Demetri Martin

December 7, 2012

I am Demetri Martin, AMA.

I do standup comedy, writing and acting. I have a new album and DVD out called "Demetri Martin. Standup Comedian." My next book is called "Point Your Face At This: Drawings". It's a book of drawings and it comes out on March 19, 2013. Ask me anything. I've also tweeted my verification. UPDATE: Thank you for having me on Reddit and asking me questions. Take care.

Could you please answer this question with a palindrome?

Tired nerd, I'd render it.

Damn it. He's not responding to any other questions because he's busy trying to come up with a palindrome.

Ahem. Is it I? It is I.. Me. Ha.

raises pitchfork menacingly


Ha! Nah...


He's ambidextrous, and he writes insanely long palindromes (Dammit I’m mad), and he can play a ton of musical instruments at once. Demetri, how do you accomplish all this? Would you consider it a natural gift or is it more of something you taught yourself?

i just spend a lot of time doing things that interest me. it would be nice to have a lot of natural gifts but i mostly work at whatever i think is worth working at. ladies?

And he went to Yale, and then NYU law school. He's practically a god.

at first i thought your standard for god-hood were maybe kind of low, but then i saw that your name is "lethargicwalrus".

You don't think he has a whole stock pile of palindromes ready to be used at a moment's notice?! You FOOL

i like that you think i have a "stock pile" of palindromes. that's very military of you.

Would you consider bringing back "Important Things" to another location, like maybe a YouTube channel?

i brought it back to where it started: in my head. and it's getting decent ratings there. i'm working on some other other things these days.

Will you name my new cat? You're competing with Ken Jennings on this, so choose wisely.

i name your cat "Ken Jennings". everyone wins.

I like callypgian.

are you into cat asses?

Hi Demetri! As a big fan of "Important Things", can you elaborate as to why it ended so soon?

yes. it ended for two reasons. 1 - i was tired of doing the show. 2 - comedy central cancelled it. so, it kind of worked out.

First off thanks for the countless laughs.

My only question is how long did it take you to learn to draw with both hands?

it took me the duration of a few flights. i was bored during a flight and i put down my tray table and tried it. a few hours later i could mostly do it. it helped the time pass faster on the flight. it was a little awkward because i was in the middle seat on a crowded flight.

Are you a genius?

no. i'm a gemini.

How old were you the first time you went onstage?

i was 24.


in what units?

How did you take this picture?

i have a small coin bank that looks like an obelisk. i took the top off it and rested my phone inside the open top. the change under the phone enabled me to prop up the phone to a workable angle. then i positioned my hands with the pens on the page and took the photo by using my mouth on the surface of the phone. i can't say that it felt great, but i got the photo i wanted.

What was it like working as a correspondent on The Daily Show?

it was fun. i got to write my own segments on the show and shoot and edit them with a producer who is a friend of mine (who still works at the daily show). then jon would come and watch the piece and give us notes. we would make changes according to his notes. then we would put it on the show.

Would you come back to do more segments if they offered?

i spend most of my time in california these days so that would be tricky.

What did you think of Toy Story 3?

haven't seen it... yet. boom. that is how i inject suspense into one of my... answers.

What do you think of artificial plants?

i have two. i like them. i use them as bookends.

You obviously have a brilliant mind. How did your family react to you doing comedy instead of pursuing law?

when i started my family was not interested in me doing comedy. and that hasn't really changed.

That must have been a really hard decision.

at the time it was a difficult decision. but once i realized that their opinion doesn't matter that much (or anyone else's) it became a much easier decision.

Who is your favorite comedian right now (currently performing)?

i don't have one favorite but two comedians i really enjoy watching are simon munnery and daniel kitson

What do you consider your best joke to be among your giant arsenal of jokes?

i don't think i have a best joke. it's all so subjective. but i know that my favorite is usually the one i came up with most recently that surprised me when i first thought of it.

How was it working with H. Jon Benjamin?

Edit: And/Or Flight of the Conchords?

it was fun to work with them, but kind of scary to hang out with them. jon benjamin is actually a cranky, dangerous old woman in makeup and prosthetics and the conchords are former wedding dj's from new jersey. they put on a good act with those fake accents though.

Hi Demetri! What do you consider your biggest break in your comedy career?

i'm still trying to find it.

Demetri, do you find yourself having to beat the ladies off with a stick? You handsome, talented, devil, you!

this has not been my experience. but i really like the tone of your question. you've got class.

This question was made for Demetri Martin to answer. We've had to put up with it for so long just so it could get to this point.

i would rather duck under 100 horse-sized fights.

What is your own favorite joke?

law school

Hi Demetri, love your work!

1). Will you be coming to perform in the UK anytime soon?

2). How was it working on The Daily Show?

3). Which do you prefer, acting/writing, or stand-up?

4). Do you have any more TV shows coming up soon?

5). I remember seeing a conversation you had with Beck, is that the sort of music you like? (Alongside this, playing instruments while telling jokes is an interesting concept - how did this originate?)

Thanks a lot!

  1. i hope to make it back to the uk next year
  2. working on the daily show was fun but each piece took a lot of time
  3. i love doing standup but i am focused these days on writing and directing a film
  4. the last thing i did for tv was a standup special that premiered in october on comedy central. it's called "demetri martin. standup comedian". when they rerun it that will be what i have coming up soon.
  5. my taste in music has expanded in the last few years. i like beatles and then a lot of other things, including beck. i started playing instruments while telling jokes because i thought it would be an interesting challenge to "score" what i was saying while saying it.

Does being Demetri Martin make it easier or harder to pick up chicks?


Do you have a favorite one-liner?

not yet

Hey! Thanks so much for doing an AMA. Who is your favorite comedian? Or rather who or what was your biggest influence in comedy?

before i did comedy my favorite comedian was steven wright. i still love steven wright but i have seen many, many comedians since then, so i don't really have a favorite. i mentioned simon munnery and daniel kitson in another reply because they are both comedians i really enjoy watching. my biggest influences in comedy have probably been steven wright, gary larson, bill cosby and my dad (who was not a comedian).

Do you get upset when people say "The pleasure was all mine." Aren't they hogging all the pleasure? Shouldn't they be sharing the pleasure?

i guess all depends on how you feel about the tense. is the pleasure renewable? the pleasure "was" all theirs. what about now?

Demetri, you are my favorite comedian. I loved "This is a book" (it lived up to the expectations of the title) and Important Things was a great show. I've also noticed that you're into some pretty awesome music. Since you were in Taking Woodstock and Fountains of Wayne's (one of my favorite bands) music video for Someone To Love, and your recent "interview" with Rainn Wilson where you quoted John Lennon. My question is simply, what kind of music do you like?

the beatles are my favorite band. in addition to the beatles i listen to a lot of other kinds of music. when i was a kid the first music i got into was hip hop (this was early hip hop in the 80's). since then i've gotten into indie rock, classic rock, jazz (mostly bebop), classical, electronic, mechanical, electro-chemical, people randomly yelling, the sound of a piano falling down a staircase, babies

"If I" literally changed my life. I was just a naive young man trying to make sense of the world, like a puzzle I was trying to solve. I had made huge progress on my own understanding psychology, the human mind, and the differences in the ways people perceive their world. Still, "If I" was an absolutely mindblowing experience for me to discover absolutely (as opposed to in theory) that other like-minded people existed. Not only that, but you we're able to translate your mindset and series of life experiences into such a genuine and entertaning show. I, just like you, am obsessed with 'figuring things out', mastering 'useless talents' and coming up with new ways to be a 'better person'. The difference, I think, is that what you do with words, I do with computers. I went in hoping to laugh a bit, I came out with a completely different outlook on my own life and an enlightened perspective about every other person on this planet, and their minds which make them tick.
There is this whole mind blowing concept that every single person on this planet has a mind as complex as your own, and the most unbelievable part is that you go through your whole life never really knowing anyone. Everyone's mind just has a different way of expressing it's complexity. Some people solve puzzles, some people make incredible art, some people are show exceptional empathy, while others do _____ with unmatched ______. (For those interested: Qualia)
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein
I don't really have a question, I am just ecstatic to be able to share this with you. Since "If I", I have followed everything you have done, and I hope I'll get to see more of you in the future!
I will ask this; can you re-arrange the letters in this sentence, man?
P.S. Here is something I made of you a long time ago. Perhaps you will enjoy it :)

thanks for watching my one-man show and the other things i've put out there. i appreciate it. i made that show before youtube was what it has become. i never intended or expected anyone to see that show who wasn't at one of my live performances of it. then i filmed it for english television (bbc 3). we shot it in the middle of the day in some studio in london with an audience they wrangled from passersby on the street. the crowd wasn't into it and the show did not go well. i was assured that it would only air a few times in england and then disappear. when it was first posted onto youtube i tried to have it removed. then it got reposted and i tried again. then i just gave up. i wish it weren't on the internet, but i'm glad that you enjoyed it.

What was the inspiration behind making "If I" and mixing comedy with philosophy?

in 2001 i got a deal to write a pilot for a sitcom for nbc. i went to la for a few months and wrote the script with two writers/showrunners i met through nbc. we wrote it, got notes, and rewrote it several times. after we handed it in i got on a plane back to new york. when i was on the plane i took out my notebook and decided that i would write a one-man show that i could perform on stage somewhere in the city. after going through the network television process i decided i wanted to make something that was completely unmarketable - something that was just personal. i booked a date for the show in a small theater in new york (the original ucb theater on 22nd street) and started writing, hoping that i could figure out the show in time for it's debut. that was january of 2002. i think i did the first performance of the show in july.

Thanks for doing this. Has visual art always been a big part of your comedy?

when i first started i just told jokes on stage. but the more i wrote in my notebooks the more i started to draw. when i was a kid i used to draw a lot but that faded away as i went through middle school, high school and then by the time i got to college i didn't draw at all. years later, thanks to the habit of carrying a notebook around with all the time for joke writing i started to draw again. and now i probably draw as much as i write.

If you could change your name to anything, what would it be?

when i was in elementary school i wanted to be named "mike" for some reason. while i think mike is a good name i'm happy with my name, so i wouldn't want to change it to mike or any other name i can think of.

Precisely how large is your nose?

it's as large as the amount you are trying to hurt my feelings.

Demetri, regular sized fan but enjoy your work and style a lot. What was the deciding factor to stop pursuing a, what seemed like, successful career in law (assuming you did) and become a comedian appealing to just about everyone?

when i was in law school i often woke up feeling dread about what i had to do each day. law school was fine and my grades were fine but i wasn't inspired. so i started to think about what it would take to feel inspired when i wake up each day - to feel like i'm looking forward to what it is i am going to do. the answer at that time was to try standup comedy.

I can't properly describe how excited I am that you're doing this. There's a question in this, I promise.

Firstly: "I is equal to all of the if's added up over time" has completely blown my mind and changed my life. That was actually my quote for my senior high school year book.

Secondly: Thank you for signing my shirt in Indianapolis last April for my birthday, which was a fortnight before your show. Also, thank you for signing my boyfriend's ticket "Get it together, man. Demetri (whatever)"

Thirdly: I hope you healed from your paper cut. I also hope you come to Louisville again (and not at the Louisville Improv...please. That place eats money).

FINALLY a damn question (or questions): After divorce, dropping out of law school, then doing comedy, having your own show, going on tours, and many other things in between, how do you like your life now, opposed to before getting in a job that makes others quietly laugh to themselves? If someone else wanted to get into comedy, what advice would you give him/her?

I'm crossing my fingers to be receiving "This is a Book" for Christmas. Lastly, thank you for being you. I wish I could send you a rum cake.

thanks for coming to my shows. i really appreciate it. as far as my life goes i'm still trying to figure it out. there are a lot of things i want to make and sometimes i get frustrated that i'm not working fast enough, but i guess it's all part of the process. what i've learned from doing comedy is that i tend to regret passive choices but i don't usually regret active choices, so if someone wants to do comedy they should get on with it.

Who cuts your hair??

her name is kana

Do you still ever bomb (get a poor response from the audience. I`m sure you already knew what that meant) at your shows? If so, how do you deal with it?

i write new material all the time and i try a lot it on stage. and a good amount of it doesn't work. when that happens i usually try to punch something that is smaller than me.

How much do you credit your success to your haircut?

what a lovely, snarky, passive aggressive question.

Why did you take a role in contagion? It was enjoyable to watch, nonetheless.

almost as snarky as the question about my hair. try harder.

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Lots of people think your humor is "too smart". Do you think this is true? How do you feel about people saying this?

Also, who is your favorite artist/band?

humor is subjective.

Name two foods that go well with neither chocolate or cheese.

this sounds more like a demand than a question.

Your jokes are the entire basis for my sister's sense of humor. We've never loved the "loud" humor of guys like Jeff Dunham and Katt Williams. Why do you think, for your standup style, you went the route of dry sarcastic humor compared to in-your-face standup? Do you enjoy both sorts of comedy?

Thank you for my favorite jokes ever. I will never think of treehouses, grapes, or straws the same way.

there is a woody allen quote that i really like. i think it goes like this: "the audience teaches you how you're funny." i've found that to be true. there are bits from a lot of comedians (who do all kinds of different styles) that i like. i don't watch as much comedy as i used though.

Any comedic inspirations?

the biggest is probably my unavoidable death

If you could fight any person in history, who would it be?

it would be someone who lives in a time that i would like to visit so that after the fight i could check out a bunch of things in history

If you were forced to permanently remove one flavor from neapolitan ice cream, which flavor would you remove?

i would remove the flavor that the person who has forced me to do this least wants me to remove

When will you be on tour next? Please come to Washington D.C.

i will next be on tour in the spring to promote my new book. it's called "Point Your Face At This: Drawings". it's a book of drawings that i've been working on for a while. it comes out on march 19, 2013. i'll visit a bunch of cities to promote it.

How is it possible for a middle-aged man in the 21st century to rock a bowl cut and not literally be heckled into oblivion?

it's possible because there are not nearly as many assholes like you as you might think.


no. no one really cared about what i was doing. i was having my own little crisis that went largely unnoticed by the people who were getting ready to go work at law firms and places like that.

Have you considered doing a show in Atlanta for the future, i would absolutely love to come out and see you. You're one of my favorite comedians, mostly due to overall awkwardnessisms on stage.

i've performed in atlanta a few times at the roxy, the comedy club (i can't remember the name right now), the tabernacle. i plan to go back there.

First of all, I think you are a brilliant person and are very talented and hilarious. I was wondering though, where do you get the inspiration for your jokes, music, books etc.?

thanks for saying nice things about me at the beginning of your question. i spend a lot of time writing, drawing and daydreaming. usually i try not to worry too much about what the ideas are good for. i just try to come up with a lot of them. then, when i want to make something, like a standup album or a book or a screenplay, i go through the ideas and see what might work. after that i try to commit to a few ideas and build on them.

What is the meaning of life?

for me it is to find meaning in what i do during it.

Hey Mr Martin - I just watched you on "Contagion" and wondered if you would potentially consider writing a movie script? Other comedians have had success with it, and you've got such a creative mind - what would it be about?

i've written and sold a couple of screenplays over the years. so far they have not been made into movies. so now i am writing a script that i plan to direct. i'm hoping i can get financing and shoot the film next summer.

It's a shame your show on comedy central was cancelled, because it sucked and everything. How has this affected your childhood and would you please never return to television again, thanks. You stay classy, America.


What was it like working with Jad and Robert on RadioLab Live: In the Dark?

i really enjoyed working with jad and robert (and with their producer ellen). it was fun, laid back and very collaborative. i hope to do more work with radiolab in the future.

Demi, what is the answer to all of life's questions?

the answer is long

Do you remember that time you hit me with a water ballon while I was riding my bike in the 12º weather?


Edit 2: Here's a funnier one.

hey. yes. thanks for doing that. you really made that shot work. i hope you are doing well, man.

Hi there. I am an aspiring comedian and try to ask this question to as many professional comedians as possible. Simply put, what is your writing process? I know that some people can just sit down and write jokes, and others can only write when inspiration comes to them; so what is yours? How do you write jokes?

when i started i just wrote when inspiration came to me. now i sometimes sit down and write jokes, i improvise and come up with jokes on stage, i draw and write other things and often jokes pop up... there are a bunch of ways i come up with material. generally i just try to focus on being creatively productive, whether it's jokes or something else.

You draw so much, did you ever want to be solely an artist or animator? Have any favorite cartoons/artists?

i never had that aspiration. i really admire people who do those jobs. i think it would be difficult for me because i don't have much talent in that area, but i do enjoy drawing a lot. some of the artists/designers/visual people whose work i love include matisse, picasso, paul rand, saul bass, alexander girard, tom friedman, saul steinberg

DEMETRI! I saw you live in toronto! You were awesome! Who is your favorite comedian or comedic actor?

i don't know if i have a favorite comedic actor but i really love watching peter sellers

"This is a book" is one of my favorite books! Are you going to write another one?

my next book is called "Point Your Face At This: Drawings". it comes out in march. it's a book of drawings. my third book will be a collection of short stories. that won't be out for at least another year. i'm working on that now.

Do you enjoy writing or performing more?

i genuinely enjoy both. if i do one for too long a stretch then i want to do the other one more.

You are my favorite comedian and I love you. Keep on keepin' on.

hey. thanks so much. i appreciate the encouragement.

If you could write for any ongoing TV show which would you write for?

i'm not sure. but i think the simpsons is a great, long-running show.

Have you ever been so far even as decided to use go want to look more like?


This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Demetri Martin conducted on Reddit on 2012-12-07. The Reddit AMA can be found here.