Driving into The Valley on a Friday night listening to newly purchased Pomplamoose tracks, I was already smiling. Impress-o-metre set to 7.0.
We found a great parking spot, spotted Nick and Tuuli, got our drinks before a queue formed and found comfy seats in the foyer before it filled up: it was going to be a good night. Impress-o-metre up to 7.5.
Our ‘top shelf’ seats weren’t great but when it’s just a guy speaking from a podium it doesn’t really matter (Impress-o-metre remained steady at 7.5). I’d only ever read David Sedaris – never heard the audio books – so I was predictably surprised that he didn’t sound the way I’d imagined. He read some bits from his forthcoming book and others pieces I knew already but my Impress-o-metre surged to 8.5 when he read Laugh, Kookaburra. Like most people, I enjoy hearing about me, my city, my country. I had read Laugh, Kookaburra some weeks ago but it was a treat to hear him read it. His rhythm, inflection and tone made it sound like it ought. (You can read it here or buy the audio here).
He concluded the show by asking if anyone had any questions.
This was my favourite part of the night, not because people asked particularly good questions, but because he evidently understood we wanted some interaction, something extra, something unique to that time and place. So he did answer questions but he also let himself get distracted and shared stuff no one would have thought to ask (like why he specifically requests a podium when speaking to a group).
Afterwards he announced he’d be sitting in the foyer if anyone had other questions or wanted a book signed. He only flew into Brisbane that morning and would leave for Sydney the next. If he was prepared to hang around after the show signing books and talking to his readers then I wanted in. I decided he was a generous man and my Impress-o-metre tipped over 9.0 which is dangerously close to rabid fan territory.
We queued patiently and Burfit spotted Richard Fidler for the third time that night. We spent some time debating whether this guy or that guy was Sedaris’s partner, Hugh. When we got closer to the front of the queue we noticed a tall man in a blue shirt behind the tables who silently watched the proceedings. He looked about the right age so we decided – if Hugh was there – that must be him. He was on the exclusive side of the table after all.
The line moved slowly and I realised this was because Sedaris was actually having a short chat to each person in line. They presented their book, he wrote the name/s and asked a question, they answered and a short conversation followed. He finished by writing something witty about their chat and then the queue inched forward. We found the idea that he would actually converse with us thrilling and as we waited we toyed with the idea of telling him about my bedtime stories and how many of his books had been enjoyed in that context. Impress-o-metre still climbing.
We made it to the Consumer Frenzy Table and I bought a copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day as it was the first thing of his we knew and seemed to be an appropriate purchase. A few moments later the tall man in the blue shirt leant towards me and asked if I wanted the book signed. It turned out this was not Hugh and, trying to hide my disappointment, I said yes we would like it signed. He grabbed a stack of sticky notes and asked for the names so Mr Sedaris would get the spelling correct. Impress-o-metre up to 9.5. Spelling someone’s name correctly is important to me, partly because I like to be right (no, really?) and partly because my name is often misspelled.
When we got closer I could see the people at the top of the line enjoy their moment in the sun. I watched a guy hand over his book, a giddy grin slapped on. Sedaris looked at the sticky note and looked up, asking if he was Stephen. The way he said “Yes” suggested that being Stephen was the most wondrous achievement of his tiny fan-life. Stephen didn’t say much and giggled a lot; it was obvious he was a bit overwhelmed. Naturally I thought that wouldn’t happen to me. Burfit maybe, as he does tend to get a bit star struck, but not me. I understand that famous people are just people who happen to be well known for one reason or another. And this guy is funny and writes well.
So as I approached the table, book open to the page with the sticky note and Impress-o-metre blowing steam, I should have realised that my part in the impending exchange had already been written for me. In fact, it didn’t really matter what I said, the outcome would be more or less the same.
As it happened, my nerves did hijack any wherewithal or eloquence I thought I had and I giggled stupidly like everyone before me. I did not say anything I wanted to say and the one feeble gag I offered went unheard (which is probably for the best because trying to be funnier than the Funny one is generally frowned upon, no?). Oh, and he misspelled my name. Burfit thinks a lapse in his focus caused the first ‘y’ to turn into a ‘g’. Sedaris noticed the error and apologised, quickly turning it into a joke. I suppose it was funny – certainly the people behind us in line were laughing – but I left the Tivoli feeling a bit disappointed and shaking from the rush of adrenaline. If we had chosen to leave after the show ended we surely would have regretted it so I am glad that we stayed. But I so desperately wish our short conversation had gone differently.