David Sedaris is a writer whose humorous stories and wry takes on everyday encounters have led to 13 bestselling books and many radio programmes including Meet David Sedaris on BBC Radio 4. His work is based on his own life and, although very funny, does not shy away from the bleaker aspects of his experiences. David was born in New York State and grew up in Raleigh in North Carolina. He dropped out of university and became a performance artist for a while, but says he lacked artistic talent and chose not to pursue art as a career. In 1990 he moved to New York City where he supported himself by working as a Christmas elf called Crumpet at Macy’s department store. He wrote an essay about this experience called Santaland Diaries which he read on National Public Radio. His performance attracted an enthusiastic response from listeners and led to his first major break as a writer and broadcaster. David’s later collections of stories and essays have won non-fiction awards and in 2002 he gave a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. The recording of this event was later nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. David’s most recent collection of essays addresses a range of subjects including the end of Donald Trump’s administration, the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of his father. David lives with his boyfriend Hugh and they divide their time between New York and West Sussex. David is a committed litter-picker which prompted his local Sussex council to name a refuse vehicle after him - Pig Pen Sedaris. DISC ONE: I Don’t Wanna Play House by Tammy Wynette DISC TWO: Where is Love, composed by Lionel Bart and performed by Keith Hamshere and Original London Cast of Oliver! DISC THREE: Dindi by Maria Bethânia DISC FOUR: Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do) by Aretha Franklin DISC FIVE: I Got A Right to Praise The Lord by The Georgia Mass Choir DISC SIX: Manhattan by Blossom Dearie DISC SEVEN: You and I by Abbey Lincoln DISC EIGHT: They Say It’s Wonderful by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman BOOK CHOICE: A German dictionary LUXURY ITEM: Pencils and paper CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: You and I by Abbey Lincoln Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music. Radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island and for rights reasons The music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I my castaway this week is the writer broadcaster David today these one of america's most celebrated and funniest authors with thirteen best selling books and decades worth radio recordings include
the long running acclaimed series here on radio for meat David, sir darras his essays up, observational drawn from his own life extremely funny, whether at the time he tried and failed to become a performance artist or hissed into christmas. Elf called crumpets this darkness in that too, however, written about toxic family relationships, drug addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, suicide and death, they may not. Like the ingredients for award winning comedy, but as he puts it, everything's funny eventually he says: I'm not witty. I don't rush things off. I'm really not! the kind of person you'd wanted your dream dinner party in retrospect, I can think of things to say, but it takes six months. David said: heiress welcomed as island discs. Thank you so much man. It's such a pleasure. Now. I know David that you never off duty. As a writer, you carry you know, but with you at all times, you haven't right there. What are you looking for exactly what tends to occupy a mind to catch your eye. Willing gives them just always
looking for something that seems absurd to me on the other. I stopped in this place because I'm I'm doing these japanese lessons there done on the phone, and so I went to a fitness centre cafe and then I heard the sound of a radio and it was this man playing a radio behind me and he'd look exactly like one from wallace in rome it if wireless was a real person I ate it was canny, and that was fascinating to me. Just you know something to know, down, because I wanted to say to him like a moons economy, going to apply at once, you have to fling radio, but then I looked at it when I thought: okay gary You share when you music with us today, David tell us about this. This first choice today, why have taken it with you to your desk island? The first song is onawandah play house by tammy, worn it. When I was thirteen years old, I got a job in rolling.
Carolina, selling popcorn peanuts in ice cold drinks at a place called the Jordan arena and they had a lot of heavy metal concerts like fog here would come by and down deep purple and black sabbath and all the guys who sold popcorn penis in ice. Cold drinks love those man's, and so I pretend to love them too, but then they had country music jam breeze and it was loretta land, george jones, I saw time they went out with George joan oh yeah. Yeah end, I bring and, like everybody else, I hate this music, but I really liked it in something that impressed me about it there, metal band would do they show they would play their allotted sat and then they were gone, but the country, music artists, would go to their trailers and they would sign autographed for hours and hours it hours and hours as long as it was somebody want or not graph, they would sign it. I don't know it's something that
later when I started on being stage myself. I just always thought, oh, it seems like good idea to respect and appreciate the people who come out and see you one thing when I look back on it to its its concert and you're walking up and down the aisle same popcorn. Being urged ice cold drinks while someone's trying to perform, I do it might sleep, I think, the point being that others can be. My last words, I'm gonna be my death bed, germany last words popcorn you know it's ice cold drinks when aid mommy
That's tommy with and I don't wanna play high states it s. Only talk about your family, of course, help already be familiar to your readers, bugs for the benefit of everybody else. You burn it. johnson city in new york states. Nineteen fifty six grew unruly. As he said you, the second oldest of six children even It's so beautifully about your your mother Sharon and under the se she held the family together. Tell me about it when you think think about a haughty picture. I never saw her in a pair of trousers ever. She would never leave the house without her hair and make up done. Youngest very traditional in one sense, but at the same time there, funny and very does giving of an audience. I guess I feel like if I have a purpose is to make the world love my mother as much as we do.
he said she ass. She deserved an audience that she had already made one by the sounds fit with you, kids, that description of all of you sitting round the dinner table hours after the meal was over and she was holding court telling stories. She was a very good story, teller and chooses kind of person. Who would talk to anyone No, I mean she's in line at the dry cleaner. She my mother, like me in that new. I just started a new notebook, so I don't have anything really great in this notebook yet, but when something good does happen, I'll work it for days and my mother would do the same thing kind of honing it and getting it to where it needs to be, but there was no end product for her. Your mother went through a difficult period after the kids left home and she she developed a problem with alcohol. What do you remember about that time?
I mean that there was a thing I mean. If my mother had had access to a wider audience. I think when the kids left home, then she would Ok, but my Other really did get lonely and was just turn. My father in the house and it wasn't, it was a rotten marriage. I mean the way that he spoke to her wishes chilling and she, she always drank. But then she always had rules, but just a rule started getting lacks an AL forever. Kick myself for not having some sort of an intervention. But- I didn't occur to mean toll until recently the people, my family, don't talk about anything. You know like it, if somebody is making a mess of themselves, you know you you might not talk to that person for a while, but you wouldn't confront them on it. So you couldn't find the words to tell your mother that
she needed to stop what she was doing, that you are worried about that. You wanted to help her dear me. I don't know, How I would have said it it's time for second disk today, David, what's gonna be we moved to north carolina when I was in third grade, and so we had did this little coral thing for the parents and we sang the song. Whereas love and anxious remember eve, at the time like in this kind of dark grey regressing were, do you have a voice by then I've heard you blow holiday, witches which is cracking no, but I mean I was with a group of other kids, but I remember thinking like I like being on stage we are all these other people
is it yes is no where is love from the musical over composed by line about and performed by, keep Hampshire with the original london cast David, sir darras your father Lou was greek by birth and he worked as a mechanical engineer. You ve written about your very difficult relationship with him. He was highly tickle, a few. Why do you think he was like that? I don't know he was a kid. You know you don't know you're gay, but I knew that I was
different. You know, and I knew that there was something he just couldn't abide- think that's what it was that he said I imagine you know me. I was a city like I remember he gave me a football helmet, his leg. I use it to carry dolls and it just wasn't for me and I tried, but my dad's one I mean it was in his mind, dreams just what he said to me over and over again was. Ah, you are a big fat zero I mean over and over and over and over. He took great pains to make things difficult for you and to plan for things to be difficult for you even after he died at ninety eight, oh yeah, but also like everyone else. He paid to go to college right. Now it was going to go to college and I was leaving the next day said: I'm not paying for you to go to college. So I went to school
and I got our loan- I got grants, I put myself in college and then graduation gift. He gave me an ira, and I think the gradual retirement account- and this is gonna- grow by leaps and bounds. He talked about three years, my individual retirement guy anyway, he died. He never set it up. I mean you did right is, as long as my father had power used it to hurt me now that he is gone. I wonder how it feels to that he's gone any con that feels great and I know that might sound really harsh, but I dont care. I didn't you hear that very often that sense of relief when somebody dies, who has put you through some
what is it sounds monsters you know, and I was reading a nasa from my last book in and There was somebody who worked at the theater and their job was to control the book signing line and- who came along. She said nobody should talk about their father, the way that mandate- and I just thought you know my father and I know There are a lot of people who that's their attitude. Nobody knew shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Why not that the rule you can treat someone. However, you want, and they can never talk about. That can't say like thank god. That's over, you know you can't get we paid for? I think I have some music David said aramis. What are we gonna hear next? Well, this is Genji in its sung by maria, but they knew- and this is one thing I ll say you know my dad was a huge Jas buff, and so we
guarded listening to like bossin ova music, and I appreciate that he exposed me to do. but one thing I really love about this song in particular. Is it asked the brazilian versions, and they translated into english right in sinatra, did version and know if it's Gerald and Sarah maud diversion. But I don't want the trends the song is richer to me when I Imagine the words Jeanne I see so a to the city ginger due to ginger lean, bludgeon g
soon Genji by maria Bethia David, said ericsson in nineteen sixty four, when you were eight, the family moved to Rowley and north carolina, as we have heard, and it was around this time that you developed what today we might call obsessive compulsive behaviour patterns. What formed it. I take you know, I'd, go to bed and then have to get out of bed, and then I have to touch my nose to the light bulb in the refrigerator and then I go back to bed and I think, wait a minute. I didn't do it in the right place and have to get upstairs and do it again and it was just eggs. Lasting all be little behaviors tat. I had I my eyes deepened into my head and then I had been jerked my head to get certain. And I'd make noises. So he got to the point where it pretty obvious. Some was going on. If you had treatment for any of that
No, I think, because there were so many kids in the family that you just couldn't. You know my parents couldn't drop everything for one child. but no- and I dont know what it would have been called. I mean it had been suggest. It was going to give a juvenile Torah said: a lot of people grow out of them, and so it went away and David I mean adolescence was was a complicated time for you get. You start come to terms with your sexuality. When you were at high school, was school, a difficult place for you to be at that time. You would ever have said the word guy anyway, never have even assume that anybody else was because it would just the worst thing in the world to be. There was no There is no evidence that I wasn't the only gay person in the world There was a sorrow to that. Just are alone is yeah. Just feeling like you would be like one of those
you'd, never mate and I'm sure I told my parents in high school, I would have had conversion therapy, and nowadays that sounds really awful, but I could see it with them. Thinking, okay, we gotta help this can so because we don't want him to have that life. Did you ever tell your parents? We'll happened, my dad through me out of the house, but I should have been the house anyway. I mean I dropped out of college, and so I was back there. and I was just kind of this getting high every day and I just really needed a kick in the ass so deal in retrospect. I could thank him for that. I think it's time the ghost small music, your fourth choice today, David's sedaris, it gonna be we used to go to the beach each renta beach house on emerald isle north carolina for a week in the summer
it was just always such a great time? Sometimes my dad wouldn't come, and then it was even better. There was always a b, which song it was just the song was popular on the radio. We'd have a couple of radio stations going at the same time and when a whip with a beach song came on, you just turn it up and everybody would gather round- and this was until you come back to me by a franklin, I've never been in love or I'd never been in a real. ship. So it's funny to me listen to these songs later and when you re young, you wanted to identify and you could create story in your mind, but you couldn't we laid it to you personally and me. Such changes. When you can, when you have, feeling the exact feeling that the singer has in you and that same long year. In that same sense, in despair really could connect the solemn
You, a wreath of franklin and until you come back to me, that's what I'm gonna do david to terrorists. As you mentioned, you dropped out of studying or to university, and you became a performance artist for a while. A key detail about this period is that you will also addicted to crystal meth amphetamine. What affected that have on you, I don't have any talent for art, but then this is around the time, and I realized wait a minute you dont have to you could just
feel a wellington with styrofoam pellets, and very slowly, poor them into a champagne glass right. But it was, it was empty, empty performance, art, but because of the math right, I would write. Manifesto suggest, went on and I mean always into it that didn't make it good I just made me insufferable at that time. There was one person in raleigh was selling crystal meth and then she got strong. So she moved florida and was no one to take her place. In this I was how you dried out. That's how I drawn out, but now that there be a thousand people right behind her more than willing to reality. Do you ever think about that what, if what, if you buy it all the time, because
I was not strong enough to give it up, because when you stop taking crystal meth boy, you drop you drop down to the basement. You know you were so depressed. You can't anything just depressed like sometimes it's a gloomy day I'll new you a little bit down, you feel worthless. You feel. There's no point in trying anything you feel I d like all, can sue, no meaning depression that renders you useless. and I just had to power through it, and I never did it again. Despite the chaos sudden and the itinerant nature of of your life. In that period you have pretty consistently started keeping a diary,
I wouldn't say it's not lost on me that I'm so busy recording life. I don't have time to really live it. Do you think you've missed out on living a bit? Really I get out, but you know I'm still a prisoner to my routine and quite often write like I'm going to go to there in a few weeks, never been to india, but I'll spend a lot of time in india. Writing my diary about india instead of just being out there every moment and then writing about it after I left. And how do you feel that, on balance the thicket thing right, I don't have any choice. I am compelled to write his temper. Sumo music, David you're, fired. choice. What are we gonna hear next and why you taken it to the island? This is, the georgia mass choir singing. I've got a right to praise the lord. There was one black guy at or school named Dwight bunch and he ran for class precedent and always is
campaign manager in we won with my brilliant slogan. We liked white a bunch and then his father died and the school sent me to the funeral As a representative of the school and I'd never been inside a black church, and I grew up at the greek orthodox church, where there were two cancers who would basically mon you know, and god my age and I know that it was awful. And then I went to this black church and it was like I, believe how great the music was? I don't believe in god, but I, guy, maybe do when I'm listening the gospel music. the is me at is.
nah the me. I've got a right to praise the lord, the georgia mass choir David today. Is in the nineties, you moved to new york and you took on what would eventually prove to be your breakthrough job. It was working as a christmas elf, at macy's department store, your elf name was crumpet. Did you take the job to write about it? No, I took the job because, as I moved to new york in item ebony skills like I, I never learn to drive a car and I just type with one finger and I saw an ad in the paper. And I thought well, I'm short, and I got the job In short, I am assuming time being short ever got me anything, but he did write about it, because this is
wishing to find yourself in which is too good not to document what was going behind the scenes, the photo wealth took your picture yeah right, but somebody would put their kid on santa's lap and then spread, kids here and then the hairsprays going right into santa's eyes, it was just it was remarkable. You did tell people that if they looked for a certain window they might sitia. While we use supposed to say step on the magic star. Looked at the window, you santa and usually say it like that. So I'd say you can see, share a selfie stand here and you look that way you can see. Share it's just more fly but David you written so worried about you, you, your own real life and and your family and friends to am. I wonder if you ever look back and regret anything that even
Yeah! I regret something I wrote when I first move to paris. I took a french class. My teacher was a real wild cat. She would throats market at people and get up in your face and mark you, and so I wrote about it, but I didn't write that we adored her because I didn't know, I didn't know how I thought well, how does that make sense? Some entreat you that way. I adore them, and so I felt like he was my laziness and it hurt her feelings, and so I think about that. All the time like, I don't want my laziness to be the cause David Sedaris, it's time for your sixth desk. What's next, when I am first moved to paris. Ah, These were still a thing and I found this. It was a jazz compilation and had manhattan by awesome theory on it
it made me so homesick for new york. But when you listen to the south It's like tell me what street compares too much. Read in July, like trade in July would be offended at its very far. And see on all the lamp see street. You know Delancey street's, not fancy at all, and I thought is this a joke, but then I thought no. When you re, only moved to new york. It's that's it. This is new york in the eyes of a young person who just move there I just would play the song you just saw above just missed new york, so much it's scary see on the street. the subway.
When me reason to an tell me what's street- compares with my street. Three guys chance, blossom, dearie and manhattan David Sedaris in the thirteen your youngest sister tiffany took her own life. She'd been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and erode story. After her death quota now we'll five, it's a very moving peace to read that was it difficult to write.
The thing is, it was inevitable. It was almost something that you had already written are you needed with their particular? She no like the method of suicide in the time of year He would speed so interesting to me. I wrote about it and then I've gotten so many letters from people who have lost a member of their family and everyone assumes that we are plagued by guilt and I have four men. Anybody who feels guilty. It's always the same like the train. judy. Wasn't my sister suicide wizard? mental illness and she behind. Are some note books and reading the no books you think well, if that was the inside of my mind, had been strange for a while when she died again. That's
Something that you don't hear people talking about that necessary estrangement, sometimes from someone whose behaviour is just too difficult to cope with it. Put yourself through any more mean about tiffany wrote one day she throw a dish at you. The next she'd create a mosaic out of the shards. She could really just say something to you that would just straw you meet inside your soul and find gear weak spot and she couldn't list The people and then she became combative and became super contradictory in The last time I saw my sister. I was on tour, she came the theatre, and came to the stage door? I was like whenever you Throw me right now. I can't right now. I can't carry that right now. You said you think about her every day I do every single day
She was a dynamic person and they were told in my life like when I moved to chicago in tiffany, came to visit me there. I had that feeling with her like yeah, coming again around this. My sister Jesus so proud of her just so so beautiful So funny and so vibrant and then everything everything fell, bar let's take a brave soul, music, your penultimate disc, David Sedaris number seven. What are we going to hear next and why this is our abbey lincoln and I think a lot of people would listen to this and say wait a minute. She can saying, but I think she so good interpreting, songs and the I miss her boys. I think, should give hope to anybody and they would thank you know what I can do this too.
This is her singing you and I, and it was the first person it made me think, while stevie wonder. Songs really work as Jas numbers on the gas you It's true, one Abby link and you and I david its adair. You been with your boyfriend, hugh for over thirty years. he's famous in its own right among your friends. A new refers to him. Sometimes is congressmen prudes? Why is that he's? A biggest prude like you
like most man, if you sneak up at them on the computer there looking at porn he's looking real estate, unless I don't think he's ever looked at pornography. never in his life and if you say what the hell is going on, do you have to use our language, the tv if I'd your time between new york and west sussex, where you you have upon shown for collecting later, it's obviously very worthwhile task fit for the community and the environment. But I wonder if you your list of picking experiences, given you an insight to the national character or altered your perspective on on bread, It's never the people, you think you're gonna, litter litter and I followed people before and I thought them persons gonna throw that down and they never do. I was picking up.
Trash this summer and there's this guy he's like fifty years all he has his shirt off and he's cover with that is and he's in a white van, and he says l picking up rubbish, and I thought you're rubbish. He said I do the same thing where I live and then he showed me the of his litter picking group in road signs save time, and we were talking for an hour and he's remark about the work that this guy he's done. Remarkable so David today is the time is almost upon us. It's it's always trying to send you to the islands. Obviously you're gonna keep it tidy. I wonder what else's is in your future that how'd you picture life on the desert island on the hard thing is I dont relax, I'm never not doing something. So that point be hard for me. Well, we're gonna, give you one more track before we set.
you that David said heiress, your final choice today? What is it and why you take me with you, win q and I started to see each other and I went over to his lofty- was playing this album by johnny Heart and john coal train the track. They say it's wonderful was playing language, member beings o in love with him, and so like your head. Art was c d in summer. Somebody put it online. That's where I found I know the I the If the the
one in the It is hm Yeah, and Johnny, hartman and john Coltrane. They say it's wonderful, so David Sedaris. It is I'm going to send you away to the islands, I'm giving you the bible, the complete works. If shakespeare and one of the book of your choice, what would you like well are given a lot of thought and I would like to take a big fat german dictionary, because I'm trying to learn german
and you know I'm starting to think you could just look around you and near rate everything in german, but it would just be sky water tree sad ship shit about me. would bring a new perspective to review, seeing it in describing it in another language. Well, ass, yours, it doesnt everywhere. you're very hard doing, not, though so hope phobia luxury item is going to be for pleasure and sensory stimulation. No. No. I mean, what I would normally like is like an unlimited supply of paper in pencil, but if that's too much to ask I pencil could have an eraser I dunno. I just want to get work done, while I'm there and finally, which one at track of the eight that you shared with us today. Would you save from the waves if you had to you and I by abbey lincoln? That gives me both abbey, lincoln and stevie. Wonder
David areas. Thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs, chloe was an honour. Hallo opie enjoyed my conversation with day
and I'm quite sure his german volker will come on in leaps and bounds on the island with castaway many nonfiction mightest, including Michael Louis Pele, mcdonald and robert macfarlane, you can find their episodes in our desert undisguised programme. Ok, I'm through BBC sands, the studio manager for today's programme with Sarah Hockley, the assistant producer was christine Pavlovsk II and the producer was Poland making me next time. My guest will be the costume designer jenny, bevin. I do who deal doings. I'm paris lays welcome to the flag side.
From BBC radio four in each episode. I'll tell two stories from opposite sides of the coin and use science to ask questions about elements of the human experience that we sometimes take for granted turns out that this person that I sublet my apartment to he was you know a scammer I feel like now. I am the person that I was when as on the internet at thirteen that's lies at is covered with lipstick and glitter subscribed to the flip side. With me, Harry sneeze on BBC sounds.
Transcript generated on 2023-03-13.