Throughout this semester we’ve discussed how various authors have employed humor to discuss difficult topics such as racism, violence, religion, rape, and many other difficult subjects. For the first time, however, Amy Sedaris begins touch upon addiction, namely alcoholism. Her entire book is centered on ‘hosting under the influence’ and while this greatly adds to the humor of the book there is a fine line between tipsy hosting and blackout addiction.
One of the most obvious examples of Sedaris’ dealing with alcohol is in her chapter on hosting for the grieving. She writes, “It is also a good idea to have a wide assortment of alcohol on hand. Drinking kills feelings. Make sure that you crack the seal on all the liquor bottles ahead of time because mourners don’t want to feel inhibited about diving in.” (Sedaris 122). Sedaris is touching upon the tendency of people to drink to appease negative emotions, which is a clear form of substance abuse. However, despite this being a form of abuse, it is still considered a socially acceptable action. She even goes so far as to suggest that you open the bottles beforehand, so the partygoers can jump right in. Obviously, Sedaris is being somewhat satirical and anyone that takes her book at face value is missing her point. Yet, on the other hand, Sedaris is presenting viewers with commentary on the current alcohol culture in the world. Alcohol seems to be a form of escapism for people and the main problem with it is how readily available it is.
She similarly discusses alcohol in her chapter on cooking under the influence; however, she discusses the differences between current alcoholics and recovered alcoholics. She notes the main problem with alcoholics is that they don’t know boundaries or when they stop being funny. (88). On the other hand, she writes of recovered alcoholics, “They love to regale party guests with ribald stories from their ‘drinkin’ daze,’ which always makes me think, ‘I bet you were a lot more fun when you drank.’” (88). Sedaris is putting forth some very interesting views on alcohol and alcoholism and because of her tone it is difficult to tell how satirical she’s being, which I believe was her intention. Whatever the case may be, Sedaris’ form of humor reveals much about the current alcohol culture in America. Namely, that drinking to suppress feelings is a regular thing and that alcohol makes people more fun, up to a certain point. There seems to be a fine line between where the fun ends and the alcoholism begins. Perhaps by making her humor so difficult to decipher, Sedaris is mimicking this fine line between acceptable use of alcohol and abuse.