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Martin’s ‘new-age’ comedy delights, appeals to young crowds

Cassie Belek | Monday, March 6, 2006

Demetri Martin has some jokes and he tells them well. In addition to telling these jokes, Martin also plays instruments. He did both Saturday night at Legends to a room so packed that people were even sitting on the floor.

Martin, who is well on his way to becoming an established comic, excels in the lost art of telling jokes. While other comedians present lengthy scenarios with the punch line at the end, Martin, an observational comedian, presents a series of unrelated jokes like “I think the worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades,” and “Sometimes I wonder what would Jesus do for a Klondike bar.”

As a graduate of Yale University, he dropped out of NYU Law School after only a few months because he thought it was boring. He became an intern for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and later worked as a sketch writer for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Recently he has made comic appearances on “Comedy Central Presents,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Martin is currently the resident trendspotter for “The Daily Show,” which he has mixed feelings on because he said now he actually has to pay attention to trends.

Martin’s performance began with a short animated film he created highlighting “Lesser Known Mythical Creatures.” Then Martin emerged from behind the curtains and interacted with the audience before beginning his actual set. He thrives on spontaneity and improvisation, which was apparent as he pointed out audience members and made fun of them, even though he said he hates it when comics do that. Martin can take anything in the room and make a joke of it instantly, from a green exit sign to the name “Legends.”

Martin is among a new crop of alternative comedians who rely on a more aware audience to understand their type of humor. They break tradition by including short films, musical instruments and various props to create comedy that makes the audience think rather than just listen and laugh. They are breaking the rules of traditional comedy and younger audiences are there to embrace them.

On Saturday night, Martin played the keyboard and the guitar while delivering some of his jokes. During his keyboard segment, however, he seemed to lose his connection with the audience. One could almost picture him performing alone in his bedroom rather than in front of a large crowd. Martin seemed bored and tired, but revived the show later with his guitar playing in which he shouted at and called up an annoying audience member named James. It was a moment of intense awkwardness, but Martin turned it into one of the funniest parts of the evening.

After his set, Martin took audience questions, increasing the intimacy between him and the crowd. He spoke of run-ins with other comedians, including the recently passed away Mitch Hedburg, and he called Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart two of the best bosses someone could have. After answering questions, he took pictures and signed autographs.

Martin displayed his comedic talents to an eager and thankful audience. When he questioned why one audience member was recording his set, the young man answered that Martin was the best thing to come to Legends this year.

A joke seldom failed, and when it did, Martin was as self-deprecating as Conan O’Brien, displaying his laid-back attitude but also great confidence that the audience wouldn’t reject him. Students don’t often get the chance to see professional comedians in person, and Martin provided his brand of humor and increased his growing fan base.