DAVID SEDARIS | Cambridge, Corn Exchange

Whilst football may carry the power to unite a nation, it’s also proven itself too capable of dividing an audience.  I wasn’t the only one with a headphone pressed to my ear until the last minute before David Sedaris stepped up to the centre spot (it was unclear whether the prohibition on drinks inside the auditorium was to protect against the risk of cascades of lager in the event of a goal), but England’s early lead made for a reassuring context in which to settle in for an evening in the company of Sedaris’ wit and charm.

Rather than tackle the conflict of loyalties head on, Sedaris instead diffused attention with an opening reference to his choice of outfit: a pair of oversized polka dot culottes.  For a man whose voice is so familiar from the waves of Radio 4, there’s a natural curiosity to see if the visual matches up with the audio.  Sedaris takes a wicked delight in a surprise and so once his sartorial choices were hidden behind the lectern the audience were teased and provoked with selections from his latest book that he wasn’t allowed to broadcast on the BBC, “probably for good reason”.  These range from the charming to the filthy, the whimsical to the scatological, of which the full range are perhaps best encapsulated in a story of the competing challenges of a gastro-intestinal virus versus dogged commitment to meeting his daily FitBit target.  The perky pitch of Sedaris’ voice brings a lightness to even the most difficult topics, but its his willingness to approach these both via a satirical curve or an honest head-on that make him special.

Sedaris’ endearing humanity takes a break during the closing Q&A part of the evening, for which he completes the transition to full-on (and impressive) stand-up.  But there’s something very telling about the book signing that follows.  Over the past decades his listeners and readership have been entrusted with all of the most intimate and (in)glorious moments of Sedaris’ life, and in return he has built an audience eager to spill their most personal anecdotes with an old friend, but new face.  With every signing, Sedaris’ choice of repertoire grows the richer.

David Sedaris’ latest book, Calypso, is available now at your local independent bookshop.  See what’s coming up next at the Corn Exchange, here.

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