Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Point Of the "Story"

Throughout this semester our class has worked towards a collective definition of humor. I Like You: Hospitality under the Influence by Amy Sedaris encompasses many of the ideas used to prove our definition. In the purest sense, humor serves as a connection to a deeper meaning taught through disagreements, incongruity, and superiority, which provides either a protection of self, a release of emotions, or a controversial argument for which there is no consequence. Laced with humor, Sedaris’ voice expresses an omniscience that allows her to point out the flaws in her guests while never blatantly exposing her own flaws, or rather celebrating her defects when they appear in the text. This explains why she claims early on in the text that one should “never overreach to mask weakness.” (Sedaris, 18)

Throughout my research on Amy Sedaris I have found that those writing about her, or quotes she has said herself, reflect her individuality and ability to march to the beat of her own drummer. It strikes me as odd that someone so profoundly unique would be so fearful of exposing weakness. In “The Art of Hospitality” Sedaris writes,

“Every person is special. In all the land there is only one you, possibly two, but seldom more than sixteen. It’s a good idea to know your strengths and weaknesses. Are you funny? Are you a good conversationalist? Are you attractive? Are you? Are you a good organizer? Do you have a lot of plates? …If you have thick ankles, wear pants. If you’re boring, pick exciting music to play. If you are a lousy cook, order out.” (Sedaris, 18)

This need to reflect an air of superiority does not come from a vindictive place within her humor. Sedaris uses her talents as a humorist to inspire others to succeed in their strengths as well. What struck me most while reading I Like You, was Sedaris’ confidence in ascertaining her role as the be all and end all of entertainers. As the author Sedaris becomes a slightly pompous (albeit hilarious) bigot, grouping her guests into stereotypes: the businessmen, the rich uncle, the blind date, gay men, and lumberjacks. Does Sedaris own the right to group these people into said categories? Is she placing herself above her guests by generalizing that all these people are in essence the same? Through her quirkiness does she establish herself as superior to these stereotypes? I believe that she does, in order to promote a sense of success.

Her humor is a mark of this success for it is a talent that she graciously shares with others. In class on Tuesday we decided that unlike David, Amy Sedaris does not have a concrete moral in her text. I feel like this is not exactly true, that the moral had been introduced to us in the beginning, that one should never overreach to mask weakness. Sedaris doesn’t tell you who to be or who not to be, she just emphasizes not to hide what you are.

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