Thursday, February 19, 2009

My New Favorite Greek American: Demetri Martin

I must admit. When I learned that Demetri Martin is a fellow Greek American, I became anxious about catching Important Things with Demetri Martin, which premiered on Comedy Central on February 11. Would he be funny or stupid? Would he enter my personal Walhalla of Greek American demigods (populated by David Sedaris and Jeffrey Eugenides)? Or would he be, like most things these days, annoying? I finally caught the first episode and was truly amazed. Demetri Martin has a truly original comic voice, which I can best describe as minimalist; his comedy is smart and youthful (and what I mean by that is simply what I project into some of my juniors: cynical, dead-pan, retroactive, undramatic, almost humorless). One of the most innovative elements of Important Things is a simple and intelligent use of graphics, literally sketch comedy. I was also relieved to hear no ethnic jokes (like the Greek-American darling Angelo Tsarouchas). Martin's "Greekness" was invisible, although it clearly informed his skits on mouse "Creedcide" and on the ancient farmer tan.

Demetri's father was a Greek Orthodox priest. He grew up on the Jersey shore (Toms River), skateboarding on the boardwalk, skewering meat into souvlakis at his family's diner and being an altar boy on Sundays. He went to Yale (specifically to Calhoun College, which Celina pointed out was named after John C. Calhoun, the famous Confederate politician, whose estate became ... Clemson University). Martin's father died of leukemia while he was in college. After two years at NYU law school, Martin quit out of boredom. His comedy career flourished in a pedigree of shows from Jon Stewart's Daily Show Conan O'Brien's Late Night. His talents were first recognized in 2003 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I enjoyed listening to Martin talk about his life and particularly about his Greek upbringing, see interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air (Sep. 24, 2007, repeated Feb. 9, 2008).

For sure, you'll know where to find me on Wednesday nights, 10:30-11:00 PM: glued on the TV, enjoying the smart jokes and drawings of Demetri Martin's minimalist humor.

1 comment:

DNak said...

I love Demetri Martin too.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States