How did Sedaris take his experience–-attending a beginner's language class–-and turn it into a humorous essay? An interviewer once wrote that Sedaris's signature is "deadpan" humor. What is...

How did Sedaris take his experience–-attending a beginner's language class–-and turn it into a humorous essay? An interviewer once wrote that Sedaris's signature is "deadpan" humor. What is deadpan humor? Identify example of it in Me Talk Pretty One Day.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sedaris describes his experience attending a French-language class in which the teacher is nasty and insulting and makes it funny by using his deadpan humor. Deadpan humor refers to a kind of humor in which the person telling the joke does so dryly, without showing a great deal of emotion. Instead, Sedaris relates his insulting experiences without much emotion surrounding what happens to him; instead, he simply relates his teacher's nasty insults and lets them speak for themselves. He also uses nonsense words to stand for the French words he doesn't understand, helping the reader understand what it's like to be in a situation in which most of what is said is unintelligible.

Sedaris uses this same type of deadpan humor in "Go Carolina," the chapter of his book about his speech therapy. For example, he writes that his speech teacher instructed him to say, "'My speech therapist's name is Miss Chrissy Samson...Go ahead, say it. I want you to hear what you sound like.'" Saying this sentence was obviously torture to Sedaris when he was little, as he had a sibilant "s," but he relates his teacher's cruel instructions in a deadpan manner without commenting on how mean they were. He makes the story very funny because he relates it in a way in which the teacher's mean and silly instructions literally speak for themselves.