“This is the worst comedy you’ll hear in the country tonight.”
Nice try, Demetri Martin. There was no fooling the sold-out University of Maine crowd at the Collins Center for the Arts on Saturday, Feb. 21 – the night was all laughs.
Martin stepped onstage shortly after 8 p.m., laid his guitar nonchalantly on the floor and launched into improvisation and apparently on-the-spot Maine jokes.
One audience member was enthralled with the sight of a bona fide Comedy Central celeb before his eyes – he couldn’t stop hooting.
“I heard there was a choo-choo studies major. This guy is acing it,” Martin said, setting the tone for the show. Conversational and comfortable on the college humor wavelength, Martin never missed a beat, much less a chance to spearhead an impromptu joke with the audience or a tangent of his imagination.
The 35-year-old’s half-hour TV show, “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” aired its second episode on Comedy Central last Wednesday. He has also appeared on “The Daily Show” and “Flight of the Conchords,” and starred in his own CD and DVD specials “These Are Jokes” and “Demetri Martin. Person.”
Martin riffed on the town names of Bangor and Orono before kicking in to his regular stand-up routine.
“Bangor. Bang. Or. OK, what else? Oh, there’s just ‘bang,’” he said, commenting on the city’s level of activity from a Manhattanite’s perspective.
The most specialized portion of the show for the UMaine audience was the question-and-answer encore with the entire house. Martin transformed mundane questions like an inquiry about his favorite food into humorous tangents. Fans screamed out to learn his middle name, how he traveled to Orono from the Bangor airport and if they could have his drawing pad.
“Holy s—, Maine is inquisitive,” he said.
The mop-topped, monotone Martin showcased his dominance of deadpan delivery, doubling its charm by occasionally giggling at his own cleverness.
Martin mixed up the routine with a drawing pad on an easel – his signature “Large Pad” – and a keyboard and guitar. The Large Pad included a graph comparing the thickness of a person’s neck versus the thickness of the books they’ve read and a list of the five best policies after honesty. Drawings and pie charts were also fodder for Martin’s drawing-pad antics.
“You can’t say duper without saying super first. That’s bulls—,” he said.
Martin is a logophile – a word lover. If he reads this, he’ll probably make a joke about the word logophile. No syntax is sacred for him.
“I don’t know what the long form of OK is. I wanna think it’s okie dokie. ‘I’m okie dokie. I’m a little shaken up, but I’m okie dokie.’ ‘The good news is, she’s okie dokie. The surgery went fine.’”
“I wish my name started with a comma. That would be so dramatic,” he said, doing an impression of the pregnant pause that would come before his name.
Martin’s routine favored abrupt or nonexistent segues between jokes. This style, rather than long buildups and drawn-out tales, lead to a colossal batch of one-liners and odd, hilarious thoughts in the hour-and-a-half performance. The experience was kinda like this:
“Tree houses are really insensitive. That’s like killing something and then making one of its friends hold it.”
“I like when people wear a WWJD bracelet, because it’s like an example of the first thing Jesus wouldn’t do, probably.”
“Wind chimes are also earthquake chimes.”
There was plenty of laughter – enough so it couldn’t quite fade before the audience was smacked with each new joke:
“If I were blind, I’d wear a blindfold all the time.”
That particular musing was set to a lengthy keyboard jam. Martin first played smooth chords over his standard jokes before offering a handful of themed tunes; motifs such as “Things That Rhyme That Would Be Fun to Do” – like “hide some croutons in an enemy’s futon.”
“I ate at Harvest-something today,” Martin sang, referring to Harvest Moon Deli on Mill Street.
Did he get recognized in the small sandwich shop?
“I think on the way out, I heard my name; somebody muttered my name. It could’ve been a coincidence,” he said after the show.
Another tune sarcastically detailed the painful activities Martin would prefer over waiting in line at a night club.
“I’d rather live in Maine without a car,” made the cut.
Listening to the crowd was like listening to a laugh track on “Seinfeld” – absolute silence, utter attention, then – bam – cue laughter explosion.
After the show, Martin identified Peter Sellers, Gary Larson and Steven Wright as comedians he thinks are funny.
Before the Q-and-A encore, Martin “closed” with a 15-minute routine playing guitar and spouting a seemingly endless stream of jokes while he finger-picked soft progressions.
“I think it’d be cool to see someone playing air guitar suffocate. How ironic,” he said.
Then he picked up a tape recorder. “Don’t ever say that again,” he whispered into it.
Awfully tough on himself for such a witty guy.CORRECTION:
An earlier version of this article misspelled Steven Wright's name as Stephen Wright.