I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT COMEDY Demetri Martin

The former Daily
Show trendspotter and Conan writer is on
the way up. He’s doing it his way.

 

 

BY ED CONDRAN 

 

 

              Demetri
Martin doesn’t look or act like most comics. The slight, law school dropout
isn’t a high-energy, clean-cut performer with a broad grin perpetually plastered
across his face. The cerebral New
Jersey native is a laid-back performer with a
perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, who occasionally flashes a shy smile.

 

 

                But
Martin is undeniably funny. His love of surreal comic Steven Wright’s work
often shows up in his own provocative comedy: “I use this product called ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ because
sometimes when I’m eating toast, I like to be incredulous. ‘How was breakfast?’
Unbelievable.”

 

 

        Such
well-respected arbiters of taste as Daily
Show
host Jon Stewart and Hollywood icon
Steven Spielberg are thrilled to be in bed with Martin. The former catapulted
the ex Daily Show intern to
correspondent status.

 

 

         Martin occasionally contributed to The Daily Show delivering the
‘Trendspotting’ segment. However, Martin has been busy in the film world. The
former Late Night With Conan O’Brien writer sold his movie concept for ‘Will
to Spielberg’s DreamWorks, in which he will play a supporting role. Martin will
also play the lead in the film, The Moon
People.
Both films are slated for 2009 release.

 

 

     But the project
that could catapult him to another echelon is his forthcoming series, Important Things With Demetri Martin,
which will be produced by Stewart. The much-anticipated Martin vehicle debuts
on Comedy Central in February. Martin waxes about his Daily Show days, choosing comedy over law and why he passed on
auditioning for Saturday Night Live.

 

 

*** 

 

BLURT: Is the Daily Show the new comedic launching
pad?

 

MARTIN: It is just that. Isn’t it crazy? Jon (Stewart) and
Ben (Karlin), who is the executive producer, have made the show very relevant.
They’re a very powerful team. Relevance is as important as humor to those guys.
It’s just such a great show.

 

 You’re proof that an internship can lead to a
gig.

 I interned at The Daily Show back when
Craig Kilborn was host. It was an amazing experience.

 

 Is
Kilborn as smug as he seems to be?

 Craig was cool with me. He seemed like a
decent guy. Then he would do his (arrogant) thing on camera and you would see
him do that in the hall. The genius of Craig was that you didn’t know who he
was. To me, he’s a genuine puzzle.

 

 What’s
the difference between Kilborn and Stewart?

 Jon is a true comic. He toured and dealt
with hecklers. Before Craig did the Daily
Show
, he was from Sportscenter and prior to that he was a weatherman.
They’re two totally different people. I’m a comic so maybe I’m biased about Jon
but he is so great. He can make a joke work twice as well by just finishing it
with a look. He and (Conan O’Brien) have a great deal in common. They’re
both economical with jokes. They both understand comedy. If you come to them
with a joke that’s not working, they will fix it and you leave them saying,
‘why didn’t I think of that?’ They’re both great.

 

 You
were studying to become a lawyer but like Greg Giraldo and Paul Mercurio, you
left law for comedy? Why do so many comics make that jump?

 I can’t speak for the other guys. But
this is my story.  Unlike those going to medical school, there are no
prerequisites for going to law school. It’s a good place for someone who
doesn’t know exactly where they fit. You go to law school. You delay the decision
making process.

 

 So
the common denominator between law school and comedy is that you don’t
need prerequisites for either.

 Yes it’s true. You don’t need to have
accomplished anything prior to becoming a standup comic. We come from all walks
of life. You look at us and we’re all different. You come to a club and you’ll
see the big black guy, the little Jewish guy, the gay Asian guy. But we’re like
the United Colors of Neediness.

 

 Are
you more Greek or geek?

 I think I’m less ‘r.’ You can take that
letter out when you describe me. My friend’s dads were more of the Greek
stereotype than my friends. They had that machismo thing going on. But that
wasn’t me. I wasn’t that Greek guy you saw on television a generation or so
ago.

 

 Of
course you’re no Telly Savalas. You have so much hair you’re like a wolf.

 I have a full head of hair and I can
grow a good beard but I’m not as hairy as you might think. I don’t have a hairy
back. I can grow a thick beard but I end up looking like a terrorist.

 

 Will
facial hair become a trend?

 I think it’ll be in. It’s all cyclical.
Right now, it’s a way not to get chicks. I’ve found that not many girls like
beards. They’re like, ‘what’s with the beard?’ Guys are like, ‘cool beard,
man.’

 

 
 Is
that why you’re clean-shaven now?

 When I would travel with the beard I
would get ‘randomly searched’ all the time. But without the beard I wasn’t
searched. It’s the way the world is now.

 

 Has
your success helped you score with more women?

 I haven’t really experienced that
yet.  It’s made me more confident but I’m so damn busy that I don’t have
time to worry if a girl is going to call me back or not. I can see how people
get really self-involved in this business. I hope cute girls like me. When I
was younger I was really shy with girls. I felt like a dork.

 

 So
the girls weren’t impressed with your ability to tell palindrome stories?

 (laughs). I was a nerd.

 

 But
that was then. Who can be cooler than you?

 Exactly.

 

 You’re
so cool that I read that you passed on auditioning for Saturday Night Live because it wasn’t funny anymore.

 

  I didn’t audition for Saturday
Night Live
. But I never said that I didn’t audition because the show wasn’t
funny anymore. That was written but it wasn’t true. I have nothing but respect
for Saturday Night Live. It’s the
Holy Grail for some comics. The reason I didn’t audition was due to the fact
that if I did get the job I had to sign a contract in which I would be
committed to SNL for seven years. I
didn’t want to give anyone control over my career. That’s why I left Conan. I
wanted the freedom to work on what I wanted. I have friends who work for SNL and I can’t do anything with them
while the show is in season since SNL is all consuming. SNL would help me
as far as recognition goes but I’m going to do it my way.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply