Funnyman Demetri Martin isn’t quite a household name, but between his 2007 special Demetri Martin. Person. and the cancellation of his short-lived Comedy Central series Important Things With Demetri Martin in 2010, the unconventional alt-comic was at the very least camped out in the front yard of public consciousness. Since, the Yale grad penned This Is A Book (which is a book), became an occasional Daily Show correspondent, and reprised his breakout special with 2012 effort Standup Comedian.
The heady humorist, who’s best known for his out-of-step intellectual one-liners and punchlines punctuated in notepad presentation format, stopped by a sweltering Pabst Theater to treat a sizable and emphatic audience to his latest batch of musings.
After former Important Things writer Levi MacDougall proved an apt appetizer with an endearingly awkward 20-minute opening set, Martin ambled out assuredly to a drum track that continued for an inordinate amount of time, much to the headliner’s synthetic chagrin. When the last cymbal strike dissipated, the crowd was Martin’s copilot for a winding, seemingly unmapped journey through the subconscious of the off-kilter everyman.
He started his 70-minute performance innocently enough, with a heft of bits about signage, one of which was centered on “making doors fight” by outfitting both sides of a double door with “Please use other door” signs. The cerebral set also touched on pets (or “animals that are not delicious”) being held hostage by a different species, with a revision of a lost cat flyer from the cat’s perspective: “Freed Cat. Doesn’t have a cute name.” Also included were quick and satisfying detours that ranged from soap scum, the notion of an uneducated guess, and what bird watching must be like from the bird’s perspective.
The published author and learned laugh purveyor took on numeric and linguistic conventions with great results, including material about some lowercase letters not resembling their uppercase counterparts. “q? Did P and G get drunk and have a kid?” Martin asked, before answering from Q’s perspective: “I’ll take it. I barely get used anyway.” He also proved how the word “nope” is a happy no, declared warm to be the perfect temperature of email regards (as opposed to “hot regards”), and lamented that people don’t say “yep” instead of yeah during sex.
Of course, there are bound to be some misses amid the tall task of distributing a heft of shorthand jokes in what appeared to be a random order. Martin’s Mars Cheese Castle riff—a seemingly requisite hurdle of any comic who’d driven up from Chicago—was half-formed, and even he admitted a joke about erasers (his second pencil joke of the evening) wasn’t up to snuff as the subtle sound of sirens loomed in the background. “Uh oh! The joke police found me,” he said. “He’s doing a joke about erasers? Get him!”
Yet the vast majority of jokes landed. A less locally pandering joke about cheese being a story of milk’s perseverance crushed, as did a Steven Wright-like concept of a balloon store’s grand opening getting way out of hand. After he got comfortable, Martin even dipped a toe into more controversial waters, with bits about black magicians being arrested for making things disappear, suggesting Jesus was the first scarecrow, and his plans to have a third date added to his tombstone. “What happened here?” he asked during the latter bit. “Holy shit, this guy rallied.”
While he, thankfully, kept his guitar and harmonica (crutches from past specials) at home, Martin did send the Pabst to the edge of hysterics when he returned for his encore toting his trademark oversized notepad and easel to partake in Important Things linchpin “Good, Bad, Interesting” to send everyone home happy and seeing the world in a different, decidedly funnier way.