Storyteller David Sedaris, propelled into the spotlight by appearances on the public radio show “This American Life,” will deliver the commencement address to the Oberlin College Class of 2018.
Known for his dark humor and satirical edge, Sedaris has authored 11 collections of witty essays and short stories. He is a three-time Grammy Award nominee for Best Spoken Word and Best Comedy Album.
He will be the keynote speaker as Oberlin students gather in gowns and mortarboards at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 28 — Memorial Day — on Tappan Square.
DeSales Harrison, associate professor of English and director of the college’s creative writing program, will present Sedaris with an honorary doctorate in fine arts.
“He is hilarious, but his work is much richer than a written stand-up routine,” said Harrison. “It shows brilliantly how humor can be serious in the deepest sense, alive to what matters most, and fearless in the face of the most dreadful adversity.”
In the annals of American comedy, Sedaris is “one of our greatest living artists,” he said: “While he appears to hide nothing of what it feels like to be a gay Southern expatriate, the deepest secret he reveals is his disciplined command of language, timing, and wit deployed as unblinking scrutiny of the world.”
Hailing from North Carolina, Sedaris is a 1987 graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and had attended Kent State University.
Ira Glass, who at the time hosted a local program called “The Wild Room,” discovered Sedaris in a Chicago club, where he was performing excerpts from his personal diary. When Glass went on to host “This American Life,” Sedaris became a frequent contributor, reading essays about his sometimes-entirely-made-up experiences.
He has since been regularly published in The New Yorker. Sedaris’ newest book, “Calypso,” will be released the day after his Oberlin College appearance.
The 2018 commencement ceremony will be the first with president Carmen Ambar.
The event will also include the conferment of honorary degrees to agriculturalist Cary Fowler, former head of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, a nonprofit that works to promote food security around the world; and Christoph Wolff, a German-born expert on Johann Sebastian Bach who has served on the faculty of Harvard University for 42 years.
Oberlin College will present the Distinguished Service to the Community Award to longtime volunteers Roy and Aiko Ebihara.