The Everyman's Comedian
Finding Hilarity in the Ordinary
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 17:09
Demetri Martin isn’t your average standup comedian; in fact, his road to comedy is unlike most of his counterparts’. He received an undergraduate degree in history from Yale University, then followed his dreams to New York University School of Law.
While his first month of law school went smoothly, he explained that things began to unravel in the second month.
“I realized that I just wasn’t excited to be there,” Martin said. “Twenty-four is just too young to be filled with dread all the time.”
About halfway through his second year of law school, Martin decided he would pursue something he could look forward to in the morning: comedy.
In the 15 years since this decision, Martin has enjoyed one of the most interesting and varied careers of any stand-up comedian in recent record. He’s gone from playing six-minute sets in dingy New York clubs and writing for “The Daily Show” and Conan O’Brien to starring in feature films and having his own, short-lived sketch comedy show on Comedy Central, “Important Things with Demitri Martin.”
Martin’s comedy is sharp, witty and clever, and it reflects just how smart a guy he really is. Although he doesn’t use his history degree or limited knowledge of law in his day-to-day life, his college experience definitely helped him develop skills he needed in comedy.
“College was helpful in a way because I learned how to write papers and briefs. I had to work with deadlines and do my homework,” he said.
On Sat., Sept. 29, Comedy Central will be premiering Demetri’s second stand-up special, succinctly titled “Demetri Martin. Standup Comedian” — his first stand-up special since “Demetri Martin. Person.” The highly-anticipated special is sure to please diehard fans of this funny man. He presents his routine as pretty simple: it’s just him telling jokes. His one-liners are sharper than ever before and are supplemented by his trademark props: a drawing pad and marker.
His material is still observational, which he attributes to his time living in New York.
“When I lived in New York, I was a big walker. And just by walking around and not talking to anyone, you notice a lot more than you usually would,” he said.
For this special, he decided to pare down the act and focus on the jokes, which he feels are most important. There are no set decorations or fancy acting pieces with his friends in costumes, like there were in his first special. Instead, the focus is on Martin’s stage presence and his ability to deliver the one-liners he has become famous for.
The subjects he covers in the special are the same hilariously mundane ones we’re used to him mentioning, avoiding topics that are too serious or related to politics. He has always found politics overwhelming, even though he was a White House intern for President Clinton during the summer of 1996.
“[Working at ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart] was an interesting experience because Stewart would always talk about and stress the importance of relevance.” That experience has stuck with Martin ever since. He describes his natural state as more “irresponsible and disconnected from topical stuff.”
“I like writing stuff about dogs, chairs and trees; stuff that isn’t going to change anytime soon. I want to tap into stuff that has a longer shelf life and that’s more immediate and simple,” Martin said.
This is only his second nationally televised comedy special, but he does a great job of keeping his cool. Early on, he used to feel more pressure when filming and recording something.
“[Recording live specials is] a lot like leaving a voicemail message for someone since you can’t get it back,” he said.
What he likes about filming specials, however, is having access to the editing process, which takes a bit of the pressure off. His most recent performance was filmed at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City a few months ago, and judging from the audience reaction in the special, it did indeed go well.
Although Martin isn’t on tour right now, nor will he be any time in the foreseeable future, he is working on many projects. He recently finished filming a movie which he’s hopeful will make its way to Sundance, although nothing is for sure. He has also finished writing a movie which could be green-lit sometime this year. Michel Hazanavicius, director of the Oscar-winning film The Artist, is interested in directing.
In terms of television, this special is the first we have seen of Martin since the second and final season of his sketch comedy show “Important Things with Demetri Martin.” Regarding his first foray into running a television show, he says, “I don’t want to do another show like ‘Important Things’; after that, I’m not really interested in being myself on a show. I’m more interested in being a character.” He wrote a pilot for an animated TV show that, if picked up this fall, would mean we’d hear Martin every week.
Even if you’ve never heard of Demetri Martin before, then there’s no need to feel out of the loop or be disinterested in his new special. One of the greatest things about his comedy is that it doesn’t require any special knowledge. There are no complicated references or running jokes that an outsider wouldn’t be able to understand. Martin’s jokes revolve around human nature.
“Human nature hasn’t changed too much since humans have been around. Technology, content and daily life have changed at a much faster rate. At the core, human beings aren’t that different from how they were in Shakespeare’s time or in Ancient Greece.”
Demetri Martin’s new special premieres this Saturday at 10:00 p.m. on Comedy Central. His startlingly true observations highlight the humor in ordinary situations, making his brand of comedy hilarious for slapstick and deadpan fans alike.