This Is a Mop Top: Demetri Martin, 'This Is a Book'

April 21, 2011


Demetri Martin ditched law school to be a comic because he was drawn to stand-up, but he’s taking his new project sitting down. With writing gigs for “The Daily Show,” movie roles and his Comedy Central show, “Important Things With Demetri Martin,” on his resume, he’s trying another role: author. “This Is a Book” ($25, Grand Central) corrals his jokes, short stories and signature drawings. Martin visits Sixth & I Historic Synagogue (Sixthandi.org) Wednesday at 7 p.m. to talk about it.

Your act involves lots of visuals and sounds, like songs. How does that translate to a page?
Early on, I kept thinking about e-mail. I’m old enough to remember when e-mail was a really new thing. It was weird. You had to adjust anything you wrote. There was a period there of learning how to read it a bunch of different ways to make sure you didn’t send something confusing or do something stupid. You had to find a broader understanding of how a sentence reads. So in a weird way, the book was like that for me. I’d think, “In my head I know how this sounds, but have I covered my bases?”

Do you prefer actual books or have you gone digital?
I still prefer actual books. I like art books a lot, so that might be a large part of it: I like to flip back and forth or have a couple of books open at the same time and cross-reference things. Plus, I travel so much. On the plane when they do that announcement where you have to turn off anything that has an on/off button — I don’t have to worry about that with books.

Your shtick is pointing out the obvious. Why is that so funny?
I tend to like what I call primary source material more than secondary. I still like jokes that are based on things you don’t need any special knowledge about. You don’t need to know who a certain celebrity is in order for the joke to work. You don’t need to know about a certain political thing that’s happening. You do need to be a person who has similar basic experiences, like putting on a hat or throwing a ball. They’re easier tasks to deconstruct.

You lived in D.C. for a while, didn’t you?
I was a White House intern in the Clinton administration. I was in law school at the time, and I interned in the Domestic Policy Council. I lived in Georgetown. I didn’t even know what was happening when I was there, but there was this osmosis in D.C. where you’re just aware.

Are you mad Justin Bieber stole your hairstyle and got credit?
Not at all. I think my hairstyle and Justin Bieber’s might have overlapped for a short window, but at some point I realized that if I look at my haircuts for the last 10 years, it’s just some version of a haircut that someone in the Beatles had at some point during their career.

Written by Express contributor Stephanie Kanowitz
Photo courtesy of Grand Central

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