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David Sedaris, trash vigilante, thinks Seattle could do better

caption: David Sedaris, signing one of more than 8,000 tip-ins. This is the hard labor that goes into your signed author copy.
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David Sedaris, signing one of more than 8,000 tip-ins. This is the hard labor that goes into your signed author copy.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

David Sedaris was angry.

He was angry because he had to sign his name on 8,000 blank sheets of paper. He was angry because he already signs his name at readings all over the world — and now his publisher was making him sign his name on thousands of “tip-ins” to be bound into copies of his latest book.

“I am so angry about it,” Sedaris sighed to KUOW’s Bill Radke. “It takes forever to do it.”

He kept signing as they talked about how he was workshopping his new book “Calypso” at Seattle’s Broadway Performance Hall. He said it’s helpful to read works-in-progress to live audiences. It’s not just a matter of whether the piece gets laughs. Sometimes it’s just a feeling you get when a story doesn’t resonate.

“You can feel people drifting away from you,” Sedaris said.

Radke wanted to know: Did Sedaris bring his rubbish bag to Seattle?

That’s right, Sedaris isn’t just a humorist with a wildly successful writing career. He also spends hours upon hours picking up litter in the English county of West Sussex, where he lives with his partner Hugh.

Sedaris has picked up so much trash that local authorities named a garbage truck after him. He was even invited to Buckingham Palace because of his obsessive litter collecting.

“I just can’t pass it by,” Sedaris said. “I can’t walk by litter. I can’t do it. And it doesn’t matter — on my birthday it was driving rain, and I went out for seven hours in the driving rain and I picked up trash … I thought, what a wretched life I have.”

It seems some people in England aren’t too careful about where they dispose of their trash.

“They just throw everything out the car window,” Sedaris said.

Folks in Seattle shouldn’t giggle too hard about that, because Sedaris said he’d be out collecting trash if he lived here, too. He'd start at the airport and work his way up.

Sedaris theorized that people stop seeing things like trash after a while. But he admitted that one of his English neighbors told Hugh that some locals aren’t too thrilled about how Sedaris talks publicly about the neighborhood’s rubbish problem.

“You have to really watch your tone,” Sedaris said. “You can’t be finger wagging. The thing with me is, he’s not just scolding us — he’s out there doing it.”

Though Sedaris lives in the U.K., he’s still a U.S. citizen. So Radke wanted to know what he thinks of the prospect of Oprah Winfrey challenging President Donald Trump.

“I’ll tell you something,” Sedaris said. “I’ve never met Donald Trump, but I’ve met Oprah Winfrey. And she smells terrific.”

Produced for the web by Amy Rolph.

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