POINT YOUR FACE AT THIS
By Demetri Martin
Grand Central. 288 pp. Paperback, $12.99
Only a guy as creative as humorist Demetri Martin could get away with feeble titles such as “These Are Jokes” (his 2006 stand-up comedy album) and “This Is a Book” (his 2011 collection of charts, essays and quips). “These Are Drawings” must have made the shortlist of titles for his brilliant, zany new collection of drawings, but this time Martin went with something a bit more nuanced: “Point Your Face at This.”
The book is filled with Martin’s famously clever doodles and diagrams that comment on big ideas, like love and death, and smaller annoyances, like waiting in line. Some are delightfully inane, others are hysterical, and a few will stay with you long after you — as Martin scribbles at the end of the book — “point your face somewhere else.”
Some of his sketches play off ordinary words in unexpected ways. One page, for instance, shows a “Unitard” next to a six-legged “Multitard.” Other pictures arrive like punchlines, such as the two-bottomed horse labeled “Halloween Costume Miscommunication.” But he also loves the straight-faced comedy of mathematical diagrams. One simple line graph has a Y-axis marked “How Much You Think You Know” and an X-axis labeled “Age.” The line rises sharply at age 10, peaks around 21 and then plummets.
Martin once said that his jokes come from an obsession with “puzzles and taking things apart,” which must be the source of his wacky equations, such as “Lip Ring = Lip + Hole + Ring - Good Judgment” or “Spray Tan = (Vanity + Stupidity) Aerosol.” He’s a master at making us see something funny in the ordinary shapes all around us. Early in the book, he writes the numbers zero through six at the top of the page; beneath it, without adding, omitting or changing a single figure, he rearranges the numbers to form a person leaning on a chair.
A spare, wry cartoonist, Martin cites Gary Larson as one of his influences, and many of the sketches in “Point Your Face at This” would be right at home in a “Far Side” collection. One depicts a giant, masked “Critic” who’s about to kick a tiny, crippled “Artist” bearing a gift.
Martin might well be able to imagine what that feels like. But I doubt it’s an experience he’s ever had.
Wilwol is a writer in Washington.