Folks, it’s A-OK.
I remember back in the day I would look up Demetri Martin’s material on YouTube whenever I wanted to get a quick laugh in before returning to the doldrums of reality. In my mind, he stood toe-to-toe with guys like Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, and Jim Gaffigan when it came to making me laugh. But after a while, I stopped looking him up and that was pretty much that.
Fast forward to 2015 and Demetri (I’m on a first-name basis with him) has a new standup special on Netflix called Demetri Martin: Live (At the Time). It’s the exact type of title you’d expect from a clever observational humorist like him and his overall material is very much the same way it was years ago. Heck, everything about him seems the same. Physically, it’s hard to believe he was born in the seventies. He still looks like a grad student and he’s aged the same way people like Paul Rudd and Halle Berry age – you can tell they’ve got some years on them, but you might have to look for the signs.
Demetri’s humor is the type where you never really engage in raucous laughter, but you never really sit in silence either. His entire act is almost like an opener’s act; there’s no storytelling and each bit comes and goes like a fart silently escaping from some pimply buttocks. It’s his enduring strength and his greatest weakness.
Part of me wants him to grow up and talk about his personal life. He’s been married since 2012, according to IMDb, and a guy like Louis CK would go to town on that (unfortunately – I find CK’s talk about his kids the most boring aspect of his material). But Demetri is his own comedian and I like to make the mean assumption that he didn’t release new standup material for quite a few years because he was sitting in his room trying to think of clever little things to say.
Don’t get me wrong: his material is original and funny but I feel like he’s in a state of arrested development. That’s just my opinion, of course, and I do feel like he’s a breath of fresh air; there’s only so much bacon I can take from Jim Gaffigan and Chappelle’s constant reliance on race/ethnicity is annoying at times.
So each comedian has his or her pros and cons and sometimes they overlap if they like talking about certain things. But if they’re comfortable, that’s all that should matter – you try to go up on stage and be funny and you might just end up like Sweet Dee Reynolds.
Live (At the Time) is quite funny, despite my petty complaints, and the only real problem is when he awkwardly talks about black people a couple of times. You can practically see the gears turning in his head, like “Oh, I’m gonna go for it… I’m so nervous… but I’m gonna do it!!” And it’s just uncomfortable. He doesn’t have the confidence of a Bill Burr to just say controversial things, even though what he says actually isn’t controversial at all.
And that’s another thing about Demetri: he is one of the few well-known comedians who sticks to completely uncontroversial material. He’s like Jerry Seinfeld, if Seinfeld had the guts to swear in his sets. That’s another thing where sometimes I wish he’d grow up and just riff about abortions or something, but again, it’s all about his own comfort zone and I mean come on – the guy has a Netflix comedy special and a very nice IMDb resume. I think he’s doing fine without my silly advice.
One of the toughest jobs for a comedian is being original and that’s one aspect where Demetri truly shines. Since the beginning he’s combined his funny and intelligent observations with music and physical humor and in Live (At the Time) his props are actually cut down significantly. It’s much more of a traditional set, although he does play a song near (at?) the end.
His Netflix special covers a wide variety of topics, with most involving some sort of wordplay. It’s worth checking out, even if he still acts like an amateur comedian… the guy literally says at the beginning that he has a lot of jokes to tell and just jumps in.
Good stuff, folks.