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Demetri Martin's all smart 'n' SICK

photo courtesy of DEMETRI MARTIN
Demetri Martin - The comedian, a former writer for Conan O'Brien, has won awards at some of the world's biggest comedy festivals. He will headline the 13th annual SICK festival tomorrow night.
By Andi Berlin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 28, 2005
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Finish this sentence: "Someone who goes to Yale and then later drops out of law school to become a comedian ..."

Is conspicuously omitted from the family holiday newsletter?

Has their senior-year portrait taken off grandma's mantelpiece?

Is named Demetri Martin, host of Friday's SICK Festival, a comedy show featuring UA and Arizona State University improvisation groups?

"My mom really didn't think it was a good idea," Martin said of his decision to give up his full-ride scholarship to New York University law school six years ago and pursue comedy. "She was like, 'Just get the degree.' I didn't have anybody encouraging me, but I still say my worst day doing comedy is better than my best day was in law school."

After spending a few years working as a proofreader and a temp by day and making a name for himself in the New York City comedy scene at night, he became a writer at "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" in 2003.

Though he left the show in September, Martin is in the process of developing an NBC sitcom with O'Brien as a producer.

"I play a young math professor at a community college and I solve like, a 100-year-old unsolved problem and it ruins my life," Martin joked. "No. Actually, the show is about me as a participatory journalist, like when a journalist gets completely immersed in whatever they're working on, living in Brooklyn. And I just pitch stories like, 'Yeah, this story's about street skiing,' and then I go and actually do it."

Though the veracity of the second plot synopsis may also be questionable, Martin is certain that his being a comedian was meant to be.

"When you can do a job that you love," Marin said, "and you have money to live without necessarily having a career, it's so liberating."

After winning both the 2003 Jury Award at the Aspen Comedy Festival and the 2003 Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, a recognition marking the comedy world's crème de la crème, Martin may have found his niche in comedy, even if loved ones weren't sure he would.

"It's weird to be in a situation where everyone is telling you to do one thing and you're telling yourself to do the opposite," said Martin, who studied juvenile rights in NYU's public interest program.

Martin said he still believes in the issues he wanted to work on as a lawyer but thinks his time in school was spent portraying a character of who he felt he should be, and not who comedy allows him to truly be.

"I had a total reality check," said Martin "I realized the character of Demetri Martin would go do pro bono law stuff, but the real Demetri just wants to write a joke about a fire hydrant or a couch."

And it's Martin's subtle one-liner delivery that allows humor to blossom from seemingly ordinary objects, like fire hydrants and couches.

"I don't know why, but I've always gravitated toward simple, incremental things," Martin said. "I tend to think of jokes in a series, or like bricks that you can stack up. I've been trying lately to do longer jokes, or tell more stories, but I always come back to the fewest words possible."

He said even though he's performed the same routine hundreds of times, he still laughs at his own jokes during his sets, even when they're met with silence from the audience.

"I've been on stage so many times, and bombed so many times, that that in itself can be funny to me," Martin said. "And then certain things, for whatever reason, remain funny to me, like when I visualize the scene of the joke I'm telling. For example, it's like watching a fat guy fall off a

mo-ped. I could probably watch that a bunch of times before it didn't make me laugh anymore."

Martin has been working on two screenplays, one for director Ivan Reitman and one co-written with "Da Ali G Show" writer and director James Bobin.

"Both scripts were written for me to star in, but I'm just a nobody, which makes it much harder for them to become movies," he said.

Though Martin is still putting finishing touches on the Reitman script, he did give a brief description of the plot.

"It's about an astronaut who's a fucking machine," Martin said. "Just kidding, it's autobiographical; about a guy who kind of has his life set. He's just graduated from college, already engaged and it's about him going to New York and getting his first job and then kind of seeing his life unravel. I think it will be a funny movie."

Demetri Martin will host the SICK Festival tomorrow from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. in the Social Sciences auditorium. The festival features UA comedy groups The Secret Show, New Kevin, Comedy Corner, The Charles Darwin Experience and more. It will be $5.

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