by Ryan Meehan
It’s been almost two and a half years since comedian Demetri Martin’s TV series “Important Things” graced the airwaves with its presence, providing analysis on many of the world’s pressing issues such as nature, safety, and coolness. But with television, sometimes the important things don’t translate well to certain individuals that are several jokes behind anyways. (Ask HBO if they are happy Louis CK’s show isn’t on their network anymore. See?) In that time Martin has been working on new material, which shouldn’t shock anyone that’s a fan of his general level of output.
A while back, I had a job where I was a wireless retail consultant at a store virtually no one came into. The bad part about it was I would have eight hours to fill everyday, but the good part about it is during those huge spreads of empty space I discovered a lot of really good comedy. One of the more interesting live shows I watched repeatedly in that time was Demetri Martin’s one man show “If I”, a performance that was taped at the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For those of you who haven’t seen that performance, it’s an amazing combination of standup comedy and wordplay that later won a Perrier Comedy Award. The writing and the live act, it was all a ten and he wrote a 224 word palindrome. Again, shouldn’t be unexpected from the man who taught himself ambidexterity.
The term “college rock” was always an interesting fragmentation of nomenclature for me. Of course, I’m speaking of when college rock really meant something – The early REM, Throwing Muses, and of course The Pixies. I feel much the same way about the genre of “smart comedy”. Truth be told I hate the term itself, because it implies that all other people who do comedy aren’t smart and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The term “thinking man’s comedian” is one that I am guilty of using, but I hate that as well because it assumes that someone who would have the balls to get up in front of a room full of strangers for some reason would have exceptional critical thinking skills.
Much in the same way that “Finest Worksong” exemplifies college rock, Demetri Martin is to comedy that is to whichever one of those bullshit labels you want to throw at it. He works quick, and has a constant flow of thoughts going at all times. The reason that the album and live show titles are so plain (Person, Standup Comedian) is because what you should be really interested in is what’s on the CD. His new album is available for download on iTunes on October 2nd, and here’s what you can expect if you decide to take it on.
ALBUM REVIEW: DEMETRI MARTIN – “STANDUP COMEDIAN” AVAILABLE 10/02/12
This album begins with Martin offstage introducing himself as himself. He sharply transitions into his joy in seeing the two seats the shortest distance away after a few brief jokes, and then really hits his stride. He discusses many questionable aspects of society such as people watching, silent letters, and hang-gliding.
Since most of this disc is very joke-to-joke, it’s difficult for me to list some of the one-liners that Martin uses, so I will just give away a couple.
“One time on my vacation I went snorkeling/surprise drinking a lot of water through a giant straw…”
“You can tell if you’re not doing well in life if you find yourself taking a crap while wearing a jacket”
“I’ve never seen batshit, but if I did I’d probably be like ‘That’s crazy…’”
Obviously I can’t tell you what the better jokes from the CD are because comedy that is quick and based on single thoughts is based on killing, so the first time you hear these bits they nail you and I wouldn’t want to spoil the disc. There’s a part where he mocks obesity by geographical classifications that I totally love and all the way through it gels extremely well.
Demetri is known for his “Guitar and Jokes” bit where he doesn’t so much sing along to the guitar as he just uses it as sort of a prop and an underlying coat of primer to his very short jokes. He kept the guitar and jokes condensed into one bit (it happened to be his closing one) and managed it very well making sure the jokes were effective. Some of the best writing on this disc is contained in this section, and collectively it’s the best track on the album.
To be quite honest, this CD might even deserve a higher rating than that. As I’ve previously stated, when you think of a 10 you think of Pryor’s “Bicentennial” or pretty much any Rodney Dangerfield album. This record is very, very great. I can only count really one joke during the guitar segment that didn’t go over as well as he would have liked, but other than that he owned virtually the whole set. There wasn’t any predictable material here either, no shitty jokes about the Department of Motor Vehicles or the many differences between men and women. Most of the ideas contained on this album are just that – they are ideas. They are either hypothetical situations that Martin has imagined in his own mind and brought to life on stage, or takes on everyday life that are apprached from a completely different angle. Although the title of the record is very generic, its contents couldn’t be further from that description.
If you go to Amazon, it shouldn’t surprise you that “people who bought this item also bought” Mitch Hedberg. In no way am I comparing the skill level of the two, I just think that there are a lot of similarities between the two of them. Martin seems to quietly own that room with material that isn’t trying to polish up a monologue for an unfunny comedian who also happens to be a movie star. He’s literally bringing smart back to an art form that was smart before he got there. He just does punchup to the extreme and just never stops brainstorming on stage.
The “If I” special that I mentioned earlier was done in a theatre. Which is weird, because he did it almost a decade ago when he was much younger. Now, he’s releasing a CD version of his new material as performed at a comedy club in Minneapolis. That’s an interesting point to bring up because very few comedians can make that transition in that order. In the Lewis Black review we did a couple of weeks back I pointed out how Lewis’ act translates much better to the theatre than the comedy club. Martin’s conceptual masterpiece was done when he was younger, and here he is now at 39 years old releasing a CD of material he did at a comedy club in Minneapolis. That shows a great deal of versatility and for that I have a great deal of respect for what he can do as a comedian.
MORE BOLDFACE PRINT
In true Demetri form, I’ll have you know that the CD comes complete with a poster that on one side simply says “Poster”. Classic. There is a full size poster of the album cover itself on the other side, that just simply says “poster” on it. Yes. It’s one thing to simply say “If I was ever a standup comic, I would do this just to mess with people”, it’s another to actually get incredibly skilled at your craft and then to actually do something like that. That’s the mark of a true artist that is not fucking around. If you get this album, I hope you love it because I sure did.
Make sure to catch the premiere of Demetri’s new standup special this Saturday, September 29th at 10PM EST/PST, or 9PM if you live in the Quad Cities area. And don’t forget to check out the DVD that also comes on October 2nd in conjunction with the release of the CD.
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