An Ivy-league Mitch Hedberg without the drug habit. It’s a description Demetri Martin is probably tired of by now, but it inevitably remains the best way to describe his act to friends before linking them to his YouTube clips. His reliance on stoner-observation jokes without traditional punchlines has allowed Martin to establish himself as one of college students’ favorite post-Hedberg comedians. After multiple appearances on late night shows and his own “Comedy Central” stand-up special, he’s on his first national tour and will stop at The Michigan Theater tomorrow night.
The road to standup started a little differently for Martin. Contradictory to the harsh childhood experiences and dysfunctional families comedians typically source for jokes, Martin dealt with the problem every college student has to eventually ask at some point: What the hell do I want to do with my life?
After graduating from Yale, he headed over to New York University for law school, but soon realized it wasn’t the best choice for him.
“I was not passionate about what I was doing, and I thought, I’m too young to be feeling this much dread to wake up and go do my stuff,” Martin said. “I figured it’d be better to change out early before getting caught up in it.”
With obviously disgruntled parents hovering in the background, Martin tried to decide where he could go after his already miserable experience, and began thinking about investing his time in an activity he loved – telling funny stories. With that, Martin was on his way to a new career.
“Jokes have always been a puzzle to me,” Martin said. That logic led to a distinct multimedia standup set, complete with projectors, music and an easel. Martin avoids the usual topics of family life and relationship issues, and his charm lies in picking apart the everyday activities most people take for granted.
Martin’s journey has been a long one, guiding him through the barrage of comedians each year attempting to make a name for themselves.
“It’s just really hard performing and to make living with this career,” Martin said. “It’s not like I’m a big act. I’m getting decent crowds, but I think I’m kind of safely under the radar.”
His exposure to audiences grew with a number of segments he filmed for perennial college favorite “The Daily Show.” After he was contacted by the show’s producers, he pitched them his ideas.
His “Trendspotting” pieces on issues ranging from Xbox to MySpace helped extend his full creative freedom and allowed for helpful input from Jon Stewart, who, Martin explained, remains very involved in the entire show’s content.
Though he covered the topics, he remained adamant that he isn’t really a fan of YouTube, despite its role as an online networking tool and a comedian’s publicity haven.
“I’m getting a little tired of all that stuff. I just want to go outside,” Martin said. “I’m from a time when people actually talked to each other.”
In addition to his career as a stand-up comedian, Martin has also sold a few film pitches and now is looking to take an extended break from the road.
He explained: “I can write jokes anywhere since that’s usually easy. But a screenplay is like a big paper. It’s much easier if I can just go to the library or work in my apartment than (do) all the things of a comedy show.”
Maybe he’s got a little bit of college student still left in him.
Friday at 8 p.m.
At the Michigan Theater