David Sedaris
Contributed by Larisa Brooke
Why Arent You Laughing

The author sets out the title of this chapter as a rhetorical question for the various situations in his life. For instance, he keeps asking his spouse Hugh why he is not laughing when he is reading the author’s manuscript. The question is posed as if it is a request for the person to laugh in a situation the author thinks the person should be laughing. Sedaris recounts his experiences with his alcoholic mother throughout the chapter. He describes the severe conditions involving his mother in a manner that is humorous and sadistic that the author thinks the reader should laugh about it. However, as the sad stories are elaborated, they pose emotional feelings for the reader such that laughing at the author’s jokes becomes hard.

According to Sedaris, the question 'Why are you not laughing?' is like whipping a person and expecting them not to cry. The author has a sadistic sense of humor that he finds comedic, but to his audience, the humor brings out the emotional side of his experiences. This chapter also serves as a channel to let the reader into his personal experiences with his alcoholic mother. Sedaris recounts that his mother would hardly sober up and would never finish a day without drowning herself in alcohol. At one point, she requested that Sedaris brings his friends over for dinner so that she could catch up with them. However, she was already drunk by the time his friends arrived for dinner. The dinner was hard to get through since his mother kept stumbling and repeating the same story over and over again. The experience was neither funny or laughable for the author and his guests.

Sedaris talks about a television program on alcoholic people that he likes watching. The reality show features embarrassing moments for the alcoholics which the author hardly finds funny. He finds the state of the alcoholics as absurd as when his mother was also an alcoholic. Though he doesn’t find the program funny, he continues to watch as he finds that he can relate his experiences with his mom to the situations on the show.


In reflecting on the various experiences in his life, the author wonders, "why are you not laughing?” Once again, the author gives the reader a glimpse into deep personal issues. He reveals more details about his departed mother regarding her severe alcoholism. A deduction is made that despite the nature of his mother’s illness, the author and his siblings still cherished her. The author had a great relationship with his mother and reports that he and his siblings always gladly did what their mother wanted, even lighting her a cigarette. Sedaris seems to ask his partner several times why he does not laugh when reading his manuscript. The author is well aware of his dark and queer humor, and the question serves as a rhetorical question to Hugh and the reader.

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