, 10/6/06, 1/15/07, 6/7/07; CBS)
    • "Fling" [aka "When I Grow Up"] (7 unaired episodes: 2001; FOX)
    • "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (guest: 4/3/01, 10/17/06; Comedy Central)
    • "Strangers With Candy" (as Geraldine 'Jerri' Antonia Blank: 4/7/99 - 10/2/00; Comedy Central)
    • "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (guest: 4/6/99, 3/23/00, 12/28/00, 5/9/01, 11/28/01, 7/12/02, 6/24/03, 12/31/03, 11/22/06, 5/22/07; NBC)
    • "Exit 57" (as various characters: 1995-96; Comedy Central)

    Tony's Wish List — I'd love to see (or to have seen) Amy make appearances on "Arrested Development," "Reno 911," "Ugly Betty," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "30 Rock," "Scrubs," and "Six Feet Under."


    • Amy Sedaris and David Rakoff Plan a Dinner Party (11/3/06; promotional performance for Amy's book, "I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence", at New York's Symphony Space)
    • Waitress (as Becky; screenplay reading; written and directed by Adrienne Shelley; 10/5/2004, East 13th Street Theater, New York)
    • Wigfield (as various characters; a page to stage presentation by Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, and Amy Sedaris; 5/2-8/2/03)
    • Wonder of the World (as Janie the clown/therapist, the helicopter pilot, the medieval-themed wench waitress, the vampire-themed waitress, and the American Indian-themed waitress; by David Lindsay Abaire; 10/11/2001 - 1/2/2002)
    • The Book of Liz (as Sister Elizabeth Donderstock; by the Talent Family; March - May 2001)
    • The Country Club (as Louise, aka 'Froggy'; by Douglas Carter Beane; October 1999, Drama Dept. New York)
    • The Little Frieda Mysteries (as Aunt Frieda and Cobbler Matthews; 7/22-7/27/1999; Seattle's Moore Theatre)
    • The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (as the Stage Manager; by Paul Rudnick; November 1998 - March 1999)
    • The Country Club (as Louise, aka 'Froggy'; by Douglas Carter Beane; January 1998, New Haven)
    • Incident at Cobbler's Knob (as Tula Saccas; by the Talent Family; July 1997)
    • The Little Frieda Mysteries (as Aunt Frieda and Cobbler Matthews; by the Talent Family; 1997)
    • One Woman Shoe (as Barbara 'Bobbi' Sheridan and Tula Saccas; by the Talent Family; 1995)
    • Stitches (as Victoria Swaggs and Piglet; by the Talent Family; 1994)
    • Stump The Host (as Jocelyn Hershey-Guest; by the Talent Family; 1993)
    • Laughter Through The Tears:
      • Come Back, Little Sheba (a campy interpretation of William Inge's play, which had been made into the 1952 film that starred Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth)
      • 'night Mother (a campy interpretation of Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which had been made into the 1986 film that starred Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft)
    • Jamboree (based on stories from David Sedaris's book "Barrel Fever")


See Amy in the "Fashion Police" section of the 8/19/02 issue of Us Weekly magazine. The comments were made by MTV VJ Dave Holmes and comedians Jim David, Danielle Koenig, and Matt Weinhold.

In April of 2005 Amy once again graced the "When Bad Clothes Happen to Good People" section of Us Weekly, this time wearing a Mary Adams creation that she'd worn to her pal Sarah Jessica Parker's 40th birthday party at the Plaza in New York.

from a 2003 issue of New York magazine
Sexiest Comedienne | Amy Sedaris
Why: �Not Tina Fey?!� you splutter. With all due respect to the SNL star�s smart sexiness, our choice, for her endearing vulgarity�and her clever turn as Carrie�s man-eating publisher on "Sex and the City"�is Amy Sedaris.

Bonus for Fifties-Housewife Fetishists: She bakes! Her cupcakes are sold at the Original Espresso Bar on Christopher Street. �The customers say they�re delicious,� says an employee. �Small and succulent.�

  Amy, from the book Face Forward by Kevyn Aucoin (Sharpei, "The Goodbye Guy").   The picture at near left is an hommage to Angie Dickinson's Police Woman.


Amy's brother, the hugely talented humorist David Sedaris, writes about Amy's rabbit, Tattletail:

"My sister Amy and I are working on a new play. It opens in two months and so far all we've got is the title, The Little Frieda Mysteries. We'll get together, throw out some ideas, and then, by the time I've started writing something, Amy will have decided that the character is blind, or paralyzed from the waist down. We're still in that phase where the story changes by the hour. I'll call her with a bit of dialogue and find that her phone has been disconnected by her rabbit, Tattle Tail, who regularly chews through the phone cord. Amy got this rabbit nine months ago, and now her entire apartment has been rearranged to accommodate its needs. Tattle Tail roams freely from one room to the next. She'll use a litter box, but only if it is placed upon the sofa. Great piles of alfalfa, dandelion greens, and parsley are heaped upon the living-room carpet. She's got all the carrots and dried food she can eat, but still she can't resist chewing the furniture and electrical cords. Amy will wake in the middle of the night to find Tattle Tail chewing her hair and fingernails. I left the outline of the first act on Amy's sofa and Tattle Tail was kind enough to edit it, chewing away the opening monologue and peeing on whatever was left."

From the March 19, 2004 issue of Entertainment Weekly
The 25 Funniest People in America

Amy and her brother David ranked #8 on the list. Stephen Colbert and the rest of the "Daily Show" gang ranked #2  (click here to read their blurb).

8. Amy and David Sedaris:  Big brother is the best-selling author of the sublime autobiographical essay collections 'Me Talk Pretty One Day' and 'Naked', full of terrific riffs about stuff like his cuckoo-clock North Carolina clan and his midget guitar teacher. Little sis was the rubber-faced star of Comedy Central's truly strange 'Strangers with Candy', as well as the blond pixie stealing scenes in 'Sex and the City' and coauthor of the book 'Wigfield'WE LAUGHED AT the 'Me Talk Pretty' story about when Amy wore the bottom half of a fatty suit around town just for kicks - and Amy's Off Off Broadway version of the deadly serious Marsha Norman drama 'night, Mother', played for laughs in a fatty suit.
The 25 Funniest People in America
1. Chris Rock
2. Jon Stewart & the 'Daily Show' team
3. Will Ferrell
4. Larry David
5. Dave Chappelle
6. Ellen DeGeneres
7. Bill Murray
8. Amy & David Sedaris
9. Robert Smigel
10. Jim Carrey
11. David Letterman
12. Aaron McGruder
13. Jack Black
14. Wanda Sykes
15. Augusten Burroughs
16. Scot Armstrong
17. Conan O'Brien
18. Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson
19. Bernie Mac
20. Maya Rudolph
21. Demetri Martin
22. Catherine O'Hara
23. ego trip
24. Sarah Silverman
25. Dave Attell
25.5. Kelly Ripa
Entertainment Weekly followed up the above list in their April 16, 2004 issue with a readers' choice Top 10 List:
1. Margaret Cho
2. David Cross
3. Robin Williams
4. George Carlin
5. Howard Stern
6. Matt Stone & Trey Parker
7. Lewis Black
8. The Onion
9. Tina Fey
10. Jerry Seinfeld

Jerri Blank is an ex-con, former user/booser/loser, ex-prostitute, bisexual high school student. At age 46 she picked up her life exactly where she left off 32 years earlier, when she dropped out of high school and ran away from home. Soon after Jerri ran away from home her mother died. Some say of a broken heart, but most agree that the bus was mostly to blame. Her father, Guy Blank, is probably the most active catatonic senior citizen in the world. Guy gave marriage a second whirl when he wed Sara around 16 years after Jerri left. The couple soon had a son, Derrick, who is the apple of his mother's eye. The rest of Jerri's life is quite ambiguous. Some hold her responsible for the introduction of drugs into popular culture; others blame her for the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a couple Kennedys. Jerri's checkered past often manifests itself in the everyday grind of her new high school world and is the major driving force of many of the plot lines that emerge in each episode. It is rumored that Jerri may have fallen off the wagon.

Click here to see a timeline of the
"Life and Good Times of Jerri Blank"


Just One More

Care to make a donation?

If you like what I've done here at, feel free to make a donation to help keep this site running and to show your appreciation for all of my hard work!  All donors will be recognized for their generosity by having their names added to my "Friends of Jerri" list. Be as generous as you'd like.

As the literary community braces for the arrival of David Sedaris’ latest satirical essay collection, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (hitting stores April 23rd from Little, Brown and Company), Lambda takes a nostalgic look at some of Sedaris’ most hilarious and gut-wrenching stories.

There are many books that can make a reader blush. For instance when Humbert fantasizes about burying his head in Lolita’s plaid skirt in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita or when Rodolphe finally seduces Emma in a sultry glen on a warm summer day in Madame Bovary. Heck, even when Alex Kirby loses his virginity to the hunky Taylor Grayson in Fifty Shades of Gay. However, there is only one author who can turn his reader a deep scarlet while simultaneously making them laugh out loud at the misadventures of a potty mouth department store elf who is silently objectifying the other elves in the changing room. That author is David Sedaris.

I first read David Sedaris when I was a freshman at Florida State University. As a high school poet, I was trained to think the only literature that mattered was written by the classic authors: Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton and Alexandre Dumas. All amazing writers in their own right, but each picked over by years of dusty scholars and redundant literary theory. I walked into ENC 1101 thinking I knew it all, and began reading Holidays on Ice. At the end of that first day, I felt like a four-year-old boy being lectured on the birds and the bees by his dad; except this time my dad was a Truman Capote-esque writer who found humor and irony in the crevasses of ordinary life. This is when I knew I was destined to learn all my life lessons from David Sedaris.

David brought something to the literary scene that was absent from the clunky and heavy high school textbooks. He made literature hip and nonchalant. You didn’t need long protracted prose to explain the human condition, nor did you need a sonnet to express your love to someone. All David needed was wit, sarcasm, and a keen sense of observation. Till this day I re-read his essays when I want to analyze social behaviors or if I am just in need of a good laugh.

David’s literary reign is nigh. In honor of the release of Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, we’ve compiled a list of David’s best essays. Below are the top ten stories that have made us laugh, cry, and, above all else, blush.


10.Me Talk Pretty One Day” (Me Talk Pretty One Day)

Me Talk Pretty One Day

The flagship essay of Me Talk Pretty One Day. It’s not the funniest story in David’s arsenal but it is a deeply revealing vignette that sets up the book’s thematic element of miscommunication. David finds himself returning to school in France at the age of forty-one unable to communicate with his abusive teacher. Eventually the need to retaliate overcomes language barriers and David finds himself speaking French. Spoiler alert: During a live reading of this essay, David said the teacher read the story and he was thrown out of the school as a result. C’est la vie!


9. ” Jesus Shaves” (Me Talk Pretty One Day)

A direct follow-up to his French class epoch, David and his classmates try to explain the Easter tradition to a Moroccan student. One of his Polish classmates leads the charge and describes Easter as a “party for the little boy of God.” The essay pokes fun at how ridiculous the tradition of Easter is to foreigners; however, when David is confronted with an equally ludicrous French fable of a flying bell delivering chocolate he concedes to his American tradition.


8.Hejira” (Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim)

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

An unsung and extremely short essay in David’s acclaimed Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Why is this essay the only one from that collection on our list? Well, the story is about David’s father who kicks him out of the house for being gay. Initially David is unaware of this and assumes it was because of his habitual drug use. Anyone who reads David Sedaris knows he has a very complicated and often times very comedic relationship with his father. This essay isn’t describing the end of their relationship. On contrary, it’s only the beginning. This piece was truly ahead of its time and when put in the right context shows how far both men have grown to understand each other.


7. Santaland Diaries” (Holidays on Ice)

Holidays on Ice

“Santaland Diaries” has become an urban legend. The story opens with David working as an elf at Macy’s in New York City at the tender age of thirty-three. What makes this story brilliant isn’t just David’s deadpan one-liners (as he observes, “Santa is an anagram for Satan”), but his ability to analyze the human condition in a velvet elf suit. This story is packed with a spectrum of social issues, ranging from the contentious “chocolate” Santa to a promiscuous elf named Snowball who is unsure of his sexual orientation. Pour yourself a whiskey on the rocks and read this one during Christmas.


6. “Glen’s Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3 #2” (Barrel Fever)

Barrel Fever

The fictional saga of a man named Glen who finds homophobia in just about everything he does. Dealing with a break-up, Glen falls for a young man name Drew at a local Quick Stop. The two strike up an unlikely friendship that quickly ends when Glen coerces Drew to stick a phone receiver down his underwear. This story will keep you salivating for more fictional Sedaris beings!



5. “I Like Guys” (Naked)


In one essay David capsulizes all the experience gay boys go through when coming to terms with their sexuality: speech therapy for emerging lisps and fear of defecating in public restrooms. It’s a first person perspective on the misplaced values of suburban life, and David draws parallels between racial and LGBT discrimination. Heavy stuff but you’ll find yourself laughing until dawn.



4.Annals of Commencement: What I learned and What I said at Princeton” (The New Yorker, June 26, 2006)

In this essay, an imagined baccalaureate speech at Princeton, David explores the fabled life of a college graduate trying to find his place in a world where a degree from one of America’s finest colleges is utterly useless. This story is so infamous, there’s even a disclaimer on his Wikipedia page that states he did not attend Princeton.


3. “The Youth In Asia” (Me Talk Pretty One Day)

The death of a family pet leaves a hole in one’s heart that can never be filled. However, in the Sedaris household, when a guinea pig dies eulogies are kept short because as David’s mother puts it, “the world is full of guinea pigs. You can get another one tomorrow.” David describes growing up in the post-Lassie world as one of a revolving door of cats and dogs. The essay culminates with David having to put his cat to sleep after the vet suggests euthanasia. Stunned, David quite literally envisions the “youth-in-Asia” helping to manage his grief. What makes this story brilliant is David’s use of the family pet to examine the death of his own mother and how his father coped with her passing. Warning: make sure to have a box of tissues handy.

For you diehard Sedaris fans, you can see an early version of the story published in Esquire back in March 2000 before it was anthologized.


2. “Ashes” (Naked)

Our penultimate selection is a portrait of Mrs. Sharon Sedaris, David’s mom. A deeply personal and heartbreaking essay where David discovers his mom has been diagnosed with cancer. David tackles his fear of losing his family, be it to marriage or terminal cancer, as they all gather on a mountaintop for his sister Lisa’s wedding. The story ends with the haunting image of the Sedaris children talking about how they should have spent more time with their mother, all the while she sits in a motor lodge dying alone.

On a lighter note, this story is extra special to Sedaris fanboys because Amy Sedaris, David’s equally talented sister, narrates part of the essay for the audiobook version. It’s almost magical to hear both David and Amy scream in unison “we’re spoiled!” to their dad. It makes this time traveling road trip back to the Sedaris household all the more authentic.


1.” Old Faithful” (When You Are Engulfed in Flames)

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

As if any Sedaris fan needs an introduction to this one. This essay is essentially a love letter to his partner Hugh. The story finds David in the midst of increased paranoia as a boil terrorizes his bum. As David ponders the probability of a “lower back cancer” diagnosis, he reminisces about the first time he met Hugh, and how they immediately bonded over fear of pierced nipples and group sex. David explores the notion of being an older gay couple in a world where they have nothing to talk about during dinner. The essay ends with Hugh valiantly lancing the boil off of David’s bum and rescuing him from further discomfort, but more importantly his own fears of monogamy. Theirs is a love story for the ages.






Tags: Ashes, Barrel Fever, David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Glen's Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3 #2, Hejira, Holidays on Ice, I Like Guys, Jesus Shaves, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, Old Faithful, Santaland Diaries, The Youth in Asia, When You are Engulfed in Flames