Dallas — It’s a funny thing and what makes stand-up comedy unique. People pay money to experience not just what a person thinks but how they think—the logic, the reality, how they perceive and process the world, the entire frame of reference for a mind. We spend an hour or two with someone else’s highly opinionated reality, yet much of the nation finds the hurdle impossible.
Comedy has a lot to teach us about cohabitating realities and Demetri Martin can take us there. In performance at the Majestic Theatre last Thursday, he slipped in and out of that alternative universe where you ponder that to forgive and forget is possible, but the reverse is not: “I‘m mad as hell! Who are you?” A threat can upgrade to a promise, but a promise can’t upgrade to a threat (chew on that a bit).
The world of Martin is one where driverless cars are full of dogs taking joyrides and the rise of robots means we can’t do the robot dance anymore for fear of insulting “technical-Americans.” Where “the capitol of Alaska is A,” strip clubs have after-hours signs that say “Sorry, we’re clothed,” and dildos are the most popular prosthetic limb.
Martin dropped deadpan one-liners, sometimes with guitar accompaniment, or harmonic or both, sometimes flipping through a pad of strangely informational drawings. He’s Steven Wright with visual aids. All in a calm dispassionate tone that lulls, at times a bit too much, like a gentle burbling stream of consciousness. Trademark Demetri. He observes the world but doesn’t judge it. He’s just quizzical. Fascinating for a fellow who was once a few credits short of a law degree.
It was a gentle set, albeit a satisfying one that pleased the audience plenty. Perhaps marriage, children, and Santa Monica domesticity have softened his comedic point. But it has also deepened him. Martin wrote, directed and stars in the Woody Allen-ish film Dean. He plays a cartoonist, thus incorporating his drawings, who strives to help his father (Kevin Kline) cope with the loss of his wife while navigating his relationships with women. Playing at Landmark Magnolia and a few other theaters.