After Demetri Martin left New York for California a few years ago, he realized the reason he does the thoughtfully silly type of comedy he does.
“I would go for these long beach walks, and bring my notebook, daydreaming and writing,” he says. “I do like going for walks and kind of escaping, which is probably why I don’t do a lot of topical material, if any: I just don’t feel as inspired by any of that. But it was this beautiful day and I was walking home and it was like the end of the day and it was sunset and there was hardly anybody on the beach. The ocean was on my left, I had flip-flops in my backpack and the water was hitting my feet and I remember thinking, ‘I’m gonna freaking die!’ I got all the distractions away, all the New York stuff that keeps me from worrying about really big stuff, so I had to escape into some stupid line drawings or jokes or whatever, because it’s just kind of too much.”
The tools he uses to hold his existential crisis at bay enables his audience to also stop thinking about their own mortality. His brand new book, “Point Your Face at This” is a compilation of these self-described “stupid line drawings” that mine a similar life-affirming absurdity as the “The Far Side.”
“I do remember, as a kid, Gary Larson being one of my first favorite things that I found funny,” says Martin. “I used to just pop into the bookstore and not have any money to buy books or anything, but I would just flip through a ‘Far Side,’ probably like a lot of kids, and just think how funny they were. And it was an interesting experience, looking at something on a page — often something without words — and find it funny. There was something so powerful about that for me.”
Martin is humble about his skill as an artist, however, saying he doesn’t think his drawing is on par with that of Larson.
“A lot of my stuff, I think there’s a simplicity to it, whether it’s by design or just the best that I can do,” he says. “It’s funny how your style often is really just the upper limits of your own effort. I know people who are kind of virtuosos and style for them is a different thing: It’s a conscious choice. But for me it’s like, ‘Here’s the best I can do with where I’m at right now.’”
Though “Point Your Face at This” features the sort of drawings that Martin has been injecting into his standup for years, his current show does not feature extra emphasis on drawing. He says although he likes to dabble in drawing, music and longer-form writing , standup is still his first love.
“Standup is so fun because you get immediate feedback,” he says. “You can think of stuff and improvise it right there onstage, or think of it earlier in the day and then you get to say it and see what the audience thinks.”