Sedaris' tales are satirical, hilarious and not always politically correct. So basically, they're real. It's real like meeting Dad's illegitimate child from Vietnam or seeing some elf at Macy's evacuating his bladder on faux shrubbery while you're waiting to meet Santa. Or real like going to speech therapy as a child or a Christmas Eve interrupted by a prostitute. All are traumatic in some way, and all are hysterically funny when put in a certain perspective, especially Sedaris' perspective. The man was an elf at Macy's, so he can attest, or at least relate to, the strict elf schedule that would force one to personally refresh fake ficus. As for the sister and the whore, read the rest of Holidays on Ice after the "Santaland Diaries" and all will become clear.
The attraction is not so much what he's personally lived through. It's that the stories are enticing and easy to relate to. It's sometimes in a Jerry Springer kind of way that mimics that unbreakable need to stare at a car wreck and sometimes in an I've-been-there kind of way. If it's any indication of his common appeal, after receiving Holidays and Naked as gifts, we've lent them to at least eight very different people who have all become Sedaris-ites.
Sedaris and his sister Amy (of Exit 57 and Strangers with Candy) have collaborated on plays and for audio recordings of his works. Obviously, the outrageous humor runs in the family, but one has to question whether the streak started with these two performers or were they born into it? Chicken or egg aside, the Sedaris sibs subscribe to a brand of humor--the intelligent kind--that's overlooked these days. For David, it's evident in his eloquent writing reminiscent of Steve Martin's essays. And for Amy, the talent lies in her ability to create characters so freakish and so genuine (e.g. Jerri Blank from SWC). Pit either one against your garden-variety "comic" and both would convert an audience--most likely without ever referring to tired spiels about their spouse's sexual prowess or financial incompetence and while also offering a useful tip such as a great recipe for a cheeseball.
The Sedaris talent is in no way normal, and we thank goodness, because we've had plenty of normal lately. Give him credit for offering a fresh look at life in a time when people are uneasy about voicing an uncommon opinion. David Sedaris does that and understands when to stop in order to make his point. In fact, he would tell me to stop right now.