Think of Noam Chomsky and imagine if he was hilarious. That would be Demetri Martin.
The career path of an up-state New Yorker who graduates Yale University and then enrolls at New York University on a full academic scholarship to attend law school usually is not followed by a career as a stand-up comedian. However, it is Martin’s Ivy League intelligence and unprecedented style that are making his foray into comedy successful.
Martin’s approach to comedy could be described as sophisticated, extremely dry and practical. In one Comedy Central interview, Martin spoke of how he has been described as a “slow and crafty wordsmith,” and how he aspires to one day be characterized as a “fast and crafty wordsmith.” It is a deadpan line like this that gives a sense of how Martin sees the world. In one of his best jokes from his Comedy Central special, Martin tells the audience how brand names of food products affect his psyche.
“Sometimes I like to spread ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ on my toast just to be incredulous. When someone asks how my toast was I respond … unbelievable!”
Martin’s unique insight of topical humor combined with his vast education give the audience a small tutorial of the dictionary while simultaneously exposing humorous situations in everyday life. Another example of this is evident in one of his better-known jokes about bed attire and our tendencies to over-do convenience.
“I am glad they finally put pockets on pajamas. Before that I just held everything while I slept.”
Making the audience laugh in the least number of words possible, Martin is redefining the concept of the one-liner. Made popular by ’50s and ’60s comics like Bob Hope and Rodney Dangerfield, one-liners are quick-hitting sentences that are intended for a quick laugh and are often the subject of lowbrow humor. What is distinctive about Martin’s jokes is that while they are technically one-liners, the idea being satirized and how it is delivered makes the audience think while it laughs.
Now a well-known staple of the New York City comedy club scene, Martin is receiving praise from audiences and critics across the world as his intellect continues to spur innovative material. After winning the Perrier award for best comedy at England’s prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, Martin has been involved in high-profile media projects such as his own half-hour special on Comedy Central, a featured writer spot on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show and a special on the BBC network series “Comedy Lab.” He was also named one of the funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly. The overwhelming critical praise of his Perrier performance transformed Martin from an unknown comic to an international satirist.
Although his success in comedy came quick, achieving is nothing new to Martin, as the second-generation Greek-American grew up as an academic prodigy in an upscale New York suburb. After graduating high school as the valedictorian, Martin enrolled at Yale and graduated with grades that landed him a scholarship at NYU. While at law school, Martin became bored with the life of class by day and library by night and decided to spice things up. He began to neglect his studies and attend class in bizarre fashion, one time suiting up in a full gorilla costume. As his interest in comedy grew, Martin began to debate dropping out of school. His parents encouraged him to stay in school, but Martin’s father told Demetri to do what he was most passionate about. His father died shortly there after in 1994, and Martin then decided to give comedy a chance. What has ensued so far has been a remarkable start in the comedy field thanks to a perspective that the world has never seen before.
Martin is a rising star in the entertainment industry and, if he keeps up with his current pace of ingenuity, should redefine the stand-up comedy landscape as we know it.
Martin’s half-hour special is still shown on Comedy Central and more information on the comic can be obtained on his website www.demetrimartin.com or at www.comedycentral.com.