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Comic Demetri Martin on Important Things 

Like trees, deserts and his yia yia

Wednesday, Feb 4 2009
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I used to get bummed out when it rained. But then I just realized it’s God’s way of washing away hippies. Rain is short for patchouli neutralizer.

— Demetri Martin

After dropping out of law school, standup comic Demetri Martin went on to a dream list of comedy credentials: writing for Late Night With Conan O’Brien, hosting his own special on Comedy Central and contributing to the Daily Show as a senior youth correspondent on trends (Xboxes were big in ’05, hookah pipes in ’06). Sounds cool, right, but if you were in high school, had Martin’s bowl haircut, and shared his love of palindromes and puzzles, you’d be a walking wedgie.

click to enlarge MARTIN SCHOELLER - Demetri unplugged
  • Martin Schoeller
  • Demetri unplugged

Martin’s humor is all about smarmy random observations that are both goofy and erudite. The way he sees it, if you can’t tell the difference between a spoon and a ladle, you’re fat; hiking is just walking where it’s okay to pee; and gays are greedy for adopting the rainbow as a symbol.

“I just think it’s weird that one group took refracted light.”

Martin also sings in a gentle monotone, as if he were in front of a fire ring at science camp, usually with the aid of a guitar, piano or harmonica. His weapon of choice, however, is a large white pad on an easel, on which he draws everything from how funny farts are by their location to breakdowns of Hummer owners and word jumbles (game, set, match = tennis; set, match, run = arson). Now, Martin gets to doodle regularly for Comedy Central on his new show, Important Things With Demetri Martin (premieres on February 11), which features skits, songs and throwing water balloons at passersby. We caught up with Martin in New York, via e-mail, to chat about semi-important things.

L.A. WEEKLY: When you approached the suits at Comedy Central with the idea of hosting a show about ... important things, what was their reaction?
DEMETRI MARTIN:
Well, I didn’t approach them about it. They asked me to come in for a meeting after I did a standup special on their network.I guess enough males between the ages of 18 and 24 watched it, because after it aired, Comedy Central told me they wanted to make a pilot for some kind of show with me. That was in the spring of 2007. Then, in the summer of 2007, I made the pilot for the show. After that, they watched it. Then, in October 2007, they picked up the show, just in time for the writers’ strike to start. That stopped things for a while. Then, several other things happened. This answer is getting too long. So, I guess a shorter answer is something like: “They reacted okay.”

Other than advancements in amusement-park rides, what’s important to you?
Trees.

How is the state of the economy affecting your spending habits?
Your question is interesting because you could switch the places of the words “state” and “economy” in the sentence and it would still be the same question pretty much. “How is the economy of the state affecting your spending habits?” Anyway, I am trying not to buy objects I don’t need or need objects I don’t buy. It’s all about switching and it’s switching all about.

When the price of gas reaches $5 again and we’re all unemployed, will you consider going back to law school? Do you have a Plan B, or any other letter in the alphabet?
Whoa, triple question. Here’s a triple answer: 1) No. 2) My plans are not in order right now. And 3) I have all the letters at my disposal (like these: temp job).

You were a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered in 2007, with your mother and grandmother. Does your yia yia (Greek for grandmother) think you’re funny now?
Yia Yia doesn’t find me so funny. Although, I think she’s pretty funny. Unfortunately, she’s getting a little cocky about it. She has too many TV credits now or something. By the way, I am the best person in my family, all around.

You boasted about always being voted class president and president of all Greek kids in New Jersey. Are you interested in politics?
What do you mean, “boasted”? What did my grandmother tell you? Despite my accomplishments in GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth Association), I am not interested in politics.

How did you develop your ambidextrous skills? And drawing?
I often try the things I’m bad at over and over again to see if I can get much better at them. I am not very coordinated, so I try to practice doing things that might make me more coordinated. (Note: I answered this question using only my left foot.)

How do you brainstorm or find inspiration for your comedy?
Like this: [Image not available].

You once joked about your dead cactus plant. Are you really less nurturing than a desert?
No. I am greater than or equal to a desert in nurturingness.

Do you like being called a hipster comedian? Maybe it’s the “gay Beatles haircut”?
Thanks for referencing one of the jokes on my CD. That reminds me, I have a CD in stores. It’s called These Are Jokes. It’s one of the best CDs ever made by me. It has sold well over 200 copies.

Would you like to talk about your upcoming film projects?
I would.

Do you think your jokes help you get laid or hinder you?
When you said “jokes” did you actually mean “musk”?

Demetri Martin performs at the Music Box at the Henry Fonda, on Friday, February 13 at 8 p.m.; 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (213) 480-3232

Reach the writer at sbabayan@laweekly.com

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