Written for May 2008 issue of Massapequa High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Chief. Position at time: Features editior
Like many Demetri Martin fans, I settled in front of the television, ready to watch highly anticipated premiere episode of Important Things with Demetri Martin on Comedy Central, ready to think and then laugh. (Although admittedly not live—why bother with commercials when you can fast forward right through them with DVR?) Famous for his “nerd humor” with smart one-liners that need to briefly resonate before hitting you like a kid launched off a see-saw by a fat friend, paired with wide-eyed, dead-panned delivery, Martin and his “LARGE PAD” aim to please, and they succeed. Sort of.
Demetri Martin began his career in comedy behind the scenes as a member of the writing team for Late Night with Conan O’Brian, and in front of the camera as the “Senior Youth Correspondent” for his trendspotting series on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart is apparently a big fan of Martin as well, as he is an executive producer of the stand-up and sketch show with his company Busboy Productions.
The ambidextrous comedian’s strength is in his stand-up performances, which incorporate witty visual aids and the pseudo-serious uses of guitar, keyboard, keytar, and unnecessary bells. But with a 22 minute time slot, Demetri Martin is forced to develop sketches which often fall short of his usual standard and slow the episode down. Martin’s winsome and wry observations about the generally unnoticed ironic things in life seem to have a hard time translating into a sketch. Elaborate sketches don’t match his “less is more” quality to comedy, further demonstrated by the simple and clean set of the show and the poignant doodles and graphs which helped him become famous.
Each episode, focusing on one “thing” per show, has its fair share of comedic gems. The week Martin deemed chairs important, he brought back a series of short sketches focused on a yellow belt fighting various things. Gravity was the easily the opponent with the most amusing outcome. The first episode, “timing,” Martin pointed out: “Hey, timing is everything. That’s a cliché… now. But if I said that a long time ago, I would have been really original.”
A production company allows Martin to explore more ways to provide visual aid. The “LARGE PAD” upgrades to a touch screen. Overhead cameras allow Martin to make cutouts of letters which he minimally switches around but provides for maximum laughs. Sketches and animations can be intermixed with stand-up segments to further illustrate the weekly theme. (The mock infomercial for “Creedocide” sold me—when my house becomes infested with mice, I won’t bother with a mouse trap. Waging a rodent holy war and recreating the crusades is clearly the most effective way to be rid of pesky pests.)
If you’re looking to check out an episode, “Coolness” hilariously emphasizes Demetri Martin’s cleverly awkward uncoolness. (Let’s not forget Martin’s classic pearl of wisdom that cool is all in the leather sleeves.) In the closing segment, Martin asks a female studio audience member to help in his portrayal of a picking-up scene at a bar. All of a sudden Martin emerges, hopping on a pogo stick, whilst giving his best attempts at flirting, but he doesn’t get very far: After a mis-bounce, Martin sweepingly crashes to the floor, right at the woman’s feet, creating one of those amazing unplanned moments which makes this funny sketch even greater.
Demetri Martin devotees will likely continue to watch the show, as will I, despite any disappointed sentiments. However, Martin will probably have trouble attracting any new fans.
New to Demetri Martin? Keep a look out on Comedy Central’s programming schedule since Martin’s Comedy Central Presents show and his hour long special Demetri Martin: Person often re-runs—they’ll give you a better insight into the Harvard Law School drop-out genius that is Demetri Martin.
And will that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Martin witticisms (granted, one that’s school appropriate): Which one do “I wrapped my Christmas presents early this year, but I used the wrong paper. See, the paper I used said ‘Happy Birthday’ on it. I didn’t want to waste it so I just wrote ‘Jesus’ on it.”