With ironic wit and spot-on social commentary, David Sedaris has quickly become one of America’s most widely-acclaimed humor writers. As of 2008, his books have collectively sold seven million copies. Much of Sedaris humor is autobiographical and self-deprecating, and often concerns his family life, his middle class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, Greek heritage, various jobs, education, drug use, homosexuality, and his life in France with his boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick.
Sedaris was born in Binghampton, New York, and raised in a suburban section of Raleigh, North Carolina. In his teens and twenties, he dabbled in visual and performance art., but was unsuccessful. Sedaris briefly attended Western Carolina University before transferring and dropping out of Kent State University in 1977. He then he moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1983, graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1987.
While working a string of odd jobs across Raleigh, Chicago, and New York City, Sedaris was discovered reading his diary (which he has kept since 1977) in a Chicago club by radio host Ira Glass, who asked Sedaris to appear on his weekly local program The Wild Room. Sedaris later said, "I owe everything to Ira....My life just changed completely, like someone waved a magic wand”. Sedaris' 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 experiences working as an elf at Macy's department store during Christmas time in New York.
In 1994, Sedaris released his book of stories and essays titled Barrel Fever. Shortly after, in 1995, Ira Glass began hosting the weekly hour-long PRI/Chicago Public Radio show This American Life, and Sedaris became a frequent contributor. He also began publishing essays in Esquire and The New Yorker, and in 1997, he published another collection of essays, Naked. His next book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, for which Sedaris won the Thurber Prize for American Humor and was named "Humorist of the Year" by Time magazine, was written mostly in France over a period of seven months, and was published in 2000 to “practically unanimous rave reviews”.
In September 2007, a new Sedaris collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames was announced for publication on June 3, 2008. Although at least one news source assumed that the book would consist entirely of fables, Sedaris said in an October 2007 interview that the collection might include a "surprisingly brief story about [his] decision to quit smoking....along with stories about a Polish crybaby, throwing shit in a paraplegic's yard, chimpanzees at a typing school, and people visiting [him] in France”.
In addition to his career as an author, David Sedaris and his sister, Amy Sedaris, have collaborated under the name “The Talent Family” and have written half-a-dozen plays which have been produced at La Mama, Lincoln Center, and The Drama Department in New York City. These plays include Stump the Host, Stitches, One Woman Shoe, which received an Obie Award, Incident at Cobbler’s Knob, and The Book of Liz, which was published in book form by Dramatists Play Service.