In cold print David Sedaris is witty, but to get the full effect you have to hear him speak the words aloud: no one knows better than he does how to wring every last wicked laugh out of his subtle prose. That’s why it’s better to hear Sedaris narrating “The SantaLand Diaries” on NPR than to read the story yourself. And that’s why even seasoned comic actor Harry Althaus, reading Sedaris’s work last April for Stories on Stage (a series of dramatic readings of prose works), didn’t quite get it right: he kept pushing things a bit too hard, overplaying phrases that were meant to be wry asides, not letting the words lead to the comedy as Sedaris does. Of course, Sedaris got plenty of practice in Chicago in the 80s performing his stories in numerous editions of Milly’s Orchid Show, at Club Lower Links, and at other assorted lit/perf/poetry slam events. His sweet, hesitant voice quavers just enough to transform a mundane phrase like “Macy’s Herald Square, the largest store in the world,” into a nice, solid laugh line. Sedaris returns to Chicago to present an evening of new material, including a story about a man trying to write a full-length play in two days and several two-person pieces he’ll perform with Althaus. At the Organic Theater Company, main stage, 3319 N. Clark, 327-5588. Monday, July 24, 7:30 PM. $25.00; $50.00 for preferred seating and a preshow reception with Sedaris and Althaus (5:30 to 7 PM at Le Cafe, 3343 N. Clark).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Karen Kuehn.