Review: Demitri Martin This Is A Book Tour

Posted on 06 September 2011

Demitri began his comedy career in 1997 doing standup gigs at various clubs. His big break came in 2001 when he appeared on Comedy Central’s stand-up showcase Premium Blend. In 2003 he won the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Perrier award and in 2006 won Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Award. It’s good to see a timeline, since it illustrates the common experience that it takes around five years for a comedian to find themselves and establish a good working relationship with the audience.

Demitri certainly had a good relationship with his audience the night I went to see his show at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. He impresses me as a comedy introvert. These are people who aren’t in your face. Their stage presence is unassuming, but their material and delivery still produces the laughs. People such as Steven Wright, Emo Phillips, and Garrison Keillor are all comedy introverts.

Many comedy instructors will insist an extravert persona is the only one that will sell to an audience. Certainly many favourites have been exceptionally “booyah”. Robin Williams and Jim Carrey come to mind. I too prefer a hyper-active monkey over an acerbic wit. And yet something can be said for humour that can be savoured, perhaps even heard with relish more than once.

Demitri brings charm and ingenuousness to the stage. I felt like I was engaging with a real human being, and not just a goofy persona. When someone asked Demitri how his family felt about his career, he spoke with an honesty that reflected his feelings of frustration and disappointment, and still found something funny in it all.

He provided a real lesson in how to use comedy to cope, rather than using it to vent spleen. To his parents’s accusatory question, “Do you think you’re better than us?” He responded, “Mom, Dad, I tell fart jokes for a living.”

This tour he chose to experiment with doing more improvisation. A brave decision, one I think he should continue to pursue. He was a little rough in the beginning. In fact he was so shy in his offer to answer questions that the audience was equally shy in responding, but in the end he delivered something intimate and memorable.

The sort of material for which he is most recognised, as seen in his TV show Important Things with Demitri Martin, was all there: his drawing pad, the crazy lists, numerous musical instruments, and a stream of non sequitur one-liners.

The funny thing about his material is that it all seemed equally charming because of his delivery style. And yet, some of the humour was quite dark, people just didn’t take it as such. His intent was clearly light-hearted, and so these remarks just seemed absurd or ironic. I think many of the Muppeteers have forgotten this about Jim Henson’s work with Kermit. Kermit wasn’t all sweetness and light, you just felt that way about him, because you could see the bigger picture.

I left the theatre that night going nuts thinking, this is the kind of comedy I want to do. Comedy that is gently real, that doesn’t shrink from humanity and yet still sparkles. Granted Demitri was more in the realm of one-liners and I would like to do more storytelling, but that feeling of happy geniality at the end of a good show…that’s priceless. The Henson people really should be hiring Demitri Martin to write their stuff. His sensibility is spot on. Go see his show if you have the chance, he’s a treasure.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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