Monday, November 2, 2009

Live and Let Live

Another day, another city. Vancouver, BC. Home of the 2010 Olympics and lately, my second home, because I've been here so often in the last few months.

Last night I went to hear David Sedaris read from his volume of work at the Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts as part of the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, which officially ended last week.

David Sedaris' work was first introduced to me by a gal pal with whom I have been friends for over 30 years. She sent me his book Me Talk Pretty One Day and told me I had to read it and that it would make me laugh out loud. I did and it did.

Even though I really liked the book I also remember finding some of the humour a little too scathing, a little too harsh, for my taste. Borderline offensive, even.

Then I read one of his stories in The New Yorker Magazine called Kookaburra. It, too, made me laugh out loud and I got choked up by the ending, which was quite touching. So when I saw that he'd be reading in Vancouver I decided I'd like to be there, having officially become a fan.

And David Sedaris readers, I discovered last night, really are fans. When I arrived at the box office to pick up my ticket there were throngs of people spilling out on to the street. The 1800+ house was jammed to the hilt and the whole place was buzzing like a bee hive. It felt like a rock concert.

He was great. He's a little shy but that doesn't stop him from being a great speaker. I laughed out loud more than a few times and he even read Kookaburra and I got all choked up by the ending again.

But David Sedaris has a twisted sense of humour. That's one of the reasons he has fans.

Much of what he read was really dark. Again, I would call it borderline offensive. The crowd was laughing uproariously but they were also making uncomfortable sounds, groaning and wincing. It's interesting to hear 1800 people audibly squirm.

Satire is great, black humour is great but I don't know. It just doesn't feel good to laugh at other people's misfortune. I know we need to, sometimes, that was clear last night. But for me, personally, it doesn't feel good.

For example, one of the stories involved a woman in a wheelchair. Black humour is supposedly not discriminatory. It's a particular genre which gives us permission to laugh. But right now I'm staying with a woman who happens to need a scooter to get around and I just didn't feel comfortable laughing at the disabled character.

Other people did. Hard. And you know what? I judged them. "There's something wrong with these people." But not me. I'm morally superior because I'm not laughing.

Here is where I get into trouble.

Just because I like my humour straight up does not give me the right to judge others who like theirs with a twist. When I'm judging, I'm separating myself from the human race. I'm saying, "I'm different" and the truth is, I'm not. I'm just like everybody else.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I will continue to work on accepting others as they are. We do not all have to be the same but we are all equal.

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