Humorist and best-selling author David Sedaris, a three-time Grammy Award nominee for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album, will deliver the Commencement address to the Class of 2018.
With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, Sedaris has become one of America’s preeminent humor writers. He is a master of satire and one of today’s most observant writers addressing the human condition, especially apparent in his latest book, a collection of his diaries entitled Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) (May 2017).
Beloved for his personal essays and short stories, Sedaris is the author of Barrel Fever, Holidays on Ice, Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, and a collection of fables with illustrations by Ian Falconer. Each of these books was an immediate best seller. His pieces regularly appear in The New Yorker and have twice been included in the Best American Essays.
Associate Professor of English DeSales Harrison, director of the Creative Writing Program at Oberlin, will present Sedaris with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.
“He is hilarious, but his work is much richer than a written stand-up routine,” Harrison says. “It shows brilliantly how humor can be serious in the deepest sense, alive to what matters most, and fearless in the face of the most dreadful adversity. His peers are the immortals of the American comedy: James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, S.J. Perelman, Chris Rock, and Mark Twain. While he appears to hide nothing of what it feels like to be a gay Southern expatriate, the deepest secret he reveals is his disciplined command of language, timing, and wit deployed as unblinking scrutiny of the world. Above all, he is one of our greatest living artists.”
Sedaris’ original audio pieces can often be heard on the public radio show This American Life. His latest audio recording of new stories (recorded live) is “David Sedaris: Live for Your Listening Pleasure” (November 2009). A feature film adaptation of his story C.O.G. was released after a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (2013). Since 2011, he can be heard annually on a series of live recordings on BBC Radio 4 entitled “Meet David Sedaris.”
He 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.
As a companion piece to Theft By Finding, Jeffrey Jenkins published and edited an art book of Sedaris’s diary covers, titled David Sedaris Diaries: A Visual Compendium (October 2017). A forthcoming book of essays titled Calypso is set to be published May 2018, and a second volume of his diaries is expected for summer 2019.
The Commencement ceremony will be held 9 a.m. Monday, May 28, in Tappan Square, at which time students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music will receive their degrees.