Demetri Martin is a Yale grad, a law school dropout, a successful comedian, and a person.
The star of Comedy Central’s “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” (recognizable in part for his use of drawing and music in routines) just released a new comedy LP: “Demetri Martin: Stand-up Comedian,” in both album and DVD format.
In addition, Martin is currently developing an animated pilot for Fox and working his way through a screenplay that’s been in the works for years. When asked about reviving “Important Things,” which was basically just televised stand-up, Martin replied, “I’m not really interested in doing a show where I play myself.”
Despite his comedic reputation, Martin is a fairly soft-spoken east coaster who isn’t always searching for the big laughs.
“I would say I’m a joke teller, mostly, and lots of people meet me and they’re like ‘You’re Demetri? You’re not joking around, aren’t you funny?’ and I just say ‘thank you.’”
Raised in New Jersey, Martin described himself as “always worrying” about grades, especially at Yale and his stint at law school.
“Sometimes I think, ‘Oh man, if I knew I was going to be a comedian when I’ve done all that, why worry about my grades, my LSATs, and getting into law school and all that stuff?’” Martin asked. “Some fairy could have come from the future and been like, ‘You’re Demetri? You’re wasting your time in the library. What are you doing? You’re gonna tell fart jokes, like you don’t have to do all this shit.’”
After a year and a half of law school, which Martin says he found uninspiring and draining, he quit.
“It was when you first wake up in the morning, that feeling of excitement, anticipation, or is it dread—you know whatever it is you do that day—how is it making you feel? In law school, it was dread; oh man, I don’t wanna do this,” he said.
With that in mind, he sought out a job that he’d wake up excited about, and began a career in comedy.
One key to developing his stand-up was ensuring he had another source of income. “If you can make some money separately, then you can develop your creative career without having to worry about making creative decisions based on money.”
Often wry, Martin relies on a deadpan sense of humor that draws from everyday life, saying that most of his jokes are written when he goes on long walks.
“I like writing stuff that’s about, like, dogs or chairs or trees—you know, stuff that’s not gonna change too much anytime soon.”
A one-time White House intern, Martin steers away from politics, which he called “disillusioning.”
“I don’t naturally gravitate to politics. It’s something that I find kind of funny and overwhelming and frustrating,” he said. “Working at ‘The Daily Show’ when I did was an interesting experience because Jon Stewart used to talk about relevance, so that was cool, a kind of course in that for me. But I think my natural state is more irresponsible and disconnected from topical stuff.”
However, the lack of temporal specificity in his jokes also means that they don’t suffer from the same short half-life as the “topical” jokes.
“A couple years ago ... there was a story about archeologists who found what looked like an ancient joke book,” Martin said. “There were, like, fat jokes, and ugly wife jokes, and fart jokes. They weren’t all great jokes, but I was like ‘Wow, things haven’t changed that much.’”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that “Important Things with Demetri Martin" airs on HBO. The program appears on Comedy Central. Spectator regrets the error.