One-Liners, Many Lines

Comic Demetri Martin illustrates his droll wit in ‘Point Your Face at This’

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Like most kids, Demetri Martin used to doodle during class. “Then I stopped, maybe in sixth grade,” Martin says. “So my drawing has not really evolved very much.”

When he dropped out of New York University’s law school to become a comedian in the late ’90s, Martin picked up doodling as a diversion from crafting material for his stand-up act. “It became a game for me that’s really similar to writing jokes,” Martin, 39, says. “I’ve got notebooks full of drawings; some of them are jokes, some are just shapes.”

He started integrating easel drawings into his stand-up and his two-

season Comedy Central series, “Important Things With Demetri Martin.” He also included simple sketches in 2011’s “This Is a Book,” a collection of personal essays, short stories and one-liners that made the New York Times best-seller list.

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The former “Daily Show” correspondent had planned to do a book of short fiction next, but thought it might be worthwhile “to do a book of drawings between my two ‘real’ books.”

“Point Your Face at This,” out this week, is 250-plus pages of Martin’s simple line drawings. Mirroring his compact, deadpan stand-up style, each drawing reads like a one-liner. You either get it or you don’t. Then you move on to the next one.

“I can draw, if you want to call it, ‘better,’ ” says Martin, who will perform two sold-out stand-up shows at the 9:30 Club Saturday and sign books after. “But I like the simplicity of just a few lines and not much shading. … I like if there’s an emotion, or a joke, or an idea that can come across in just those few lines.”

Even though Martin had notebooks full of drawings to cull from, he started over almost entirely for the book. He even bought an old-fashioned fountain pen, the kind you have to dip in ink, to sketch the new drawings.

“And they just look like my [crappy] marker drawings — after I did all that work,” Martin says. “I will say there is a certain variation in some of the lines that’s kind of cool that comes from [the pen]. Even though it’s kind of subtle, it has a little more life to it. At least, I have to tell myself that since I spent a lot of time on it. I need those points.”

Outside The Lines

Beyond his books and stand-up, Martin is developing an animated series for Fox — about a family with a roadside attraction in the redwood forests of Northern California — and some film projects. First up is “Will,” a long-in-development screenplay with “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius at the helm. Martin won’t star in it, but says, “I wrote a character I think I might be perfect for.” He’s also writing a feature on spec that he would like to star in — and direct, though he’s never done the latter. “I think I might direct a short this summer so people don’t think I’m crazy,” he says.

Demetri’s Art

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Shapes of Things to Come: The book’s first page, above left, is a sort of table of contents. “It might also be a way to say, ‘Hey, I know it said ‘drawings’ on the cover, but lower your expectations — this is the skill set you’re going to see in here. It’s not da Vinci,’ ” Martin says.

Out of Order: This one, above right, plays with expectations: Ants have a strict sense of order and tend to walk together in a line. Martin thought “it would be funny if something went wrong and no one is in charge — just going around and around and around.”

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Simply Put: Some drawings (like the above left) are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s “The Far Side,” which Martin loved as a kid. “It was cool to go to used bookstores and just look for and at old comedy books or cartoon books” for inspiration, he says.

See the Joke: In this one (above right), you see the structure of the joke in visual form — you can imagine how Martin would tell it if he were onstage with an easel. “With the drawings, I get to cheat a little bit and … have that kind of quick hit,” he says. “There’s an economy to it that I like.”

One More Page, 2200 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington; Sat., 3 p.m., free book signing; 703-300-9746. (East Falls Church)
9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW; Sat., 6 & 10 p.m., sold out stand-up shows/book signings; 202-265-0930. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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