Submitted by Glenn McDonald — Correspondent
A drunk driver is very dangerous. Everyone knows that. But so is a drunk backseat driver if hes persuasive.
Thats just one of approximately 10 million jokes that the wildly prolific standup comic Demetri Martin has written over his career. His comedy style inventive one-liners, often paired onstage with visual or musical elements has won him a huge following among both general audiences and hardcore comedy nerds.
Martin previously worked as a writer with Conan OBrien, a correspondent on The Daily Show and star of his own Comedy Central show Important Things with Demetri Martin. Hes also written a book (This is a Book in 2011) and appeared in several films, including Contagion and Ang Lees criminally underrated Taking Woodstock.
Martin takes the stage Friday at the Carolina Theatre in Durham with an hour-plus of brand-new material. He recently spoke with the N&O about the new show, collaborative creativity and watercraft metaphors.
Q: So this is the first week of a new tour? And all new material?
A: Right, I just wrote a bunch of new material, starting at the beginning of the year. I hunkered down and said, all right, I really want to have a new act here. I want to get on the road with it, because its a bunch of new stuff. I might sprinkle in a few old jokes, but its at least an hour of new stuff.
Q: When you go on long tours, do you have any strategies for staying sane and healthy?
A: Yeah, I feel like I havent quite figured it out, but I do try to drink a lot of water. And not eat bad food. The sleep deprivation just happens you get whatever flights you can get. Im a baby, I get to be a touring comedian, so its not like Im doing hard labor or anything. But I think, since 9/11, travel really did change. What was already kind of tiring just became a lot harder. Theres more time and anxiety added to every transaction.
Q: You got into comedy relatively late, after a stint at law school. Were you into comedy as a kid?
A: Not really, actually. Its weird, I wasnt into comic books, I wasnt into comedy per se. A lot of the guy comics I know I dont know how many female comics Ive talked to about this but a lot of my guy friends who are comics, there was a lot of either comedy albums or comic books. I was into skateboarding and I was into puzzles, which is its own subset of nerdiness.
Q: Youve done acting and writing, just about everything you can do in comedy. What is it about standup comedy, as a form, that appeals to you?
A: The immediacy is very hard to match. You get accustomed to a certain feedback loop that standup provides. Over time, theres a certain feeling of experimentation, of testing out hypotheses. You have a laboratory, then the scale changes. You can be in a bar performing for 16 people, then you can be in a comedy club for maybe 300 people, then in a theater for a thousand or maybe fifteen hundred. So its never really one thing, standup, there are all these incarnations of it. For me, the high I get off standup is still trying new material and having it work.
Q: Your sensibility is so unique, do you find its harder to work in more collaborative projects, like film?
A: No, I really enjoy it, actually. I like being around other people and working on a film. What keeps a comedy career interesting for a guy like me is there are different ways you can take your sensibility. There are different things you can apply it to. Im not a boat person, but it does seem like the difference between doing movies and doing standup is like being on a battleship or a dinghy. When youre on a big ship, the ride can be smooth, but its very difficult to change direction. When youre in a dinghy, you have absolute control, but you get knocked around so much. You might not make it, but its your boat.
Standup is very simple and straightforward: Its microphone, person here we go....