David Sedaris on Fans Fainting, Beards and Guns (Q&A)

Ahead of the writer's appearance at UCLA's Royce Hall on Tuesday, Sedaris tells THR, "I developed a theme that guys with beards have fathers who have guns. It's crazy how right I am about that."

Writer and humorist David Sedaris is taking it easy on his swing through North America this season, stopping in only 26 cities, a considerable drop from his norm of 35 to 40, twice a year in the spring and fall.

When The Hollywood Reporter caught up with him, he was in Jackson, Miss., but on Tuesday Sedaris will be at UCLA’s Royce Hall for one night only, reading from collections like Holidays on Ice, When You Are Engulfed in Flames and his latest, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, each featuring stories taken from real-life adventures growing up with his five siblings (including comedian Amy Sedaris) in North Carolina, or living abroad in France and England with his partner, Hugh Hamrick.

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"The other night I read for 20 minutes and answered questions for 15 minutes," sighs Sedaris in his usual falsetto about a reading in a room with no air conditioning where a woman fainted. "Last night in Huntsville, Alabama, I signed books for eight hours."

With all that time spent pressing the flesh, you’d think he was running for President. But really he’s just a people person as he tells THR about fan encounters gone wrong, the link between guns and beards, and picnicking with ghosts near the gift shop at the Holocaust Museum.

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The Hollywood Reporter: With all the time you spend on tour, do you ever get material from it?

David Sedaris: I get material all the time. That woman who fainted the other night, later her husband came through the book signing line. I said, "Was that your wife who fainted?" He said, "Yeah, can you believe she embarrassed me like that? I’m gonna beat the shit out of her when I get home!"

Maybe he’s the reason she fainted. What do you learn about people?

Last year on my book tour, I developed a theme that guys with beards have fathers who have guns. It’s crazy how right I am about that. There’s a hipster beard that doesn’t quite count. Last night, never wrong. Every time I came to a guy with a beard, even with a goatee: "Does your dad have a gun?" "Yes."

What’s your theme on this tour?

It’s me imagining people picnicking. So I see you picnicking with doctors on a cliff near a ghetto. I see you picnicking on sausages and smoked meats with the people of Chile and one stranger. I see you picnicking with crippled children and their parents not far from the gates of hell. I see you picnicking with ghosts near the gift shop of the Holocaust Museum. So everyone’s different. I ask people a question or two and then I tailor their picnicking site to them. Some people are confused by it.

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Do they get pushy?

The other night I was in Miami and this woman says, "I want you to write in my brother-in-law’s book, 'Keep Laughing.' " I said, "I wouldn’t write that in a book." "But that’s what I want you to write." "I’m sorry but I’m the professional. I’m going to decide what to write in the book cause you’re going to like it more than what you’re telling me to write."

You had an incident where a woman didn’t like what you inscribed. What happened there?

I don’t know where that went wrong. So this woman had two children. She said, "I’m going to give them the book later on," and she told me what to write. And I said, "I don’t think so." So what I wrote is, "I shit in your mother’s pussy." I wrote it in Spanish. It was Puerto Rican Spanish and I believed we had a joke about it. I try to judge the person. I wouldn’t write that in another person’s book. I thought we were OK. She wrote me a letter and she was upset about it. Her kids don’t speak Spanish and there’s no reason they’re ever going to know.

You’ve been courted by a lot of film producers for the rights to your stories, but so far you’ve only made one movie, C.O.G.

Carl Alvarez, the young man who made it — I met with him and I really liked him. And he offered me script approval and casting interference and all that stuff. And I told him I didn’t want any of it. I said you just do whatever you want and I’ll go and see it when it’s done. So that’s what happened. But nothing prepared me for that feeling of sitting in a movie theater and watching a moment of your life. In a sense, I couldn’t see it. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life.