Demetri Martin Q&A: The Comedy Central star riffs on relevance and 'Important Things'

Demetrimartin_lThis is a good time to be funnyman Demetri Martin — or a fan of very good jokes about very specific subjects. On Wednesday, Feb. 11, Comedy Central broadcast the first episode of Important Things With Demetri Martin, in which the onetime Daily Show "youth correspondent" dispenses humorous advice on a different topic — "Games," "Power," "Safety," etc. — via stand-up, sketches, drawings and music. The show was the channel’s most popular debuter since a little chucklefest called Chappelle’s Show in 2003. EW spoke to Martin about the advantages of being "a pretty irrelevant comedian" and his new "thing": serious acting!

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come up with the conceit of the show?
DEMETRI MARTIN: When I looked at my material, I realized that often I like to just imagine "things": a situation or an object. I probably have a higher percentage of jokes about objects than your average comedian. I can kind of write a bunch of jokes about an apple. I consider myself a pretty irrelevant comedian, but, if I pick a topic, then in relation that topic I can be relevant. It’s like, oh yeah, that guy examines safety!

I watched a couple of the shows being taped and I was amazed by how much of the advice actually made a twisted kind of sense. Like, "A pipe is better than a bong. Because, when you smoke a pipe, it looks like you’re thinking about something."
While making the show, I came to realize that there is a fine line between something that’s just truthful and something that’s a joke. And that some things are neither true nor a joke. Thank God for editing!

addCredit(“Martin Schoeller/Comedy Central”)

The show is produced by Jon Stewart’s company. Did he have a lot of input?
Jon’s a fantastic producer and editor. Even when I did pieces on his show, he’d come into the edit and say, "Yeah, it’s pretty good, but I don’t think you need that last piece of footage, and why don’t you put this in the middle and then try that?" And he’d leave and you’d always be, like, Wow he’s right. It’s almost like having a comedy professor come in and give you notes on your paper.

What was the hardest thing about making Things?
One of the hardest things I think for anybody is to sit in the edit room and look at yourself. You’re already humiliated by, like, ‘Oh, right, I forgot, that’s what I look like.’ Now you get to see yourself frozen with the worst angle of you face -– and with bad acting on top of it. You want to say, Excuse me, I’ve just got to go and kill myself.

On the subject of acting — bad or otherwise — you’re the star of the new Ang Lee movie Taking Woodstock, which is set around the legendary festival. What was that like for a self-confessed non-thespian?
It was exhausting. I worked every day of the shoot and Ang is a talented, focused, precise guy. He’d say, "Okay, so in this scene you’re going to walk to here and, just as the camera’s approaching, we need you to kind of turn this way and then give that line." You’re thinking, Oh, crap. But, in a way it’s good, because the precision of the choreography almost distracts you from worrying about your acting. You’re just like, Okay, I’ve got to make sure my head turns that way and then I’ll be sad. [Laughs] It was probably the best boot camp for film acting that somebody could hope for. I’m not gay, I had to play a gay guy. I had to kiss a guy, I had to cry. They did me probably the greatest favor of my showbiz career because they let me be something different than what I am.

Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • aymzer

    I like Demetri’s comedy alot, but his hair in that pic reminds me of that kid from the real estate show on Bravo…and it creeps me out!

  • Jason Breslin

    Well, that’s because he got a haircut and asked for a trim but it must have come out “Gay Beatle, please.”
    (Demetri looks like a gay Beatle, at the very least like a bisexual George.)

  • Catlin

    hahahaha omg aymzer that dudes hair was ridiculous and wasnt he like 40?
    i love his show too! so hilarious

  • Pleiades

    Funniest guy I’ve heard in a while. I seriously love him.

  • jacoblover

    I love you Demetri. Smart, hot, a huge nose, great mass of hair, and of course hilarious..what more can a gay guy love. I wish you much success with your show and i cant wait to see your movie. How were you able to star in a movie directed by oscar-winner ang lee and then play a gay so happy for your success..cant wait to see you kiss a

  • maxwell19596

    I caught the show the other night, and it was so funny I didn’t delete it after watching so that I could make other people watch it! The episode was about Power! note how the word power is more powerful when capitalized, and punctuated. Power!!!

  • Tierney

    Keep it up, your a crack-up, in a good way!
    Love your show!

  • Scott

    Can anyone tell me who Demtri looks like… from a show a good while ago… I think he was a foreign roommate or brother in the show

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