Log In

Reset Password
Cultural Events

Concert Preview: Playhouse Hosting Multifaceted Demetri Martin



Text Size

RIDGEFIELD — It can be said that actor, comedian and New York Times best-selling author, Demetri Martin has not only enjoyed a multifaceted career, his live act also presents unique appeal to diverse audiences that are as receptive to what he is saying, as they are to things he might be drawing, or even songs he might be singing.

Martin is bringing a night of stand-up to The Ridgefield Playhouse with his "Wandering Mind Tour," Saturday, February 16 at 8 pm.

Best known for his droll wit and deadpan delivery, the Comedy Central show Important Things with Demetri Martin, and contributing to The Daily Show, Martin recently earned raves for directing the indie film Dean.

In a wide-ranging chat with The Newtown Bee ahead of the show, Martin was struck by the fact that nobody had ever pointed out his live stand-up set could appeal to audience members drawn to the simple illustrations he creates for his act, as well as those who are entertained by the witty tunes he writes and plays on guitar.

And of course there are many who simply enjoy sarky or insightful jokes and observational humor that got Martin noticed in the first place.

While he has the requisite social network presence, his website, testing.demetrimartin.com is so bare bones that visitors may find themselves scrolling around looking for hidden pages, buttons, links, or other content that simply isn't there.

And that is where our conversation with Martin picked up.

The Newtown Bee: As someone who could identify with an 'over thinker', as you claim to be, I have to give you high praise for having the most basic website I've ever seen for a celebrity.

Demetri Martin: Yeah, I just really try to get to the point with it. It's probably going to stay that way.

The Bee: Does calling your upcoming tour 'The Wandering Mind Tour' infer it's going to feature mostly improvisational material that you make up on the spot?

Martin: Over the years I've improvised more and more, but I'm trying as I did with the last tour, to develop something specific. In a weird way, once I've worked out a show, it frees me up to improvise and it takes the pressure off in a way because I have a good hour of material prepared. It enables me to be more present and so I don't worry as much. In this show I'm trying to put a few more stories in there. I typically shy away from personal stories, and I get tired of telling the same story. With jokes you can kind of move them around in a set but stories take up much bigger chunks of time. I also have some new drawings, and I'll be experimenting with some other things.

The Bee: So the upcoming stop in Ridgefield is something of a Connecticut homecoming as a Yale grad. What was one of the most important things you learned at Yale that still serves you today?

Martin: That's a really good question, and I have kind of a boring answer. I changed my major a bunch of times and eventually ended up a history major. So I think from a practical standpoint, I learned how to write better. I didn't think I was going to do stand-up or pursue show biz or writing as a career. But I think I came out of Yale a more capable writer and communicator on paper. When I look back at what I wrote in high school, I was kind of shocked that I got to go to Yale. I also learned to live with other people. There were like six other guys, we were in Welch on the old campus, then in what's known now as Hopper College. I had a good time.

The Bee: What brought you to history as a final major?

Martin: It was a couple of things. My indecision caused me to hop around and take a lot of classes in a lot of different majors. But when it came time to settle, I saw that I had taken more history classes so it was a way to get me to the end goal. And I did enjoy taking those history classes. I also found history intriguing. To me there was something magical, not necessarily with the big sweeping stories about war and politics, but to study what everyday life was like in a more ancient time. Some of those courses allowed me to kind of time travel in my own head. There was something very appealing about it.

The Bee: Did that somehow inform or serve you as you began developing your own brand of observational comedy?

Martin: I think it was more the philosophy classes I took. Looking back, I often thought if I knew I was going into comedy, what was the point of even going to college and taking all the classes I sat through. But surprisingly, it was some of those philosophy classes where I was forced to write very economically. In some of those classes the entire grade was based on three papers, and your grade was based on how well you stated your argument. So every sentence mattered. And that's what I like about writing jokes.

The Bee: You mentioned jokes, stories, and drawings, but are you bringing the guitar along for some songs on this tour?

Martin: Yes. I can't do too much with it because I didn't start playing until I was 29. But I do enjoy it. I like to mix up what I'm doing on stage for 80 minutes or so. It diversifies the presentation. And it's more fun for me, because there are parts of the show where I can play and I can challenge myself — when I'm trying to talk and finger pick at the same time, it's fun to see over the course of a tour if I can actually get better at it. And the pressure of doing it in front of a live audience helps you develop a lot faster.

The Bee: What's brilliant I think, is that you can appeal to those in the audience who are musically inclined or who like live music, you appeal to those who think visually with your drawings, and to the sense of humor for those who really enjoy the jokes. Maybe that helps you draw three times as many fans to your shows.

Martin: I don't think anyone has ever pointed that out before, but you're right. And I have actually thought that out so it's really satisfying to hear you say that. I always thought with the jokes, and the music, and using the drawings, it really couldn't hurt to diversify like that. The jokes hit some people, the drawings make that part more memorable, and some just like the rhythm of the music. It hits different people differently and that's cool.

The Bee: Some may have called you crazy for not taking the audition you were offered for Saturday Night Live? But looking back, do you still think you made the right move turning that down?

Martin: That's something else I don't think I've ever thought about again. Because any kind of potential success I may have had aside, when I think about what I do, and because I had so many friends on the show that I could visit and see how they worked — it was easy for me to visualize what I might not like about being on SNL. I don't know how malleable I am to playing characters, and I'm not into topical comedy as much. I appreciate what that show does, but for me - the overthinking thing is true. I'm sure it would have been a challenge, but I didn't get into comedy to do sketches. I like the idea of pulling from my own imagination and finding places for those ideas to land, and then sculpting them into different things, however limiting that is. Plus you're a team player there, and I found out how the contracts are structured. If they want you for seven years, you're there for seven years. And I saw how some new people only got a couple of sketches the first year, and then a few more the next year, by then I just decided to do my own thing.

The Bee: You haven't done a lot of motion pictures, but I loved In a World, and really loved your role in Taking Woodstock, where you worked with Oscar winning director Ang Lee. What are a couple of the things you learned from him?

Martin: He taught me a lot — some directly, and some things I learned just being there and watching him work. I was pretty up close with him, and up close to the camera in a lot of my scenes. And I never took an acting class, so this was like a coup that I got selected to be in that film, and he believed in me. But he said early on he wasn't interested in the comedy that I did, I was there to play a character. He needed me to know my lines, to be well rested, but the big thing he said was, 'I need you to give me options when I get to the edit,' so when we started filming, he was asking me to make small adjustments to aspects of what my character was doing. There was one scene where I'm talking in front a committee in this barn, and it was a long speech, and we did a lot of takes and Lee kept throwing out ideas about ways to do it. Another time, when we were just starting filming, I remember him saying that people may think stage acting is bigger and film acting is smaller, but that's an oversimplification. He said there are always going to be times when I have to shoot wide because there is a lot of background ad a lot of actors, so I'm going to need you to do things a lot bigger. But when I do shots for the same scene where I'm zooming in on just you, I need you to do the same things, but smaller. But the thing that really stuck with me was, he said 'when I get really close up, you just have to feel everything as real as possible. The camera just reports everything you do and I can't protect you. If I'm doing a real close up, you just have to feel that.' So he was telling me that when the camera got really close, you really have to bring it, you have to be the truest form of your character.

The Bee: So what's next for you after this tour?

Martin: Well, at this point I have four hour-long specials behind me, and I'm hoping to do another one. So this tour is about getting that special together. And I'm excited because I have a bunch of things I'm trying to mix. Different forms and different ways of approaching the jokes. I've got a couple of things I haven't done before as well. That's what gets me excited about it. I get a live laboratory in each city I go to. And I'm always working to make the whole show greater than the sum of its parts. If people come to the show in Ridgefield, I'm hoping they leave thinking that it was really cool. I've done a lot of other things, but there nothing as magical as a live event. What I do really works best live - not reporting it but really experiencing somebody making comedy right in front of you. It creates a really unique kind of connection between the performer and each member of an audience.

For tickets to see, and hear Demetri Martin, ($75) call or visit the Ridgefield Playhouse box office at 80 East Ridge, call 203-438-5795 or go online at ridgefieldplayhouse.org.

Actor, comedian, illustrator, and New York Times best-selling author, Demetri Martin is bringing a night of stand-up to The Ridgefield Playhouse with his Wandering Mind Tour, Saturday, February 16 at 8 pm. For tickets visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Oscar winning Director Ang Lee (left) works with Demetri Martin (center) and Paul Dano (right) on the set of the 2009 film "Taking Woodstock." —Ken Regan photo
Comedian Demetri Martin employs his self-made illustrations as part of his set. He told The Newtown Bee in a recent interview that his Ridgefield Playhouse audience will see some brand new drawings when he hits the stage there on February 16.
Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply