David Sedaris Biography & Facts
David Raymond Sedaris (; born December 26, 1956) is an American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. He was publicly recognized in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "Santaland Diaries.” He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. His next book, Naked (1997), became his first of a series of New York Times Bestsellers, and his 2000 collection Me Talk Pretty One Day won the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Much of Sedaris's humor is ostensibly autobiographical and self-deprecating and often concerns his family life, his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, his Greek heritage, homosexuality, jobs, education, drug use, and obsessive behaviors, as well as his life in France, London, New York, and the South Downs in England. He is the brother and writing collaborator of actress Amy Sedaris.
In 2019, Sedaris was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Early life and education
Sedaris was born in Johnson City, New York to Sharon Elizabeth (née Leonard) and Louis Harry "Lou" Sedaris (1923–2021), an IBM engineer. His mother was Anglo-American. His father was born in the U.S. to immigrants from Apidea in Greece. His mother was Protestant, and his father was Greek Orthodox, which was the faith in which David was raised.The Sedaris family moved when David was young, and he grew up in a suburban area of Raleigh, the second oldest child of six. His siblings, from oldest to youngest, are Lisa, Gretchen, Amy, Tiffany, and Paul ("the Rooster"). Tiffany died by suicide in 2013, a subject David deals with in the essay "Now We Are Five,” which was published in The New Yorker.After graduating from Jesse O. Sanderson High School in Raleigh, Sedaris briefly attended Western Carolina University before transferring to and dropping out of Kent State University in 1977. In his teens and twenties, David dabbled in visual and performance art. He describes his lack of success in several of his essays.
He moved to Chicago in 1983 and graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987. (He did not attend Princeton University, although he spoke fondly of doing so in "What I Learned,” a comic baccalaureate address delivered at Princeton in June 2006).
While working odd jobs in Raleigh, Chicago, and New York City, Sedaris was discovered in a Chicago club by radio host Ira Glass. Sedaris was reading a diary he had kept since 1977. Impressed with his work, Glass asked him to appear on his weekly local program, The Wild Room. Referring to the opportunity, Sedaris said, "I owe everything to Ira... My life just changed completely, like someone waved a magic wand." Sedaris's success on The Wild Room led to his National Public Radio debut on December 23, 1992, when he read a radio essay on Morning Edition titled "Santaland Diaries,” which described his purported experiences as an elf at Macy's department store during Christmas in New York.
"Santaland Diaries" was a success with listeners and made Sedaris what The New York Times called "a minor phenomenon.” He began recording a monthly segment for NPR, which was based on his diary entries and was edited and produced by Glass, and he also signed a two book deal with Little, Brown and Company. In 1993, Sedaris told The New York Times he was publishing his first book, a collection of stories and essays, and he had 70 pages written of his second book, a novel "about a man who keeps a diary and whom Mr. Sedaris described as 'not me, but a lot like me'."
Collections and mainstream success
In 1994, Sedaris published Barrel Fever, a collection of stories and essays. He became a frequent contributor when Ira Glass began a weekly hour-long PRI/Chicago Public Radio show, This American Life, in 1995. Sedaris began writing essays for Esquire and The New Yorker. In 1997, he published another collection of essays, Naked, which won the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Non-Fiction from Publishing Triangle in 1998.Naked and his subsequent four essay collections, Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), and When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008), became New York Times Best Sellers.Me Talk Pretty One Day was written mostly in France, over seven months, and it was published in 2000 to "practically unanimous rave reviews." For that book, Sedaris won the 2001 Thurber Prize for American Humor.In April 2001, Variety reported Sedaris had sold the Me Talk Pretty One Day film rights to director Wayne Wang, who was adapting four stories from the book for Columbia Pictures. Wang had completed the script and begun casting when Sedaris asked to "get out of it,” after he and his sister worried how their family might be portrayed. He wrote about the conversation and its aftermath in the essay "Repeat After Me.” Sedaris recounted that Wang was "a real prince... I didn't want him to be mad at me, but he was so grown up about it. I never saw how it could be turned into a movie anyway."In 2004, Sedaris published Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which reached number 1 on The New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List in June of that year. The audiobook of Dress Your Family, read by Sedaris, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. The same year, Sedaris was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for his recording Live at Carnegie Hall. In March 2006, Ira Glass said that Sedaris's next book would be a collection of animal fables; during that year, Sedaris included several animal fables in his US book tour, and three of his fables were broadcast on This American Life.In September 2007, a new Sedaris collection was announced for publication the following year. The collection's working title was All the Beauty You Will Ever Need, but Sedaris retitled it Indefinite Leave to Remain and finally settled on the title When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Although at least one news source assumed the book would be fables, Sedaris said in October 2007 that the collection might include a "surprisingly brief story about [his] decision to quit smoking,” along with other stories about various topics, including chimpanzees at a typing school, and people visiting [him] in France. The book was described as his darkest as, it dealt with themes of death and dying.In December 2008, Sedaris received an honorary doctorate from Binghamton University.In April 2010, BBC Radio 4 aired Meet David Sedaris, a four-part series of essays, which Sedaris read before a live audience. A second series of six programs began airing on BBC Radio 4 Extra in June 2011, with a third series beginning in September 2012. In July 2017, the sixth series was aired on BBC Radio 4 Extra. In 2010, he released a collection of stories, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. Sedaris released a collection of essays, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, in 2013 and, in 2017, published a collection of h.... Discover the David Sedaris popular books. Find the top 100 most popular David Sedaris books.