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Demetri Martin: Under mild surveillance

Demetri Martin, of the "Trendspotting" segment on The Daily Show, explains his quick rise in comedy, how it feels to be semifamous, and why he chose Austin for filming his next Comedy Central special

By Daniel Oppenheimer, Fri., Nov. 17, 2006

Demetri Martin produces the "Trendspotting" segment on The Daily Show. He's been rendered virtual by Microsoft at www.clearification.com, their very subtle webvertisement for the Windows Vista operating system. He has a new CD out on the Comedy Central label. He's writing screenplays for DreamWorks and Columbia Pictures. He's in the middle of his first national tour, and he's using the Austin stop on that tour, Nov. 18 at the Paramount Theatre, to shoot a one-hour special for Comedy Central.

When I shared an apartment with Demetri in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1996, however, he was interning at the White House and preparing to enter his second year of law school at NYU. He'd never done comedy, except informally.


Demetri Martin: Under mild surveillance

Austin Chronicle: Did you know, that summer in D.C., that you wanted to be a comic?

Demetri Martin: I knew that I needed to try stand-up before I left New York. I mean, there was a comedy club across the street from school.

AC: Do you remember the first time you got up onstage and did comedy?

DM: Bastille day of '97. July 14. In the Village, at the Boston Comedy Club. I got laughs on six jokes, and I did 12. I was thrilled.

AC: Do you remember any of the jokes you told?

DM: My first night I did something about being a bad liar. Not that I lied badly, but that I picked bad topics to lie about. Somebody would ask, "What time is it?" I'd say, "5:30." Or, "Do you like ponies?" "No."

There's one I remember from the first month: "I was riding an escalator the other day, and I tripped. I fell down the stairs for an hour and a half."

AC: It seems as if you made it pretty quickly. Does it feel that way?

DM: I did my first Conan O'Brien spot after two years. I was on Letterman after four years. That's pretty fast in comedy terms, but it was still a gradual process. "Making it" is such a weird idea; it's hard to define. The easiest definition I have is that you've made it when you don't have to have another job. I finally left my last day job in 2003.

AC: What does being famous, or semifamous, feel like?

DM: It feels like being under mild surveillance. I remember one time I went down to meet Eugene [Mirman] down at Veselka, which is a Polish diner near where I live, and I'd been painting all day, and it was really hot, so I was wearing a bathing suit. So I went to dinner in a bathing suit, a T-shirt, and sandals. A few days later I was online, and I found some girl in her blog wrote that she saw me and that I was "wearing suspiciously short shorts." So now all of the sudden I'm gay. So that's what it feels like being mildly famous.

AC: Why did you choose Austin to shoot your Comedy Central special?

DM: I've only done one show in Austin, but it was one of the best crowds I ever had. I think it was two summers ago, and I played the small room at Emo's, and it was great. I often have crushes on girls from Texas. A lot of the girls I've had crushes on in my life, it turns out they're from Texas – but that's not why I'm doing the special in Austin.

AC: Any jokes you've written recently that you can share?

DM: I just did a drawing. It's of a flashlight and a vampire, and underneath it says, "Both of these are ineffective in the day time."


Demetri Martin performs Saturday, Nov. 18, 7 & 9:30pm, at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress. For more information, call 866/4GET-TIX, or visit www.austintheatre.org.

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