Demetri Martin mixes comedy, visual art
The stand-up comedian spoke at the bookstore Wednesday to promote his new book
March 20, 2013, 9:48 pm·
Katiera Sordjan | DP
When Demetri Martin arrived at the Penn Bookstore, he sat down and started reading a book about muscle-building in front of a crowd of about 200.
And students knew this wasn’t going to be a mere book signing.
Yesterday afternoon, Martin, a well-known actor and comedian, came to the bookstore to promote and talk about his new book, “Point Your Face at This: Drawings.”
This 280-page book, released two days ago, consists of Martin’s funniest drawings. In contrast to his first book, “This Is A Book” — which mixed comical prose and drawings — his new book packages his characteristic humor in the form of simple black-and-white sketches.
After warming up the crowd with a few quips about his dysfunctional microphone, Martin spoke a few minutes about his new book.
Martin, unlike many stand-up comedians, incorporates a wide array of media into his performances, including music and visual art.
He said that when he writes jokes in his notebooks, he tends to complement them with comical illustrations. Martin used the drawings from his notebooks and new drawings to create “Point Your Face at This.”
After briefly explaining the origins of his book, Martin used the rest of the hour to field questions from the audience, and then signed copies of his new book. Questions ranged on topics as a far-flung as Martin’s favorite jokes and music to his days at Yale University to his work on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
He also recalled some past experiences as an actor in films like “Analyze That” and “Taking Woodstock,” and shared his aspiration of writing and directing his own movie.
To some — including his own parents — Martin didn’t always seem like such a high-achiever. Although he received a full scholarship to study law at New York University, he dropped out after only two years to pursue a career in comedy. Martin pointed out that while then he didn’t care what his parents thought, he found it ironic that he chose a career that other people’s opinions could either make or break.
Initially, show business wasn’t easy. The 39-year-old comedian explained that when he first got started in comedy, he was labeled as “low energy and too cerebral.”
Martin’s career stories kept the crowd laughing for the whole hour. Students especially appreciated the chance not only to hear good jokes, but also to get a glimpse at a different side of Martin’s comedy.
College sophomore Josh Mueller, a long-time fan of Martin’s, said he admired Martin’s openness about his past and his career.
Martin’s unique talent for using his surroundings and a handful of oddball questions made for some really funny moments. College junior Will Seife enjoyed in particular the way that Martin “[used] the audience during his talk.”
At one point, someone asked him how he came up with his jokes. The resourcefulness he showed in his responses parallels his style of joke-making. He said he likes to employ obscure objects — including chairs, bed sheets and flags — to provide material for his compact, often one-liner jokes.
While yesterday’s signing wasn’t a stage for pre-written jokes, his explanation of his creative process was more than enough to make the audience laugh.