David Sedaris thinks (rich) people should have the right to fire random service workers

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I’ve read David Sedaris’ books for years. His earlier books – mostly collections of essays – are the best. Sedaris made a name for himself as an essayist and human-foible-lover with his appearances on NPR, years ago. He’s worked a million odd jobs, including seasonal work as an elf in New York over Christmas. Many of his essays are about those odd jobs and his eye for detail and humor in any situation will always make those early works really readable and enjoyable. But as he gets older, he’s just a rich American who lives abroad (France, mainly) and he’s lost touch with a lot of the slice-of-life humanity he used to mine for writing gold. Now he’s exactly the kind of older dude who thinks he should have the right to fire people from their service jobs because they displease him:

Imagine calling this idea “citizen activism” or “citizen dismissal.” Imagine being so out-of-touch that you think this thought will “land” with an audience in the middle of a pandemic. People who are at work out in public right now, in the service industry, in retail and in gyms or public pools, are there because they need that paycheck, and that paycheck isn’t much. Does Sedaris not remember that? I’m not saying that every person currently working in retail or service is an amazing person or anything, but the pandemic has shown us that there are a lot of thankless jobs which should have better pay, and rich people running around “firing” those people is nothing but institutionalized Karening. Besides, there are already outlets for retaliation if your service was that bad or whatever – speak to a manager and try to get someone fired, leave a bad review online, complain to the Better Business Bureau, etc.

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51 Responses to “David Sedaris thinks (rich) people should have the right to fire random service workers”

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  1. Amiblue says:

    Aw, dammit! That makes me sad.

  2. Shannon says:

    He was kind of lost to me as a comic after reading how the whole family treated their sister who died. They all were so casually cruel and toxic, like it was one big pile of narcissism and she was the scapegoat kid. Once that knowledge planted itself in my head his stuff stopped being funny to me and he just seemed mean and unlikeable.

  3. Mumbles says:

    He tried to claim this was “satire” but I don’t believe it, and if it was, it was terrible because, if true, a lot of us missed it.

    • Tiffany says:

      Then he does not know the definition of satire and it shows the being a mediocre white man is the only thing you need to be a success.

    • Miranda says:

      Yeahhhh, if you’re gonna create “satire” about the underclasses, you have to go BIG. Like, “why don’t poor people just eat their kids?” territory. And even that went over the heads of a depressing number of people.

  4. Gabriella says:

    Ew- David Sedaris, go home, you’re rich.

  5. Bettyrose says:

    Geebus that was one bitter “get off my lawn” rant. And his examples are steeped in “I paid extra for this and deserve special treatment “ entitlement. My guess is the lifeguard was at the end of her shift and pool hours were clearly posted. IDK about the cups. It is weird the store would be out of packaging unless it was the week before Xmas and he’d come in at closing time. But he did emphasize that they were “expensive. “ ugh!

  6. Marie55 says:

    Kaiser I love you so much and align with your views 99.9% of the time…do you not think he’s joking here tho? This strikes me as classic Sedaris humor. I think he’s actually making fun of Karens here…pointing out the absurdity of their entitlement. Obviously a matter of perception, and it’s true that if you have to explain a joke, it’s not a good one!

    • Kaiser says:

      I mean, if this was a completely satirical performance, then he really sold it without any winks. I think it’s far more likely that he thought this would land and now he’s claiming JKJKJKLOL

    • a0 says:

      It’s definitely satire!

    • Lucy2 says:

      Of course this is satire!

      This is classic David Sedaris. I mean, he is suggesting sales people wrap up purchases in their own underwear, and people are taking it seriously?

      If you’re used to reading his work, and not seeing him read it in person or an audiobook form, maybe it comes off different, but this is total satire and how he always writes. And he always delivers it straight, without a wink.

      • Marie55 says:

        That’s what I thought, too, about hearing vs. reading. I’ve listened to his audiobooks and this delivery tracks.

      • 123naptime says:

        Honestly whether or not he *thinks* it’s satire is besides the point. Even as ‘satire’ it clearly reveals his classist sense of entitlement and with 30 million people newly unemployed (in the US) could he be more tone deaf?

    • TaraBest says:

      Maybe my sense of humor is way off, but I found this funny! It seemed obvious, to me, that this idea is so over the top and ridiculous no one could really hold this point of view.

      • Marie55 says:

        That was what I got out of it, too–the over the top ridiculousness delivered dead-straight is the cue for satire. I don’t think he’s punching down, I think he’s calling out people/Karens for being insane. Too nuanced for this moment though, I guess.

      • Pusspants says:

        Your sense of humor is not off. I found it funny too and I’m not rich. His suggestion is so absurd, it’s funny. But I have a dark sense of humor and can laugh sometimes at the bleakest moments to cope. I really don’t believe he meant this in a literal sense.

    • bettyrose says:

      @Lucy2 – Okay that makes sense. I’m not very familiar with his work, but the whole “wrap it up in your underwear” thing kinda threw me. I still don’t understand the comment about the lifeguard. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. She had to leave immediately at the end of her shift and was generous enough to tell the patrons why. What was the satirical element there?

      • Marie55 says:

        @bettyrose At the end he says that if the lifeguard had suggested the “solution” of doing her laundry in the YMCA pool or doing her laundry at the home of one of the swimmers, that would mean she’s “really good at her job.” So to me by making such an absurd statement, he’s basically saying that service workers are often in an impossible position, where the customers are demanding that they come up with solutions that would not be compatible with the real world. They’re being forced to come up with answers for problems that don’t have an answer. I think it’s actually satirizing the insane expectations we have of service workers during this COVID moment, but I seem to be in the minority with that read lol. And I don’t know his intention, so perhaps it’s too generous of a read, but that’s where my mind went when I first heard it.

    • HopeFull says:

      Also read his books, but he’s better w self-deprecating humor than w sociological or political humor. He comes off as entitled when he veers from himself? In retrospect this is silly, but I lost a friend over his “humor”. During the 2020 pres campaigns, DS compared the Dem candidates to a boring chicken entree vs the GOP candidate as “chewing broken glass for lunch”. I told her he many of the Dem candidates risked their careers to combat the MAGA monster & we needed to NOT hire a flashy rock star Dem candidate etc. She told me I wasn’t intelligent enough to understand DS. Actually, I just know when to turn off the caustic condescending type humor- like, shut down the hateful!

    • HeyJude says:

      Isn’t like 90% of humor timing?

      Yeah, so not so great when service workers are almost universally having financial difficulty and putting their lives on the line to do their jobs they’re shit on during.

      Also, probably not great for the jokester to be a rich old with dude living the ex-pat life in France right now either.

      Bad timing/bad execution.

  7. Chris says:

    Is this rich white celeb dudes say stupid shit day?

  8. Liz version 700 says:

    Awwww man he is a long way from the guy who worked as an elf. I can’t really identify with this guy who thinks he owns people.

  9. Tiff says:

    I love him! I just listened to Calypso on audiobook a few weeks back. I do believe there is some satire there and I have to believe he made this a segment on TV this time of the year was because he has become the person he wanted to threaten to kill in the Santaland Diaries. I can’t cancel him for this when for years I’ve thought Santa’s around the world and wonder if rubber hands smell like erasers. I just got his ‘best of’ book (accidentally in large print which made me feel old BUT I also may never go back) and I will continue to support. Although I completely agree his funniest stuff was his earlier stuff I still enjoy his writing and almost feel like we are aging together. Calypso made me cry and think a lot about aging and loss… and laugh. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  10. Lady Keller says:

    As someone who has worked a lot of service jobs, just NO. Entitlement is the worst. You want to be treated the way you think you deserve, then pay people accordingly. Nothing worse than people who expect top tier service from someone making minimum wage. Want exclusive treatment than pay someone top dollar to cater exclusively to you.

  11. allybakes says:

    I tried reading Sedaris a few times and just never got his humor or thought he was funny. For some reason I always think of Augusten Burroughs whenever Sedaris is mentioned, I have loved everything he has written. This is someone who can pull humor from tragedy. Highly recommend Running with Scissors, Dry, or Magical Thinking.

  12. lanne says:

    I love David Sedaris, and teach essays from Me Talk Pretty One Day. (kids LOVE Big Boy. A little poop humor goes a long way!). Satirists have it tough these days. Satire has to go full reductio ad absurdum (Eat dem babiezz Jonathon Swift) in the days of Trump, and in a pandemic, you CANNOT PUNCH DOWN. There’s no room for subtlety right now–these aren’t nuanced times. Love ya Dave, but do a better job of reading the room. And for god’s sake, don’t pull the “I’m just kidding” card. Especially not when people are using that to wink at torturing and killing people. Right now, he sounds like another entitled rich asshole.

    • Maida says:

      That is a really important point about not punching down with satire, especially not now. I don’t think Sedaris gets that.

  13. Amelie says:

    I love David Sedaris’s writing so much. To this day, I cannot listen to the audiobook chapter of “Jesus Shaves” from Me Talk Pretty One Day without collapsing into a fit of laughter. I think it’s even funnier for me because I speak French fluently and he’s describing how he and his classmates are trying to speak in French during a French class to explain the concept of Easter to a Muslim student who was unfamiliar with it.

    That being said, he’s far from being perfect. I did not like the way he portrayed his sister who committed suicide in The New Yorker article “Now We Are Five.” He mentions in the article she was sent to the Elan School in Maine for a few years, one of those schools for troubled youths that were popular in the 80s and 90s. You don’t have to look far to realize this school was a hellhole that traumatized the kids who were sent there (there are several Reddit threads about it). It finally closed about a decade ago. My Favorite Murder did a whole episode dedicated to this school and when I read the article, I realized his sister was probably so effed up from what she experienced there. David Sedaris wrote about it in the New Yorker article but it was clear he didn’t do his research on the school at all or show any empathy for what his sister went through.

  14. Leah says:

    When I was younger I worked customer service jobs and it was always people like him with an entitlement attitude which made things harder. Because of my experience I always treat CS workers with respect because I’ve been there working for minimum wage for bosses that treat you like crap and customers who treat you even worse.

  15. WB says:

    You clearly have never seen him perform. Everything he says is satire, especially if he brings his sister into it. You are suffering from 2020 sensitivity syndrome. His whole thing is making fun of disgusting rich, white, entitled Americans.

  16. Naomi says:

    Agree with Kaiser that *if* this was satire it was 1) poorly done and 2) NOT.THE.TIME. Aren’t writers supposed to know how to read the room? I can’t think of a WORSE time make a joke about citizens/Karens being able to fire whatever underpaid service worker displeases them.

    Also, like Kaiser I don’t think it’s a joke and he’s only claiming it now for cover. (just, like, um, a certain president who said he was being ‘sarcastic’ about injecting bleach in your vains)

    I’m so so so so tired of middle-upper class people punching down. It’s disgusting. How about we fire the asshole billionaires who exploit their low-wage workers (Bezos, etc)? That’s a citizens dismissal I could get behind!

    • Marie55 says:

      I just can’t comprehend how suggesting that a service worker be fired and replaced by a “go-getter” who will wrap tea cups and saucers in her own socks and underwear is not a joke? Again, I can admit if a joke has to be explained it’s not very good, but to me there is no question it is a joke. It is definitely clear tho, that it is too sensitive of a time for satire. I have no interest in protecting him, honestly, I just think we don’t need one more thing to be upset over.

  17. Krissy says:

    This is obviously a joke… It’s so utterly ridiculous and Sedaris humor. Wrapping up saucers in underwear?? lol.. Did you even watch the video?? Was this click bait?

    • Chrissy says:

      It was totally satire but it was poorly timed and tone deaf. I think the point is that his humor is now a bit more satirical hi-brow with a limited audience of snobs. I have had some unfortunate retail experiences lately but chalk it up to stress on all sides and I just walked away. His satirical “you’re fired” just comes off as white privilege.

  18. BeanieBean says:

    Oh, wow, just watched that. I read ‘Me Talk Pretty One Day’ and liked it, but this…no, just no. It’s not funny, it’s not satire, it’s not the right time, it’s just horrible. My mother worked in the service industry her entire life (waitress, store clerk) & I would listen to her stories about her treatment at the hands of horrible people like Sedaris. My mother was the kind of person you wanted at the checkouts or service desk–she really liked people (no matter how crappy some individuals treated her)–kind, caring, focused on you, smart, good at her job. Sedaris really missed the mark with this idiotic essay.

  19. Kat says:

    Weirdest twist of 2020 so far: David Sedaris is a Karen.

  20. GuestwithCat says:

    I really am not familiar with this man’s humor. I don’t know what to say about it. Is he poking fun at Karens? Is he legit being an entitled ass? I’ll leave you all to figure that one out.

    There is one thing that’s been bothering me, this whole Karen thing. I’m not referring to women harassing people of color. That’s plainly wrong and needs to stop.

    But the whole “I want to speak to your manager thing” does concern me.

    It makes me stop and wonder, as a middle aged woman, how do I ask to speak to the manager if I get horrible service? How do I take serious and legitimate concerns and complaints up the chain of command where they can be addressed? I guess I’ll have to ask a man to do it for me if I don’t want any part of the Karen label. Honestly I wish the whole meme or trope or whatever it is would die already.

    Working as a low wage minority (despite having a business degree) in actual customer service positions for several years, I have to say it was really, really rare for female customers of any age or race to complain in a way that endangered my livelihood or made me want to cry and quit. It was always the men (of all races and ages) calling for my head on a platter over things I had no control over, like computer systems going down or having to enforce policies I had no say in and would get fired if I didn’t.

    And one thing I have noticed from watching my dad grow more assertive as he got older is that members of both genders tend to find their voice in mid life and tend to assert themselves over problems and situations that they used to meekly take on the chin as youths. But men are never called names for finding their voices.

    I don’t know what has gone into the creation of the Karen phenomenon that seems so widespread today. But in my time in customer service I did not see it. I think it’s just another way someone found to scare women out of asserting ourselves.

    As for middle aged women, now that I am one I see how badly everyone wants us to be invisible. I’m so freaking excited about Kamala Harris. To see a woman near my age so visible and so important and so assertive means a lot.

  21. Poisonella says:

    Love him. His Dad lives down the street and I’ve met him a couple of times. He’s joking bt this is really not a good time for this.

  22. Ches says:

    This is CLASSIC Sedaris. Total satire. If you’re not familiar with his work, you might take it seriously, but this is satire.

    When I read his stuff, I hear his voice clear as day. I’ve seen him at readings through the years so maybe I’m just more familiar with his tone.

  23. Cass says:

    Are you really not getting that he is joking? This is very much his style of humour

  24. Deering24 says:

    1) For this to be humorous, Sedaris should have skewered the folks directly responsible for the lack of bags/the lifeguard left hanging without anyone to cover her. That means nailing the managers. 2) Comedy is about truth and punching up, not being a snot. 3) This piece lacked in all those departments and therefore was. Not. Funny.

  25. Atti says:

    I thought it was pretty funny. Its precicely what the «let me talk to the manager»-women AND men fantasize about.

  26. normadesmond says:

    WHOA! This is insane. I should go behind the counter & wait on myself?

    Last week, an idiot cashier put my tomatoes in the bag, then the 2 lb. package of meat. I said, wait a second, that meat needs to go first. She lifted the meat on its side, so it could fall on the tomatoes.
    She’s stupid. Wasn’t trained well or doesn’t care. I will always let her know.

    David said nothing wrong.

  27. Jim Steele says:

    David Sedaris is a total bull shitter. He says the most horrible things just to make folks gasp and clutch the pearls. Next week, he’ll suggest that some other group be killed and eaten. Or, something.