Friday, September 10, 2010

Oldest Person in the Room was Still Laughing: Demetri Martin at Kent State

Last night I had the great fortune to see my favorite comedian, Demetri Martin, live at Kent State University. I've been a Demetri Martin fan ever since the first time I saw him on YouTube doing a video for a song called "Selfish Jean" by Travis. Almost completely by accident that same week, I caught his stand up special called "Demetri Martin - Person" on Comedy Central. I was hooked immediately.

When people ask me to describe Demetri Martin's comedy, the only thing I can come up with is "Steven Wright with props," -- and then I wonder if that's an old-person reference. Does anyone still know who Steven Wright is? I'm guessing most of Demetri Martin's fans have not heard of him. Why? Because most of Demetri's fans weren't born when Steven Wright was popular. And they packed the Mac Center in Kent last night. I was acutely aware of being the oldest person in the building. Even the people I was with, my husband Jim and my good friend Elizabeth, were younger than me. Despite the fact that Demetri's is closer to 40 than 30 (although he looks more like 20), most of his fans are of a generation that demonstrate their enthusiasm by getting tattoos of him on their bodies (I am NOT making this up). One such fan had the pleasure of showing hers to the entire audience last night at Demetri's request. But it didn't matter how old anyone was last night -- Demetri made EVERYONE laugh.

Last night was my third time seeing Demetri live, and he was as funny as he's ever been. I was happy to see that every time I looked over at Elizabeth, a Demetri Martin virgin, she was laughing out loud. He did all the standards: the "Large Pad" (jokes that involve visual representation), the jokes with keyboard and guitar, and some new stand-up jokes. One of the funniest things he's doing lately is showing the audience a bunch of flyers that he made to put up in the local businesses or coffee shops. The photo to the left shows one of these flyers -- it says "I can see you right now. Call me to prevent me from getting you" but all the phone number tags are torn off. These are not just props. They're witty props. And oh my God! You have to know how to READ. Maybe that's why Demetri is so popular on college campuses.

The mark of a good comedian, in my opinion, is one who can develop a rapport with each and every audience no matter where he is. Demetri does this right from the start of every show by surveying his surroundings and making jokes about them. Last night, upon learning from the Kent State students that their main rival was Akron -- whose mascot is "a kangaroo" -- he cleverly noted the absurdity of it: "don't they know there are no marsupials in North America?"

But by far, my favorite part of a live Demetri show is the last 15 minutes or so when he "takes requests" from the audience. People shout out their favorite jokes and he performs them. Seriously? A stand-up comedian who takes requests? Even Demetri looks surprised when people shout out jokes he may not have done in a while. He even screws them up once in a while. And then laughs out loud at his own blunders. Elizabeth loved how he sometimes can't help himself and laughs at his own jokes. And isn't that what comedy is all about?

1 comment:

  1. I don’t know about you, but every time someone mentions Kent State University the FIRST thing I think of is “comedy”. Well comedy and the memory of being 5-years old driving across the county with my family and seeing a sign in the window of a VW Bus that read “I survived Kent State”. Looking back I’m assuming that may have been a reference to a George Carlin show but I can’t be sure.

    The best part about being old(er) is now when I take my kids (teenagers) to shows I spend the entire drive home explaining to them how these current tattooed kiddies blatantly ripped off Cheap Trick, Pink Floyd and even Simon & Garfunkel (seriously). All the tattoos in the world can’t change the fact that when I close my eyes all I hear is Rick Springfield circa “Working Class Dog”. Try explaining THAT to your daughter.

    I think I’ll go listing to “Ohio” now.

    All the best,