Sticking a modern, Comedy Central-reared comedian with the “quirky” label has become something of an ironic cliche. In the case of Demetri Martin, however, cliche is the last description that could ever be comfortably affixed.
Performing on May 15 sans opening act at the Royal Oak Music Theater (a few miles outside of Detroit; a hipster hotbed if ever there was one), Martin’s definition of peak form includes a rather large injection of wacky, off-beat one-liners; intermittent ad-libbing; and no shortage of the earnest-faced, eager-to-please boyish candor that both charms and disarms, simultaneously.
Given the high caliber quality of Martin’s purposefully awkward stage presence, it’s not hard to see why he would have become the comedy poster boy for legions of collegiate Death Cab for Cutie Worshipers; the spokesman for a generation fed on a steady diet of social uncertainty and distrust.
Beginning with a stint as a correspondent for The Daily Show, the former law school student – he dropped out of NYU just a year before graduating to pursue a career in comedy – has since gained a healthy level of fame and notoriety as the star of his own lauded show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, just picked up for a second season. With his knack for an unusual marriage of prop, musical, and a Steven Wright-esque setup-punch line cadence, Martin has become perhaps one of the most sought after mop-tops since the Fab Four themselves.
On stage, it’s no surprise that Martin delivers exactly what he promises. At one point, the affable jokester even took requests from the audience while strumming and humming a guitar and accompanying harmonica, betraying a nice-guy realism transcending any kind of transparent comedic persona. Aside from the usual memorable jokes and crowd pleasing fare, perhaps the show’s best moment came at its close, when Martin returned not for an encore, but to field questions from slightly tipsy audience members.
Old favorites were delivered in spades, but Martin never shied away from taking the reins into uncharted territory: a rookie mistake that, in less capable hands, could easily spell doom and disaster for a fledgling comedy career. With relative ease, Martin relayed an effortless rapport off of hecklers and cheerers alike, controlling the atmosphere from beginning to end, without his trademark hesitation.
Love him or hate him – many an irony-challenged folk are quick to dismiss Martin as a one-note joke – it’s hard not to fall for the wink-and-smile creativity that is Martin’s act and character. Sometimes, it’s best to just lie back and surrender to the quirkiness.