David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a collection of essays about David’s family and personal life. The essays all include funny situations varying in types of humor, but there is a common theme of pity in each of Sedaris’ chapters. I found myself laughing at several of his jokes even if they were dark or aimed towards those I pitied in the story. We have learned from Kierkegaard that pain and irony, or conflict can be one of the major sources of humor. I believe that Sedaris uses this pitiful theme to relate to his audience and create a funny twist in several of his chapters.
The first few essays are focused on his early life. These chapters focused on his dysfunctional family and awkward social life, which I’m sure everyone can relate to. One of the essays I thought was funny was the first one of the book, “Us and Them.” I found this funny, because Sedaris is perplexed that the Tomkey family did not own, or believe in television. Young David spends his days studying them, watching over the kids in school, and peering into their window. He does not understand what one could do without a TV, and is concerned that they will miss popular references and not fit in. I found this funny, because I also found TV to be an essential part of life in my adolescence. On the other hand, I am currently watching “Black Mirror” on Netflix. This show is a drama with individual episodes that demonstrate how technology is destroying man. I just thought it was funny how David’s viewpoint as a child is that one cannot fit in society without a television, and pities the Tomkeys. (Possibly a little incongruity).
This pity is also present in “full house” the fourth Chapter. Sedaris is invited to a sleepover and is forced to go. He is attacked and gets his nipples twisted, as anyone would at an adolescent sleepover. Sedaris then makes a joke, “I understood little Lauren was smart to have cut out early” (Sedaris 36). This is Sedaris’ dark sense of humor, but it does demonstrate pain+distance or tragedy+time.
Most of Sedaris’ jokes branch from how life is suffering. He does have some uplifting parts of the story however. I found It extremely interesting how my attitude toward the mother changed after the chapter “The girl next door,” where David’s mother comes to help him pack in his apartment, after he finds out the girl next door he tried to befriend had been stealing from him. The girl, Brandi, calls her a bitch and she replies, “sister, you don’t know the half of it” (Sedaris 122). My opinion of David’s mother changed drastically after she helps him out of his situation, especially since his father will not help him because of his sexuality. Until this point I did think the mother was a little bratty; she locked her kids out in the snow and drank wine all day, and seems like a Debby downer. For some reason after this somewhat “affectionate” moment, I found her old antics to be pretty funny.