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Shout Outs to Demetri Martin

October 27, 2010

Oh man!  I’m beat today, and this post is an hour late!  But all for a good cause, because I was up late myself last night, meeting the subject of today’s shout-out: Demetri Martin.

This is the first shout out I’ve written for Premise PUNCH Tag where I got to personally meet the comic involved.  (Although watch this space over the next month, we will soon be adding more local Toronto comics into the mix!)

Thanks to an invite from friend and excellent comic Ron Josol, I was able to attend the after party for a charity fundraiser that Demetri and Steven Wright headlined at the Royal Conservatory Hall in Toronto.

I definitely managed to come off as a loser when I met Demetri.  Writing a comedy theory blog doesn’t feel that lame until you say it out loud to a famous person.  Then it feels REALLY lame.  He was super friendly though, and we had a short discussion about how about a year ago, he decided not to read about himself on the internet because he found the negative aspects outweighed the positive insight he might gain about his comedy.  So he won’t be reading this post.

Them’s the breaks.

Demetri also told a funny story about a fan who asked him to sign her arm with a marker.  At a later date, she showed him a tattoo she’d gotten over the signature to make it permanent.  Crazy.

Okay, that’s enough anecdoting.  I’m really tired, and time is ticking, so let’s move on.

Demetri Martin is getting a shout-out today for two reasons: first, he’s a hilarious comic whose work is both challenging and whimsical, and his outside-the-box approach to presentation is very innovative.  What first attracted me to his comedy was the application of deadpan logic to inherently silly topics.  One of the first segments of his that I ever saw was part of the “drawings I made” set of bits, where he delivers a mock lecture complete with visual aids, which are essentially elaborate one-liners.

This is a good quote about his attitude toward dropping out of school, and his parent’s insistence that he should finish out his degree as a back-up plan.  (Taken from an interview with website nj.com)

“…I said, ‘I don’t want anything to fall back on. That’s the whole point. Now I know what it is I’m after. I don’t want to waste any more time before going forward.'”

I also like this quote, from an interview with Brian Palmer, which echoes some of my feelings when first starting out in stand-up comedy:

“…I wasn’t with my friend or anything like that. There was no routine or community that I felt a part of. And I didn’t know anybody. I would just show up at the clubs, the open mics. It was very solitary…People are like, “Who the hell are you?” Some of the comics are clique-y and they have their friends, and their little scene. A lot of the people would kind of have a partner. Even if they weren’t a comedy team, they’d have their best friend in comedy with them, and they’d do stuff together. So I just felt very alone for the first time. But it was a really good opportunity to observe while I think, and better understand what I was about, without having any little comfort in that way. The cool thing was is you get the most honest lens on people when you’re really at the beginning of what you’re doing, because I think nobody really feels like they can get anything from you. There’s usually a second agenda in any interaction.”

By the way, I agree with a lot of this quote, but I will add that I have met a lot of kind stand-up comics who looked out for me as a noob when I had nothing at all to offer them in return.  I try to pay this kindness forward whenever possible.

Finally, a quote from the same interview about finding inspiration:

“I like to do exercises with weird things just to get my mind going, like reading the dictionary, or writing things backward; just weird stuff that doesn’t have a real point necessarily, like writing palindromes, but it yields something very useful and productive. And just the activity itself seems to be worthwhile.”

More Demetri:

These Are Jokes

Great stand-up album, one of my favourite things Demetri has done.

Television show “Important Things with Demetri Martin”

“If I” – award-winning one-man show at performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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5 Fun Facts:

1) Martin often employs his friends on comedy bits, including a part played by Will Forte on his comedy album “These are Jokes,” and guest appearances on his TV show by Ellie Kemper (who you might know as “Erin” from television show “The Office”).

2) Had a small role in Rainn Wilson’s comedy  “the Rocker” as a videographer

3) Martin considers Steven Wright a major influence in his comedy (It was really interesting to see both comics share a bill last night, sort of the old guard meets the new guard)

4) Martin had a cameo role in Flight of the Conchords’ first season as a keytar player

5) Educated at Yale, and was pursuing a law degree when he dropped out to pursue comedy

We’ll end off this shout out with a clip of Demetri strummin’ the old guitar:

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