The title of Demetri Martin's last stand-up album only identified him as "person," (2007’s Demetri Martin: Person) so perhaps it's a testament to his growth as a comic or a newfound boost in self-confidence that his latest album elevates him to the status of "stand-up comedian." He's moving up in the world. Or at least identifying by his chosen occupation, at which he has been very successful. Yes, Martin's latest, Stand-up Comedian, has another deadpan, arch title to match his mostly deadpan, mostly arch material. A comic in the tradition of Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, Martin has always mined comedy from ironic observations and turns of phrase. While there’s a lot of that on Stand-up Comedian, the album also showcases a new side to Martin that could be considered growth. The first half of the album consists of longer-form material in which Martin explores ideas for longer than the span of a single one-liner. He does some crowd work. It feels like he’s evolving as a comic, and while the one liner jokes will probably always be his bread and butter, it’s good to hear Martin doing something a little different. It’s not a monumental shift by any stretch, but it has a different energy than his past stuff. It’s looser. More relaxed and less mannered. It’s also really funny.
Funny has never been a problem for Martin, who, just like Mitch Hedberg, has always been great at twisting punchlines and turning phrases in a way that’s unexpected. It’s a tradition he continues on Stand-up Comedian, even when the album segues into exactly the kind of material we’ve come to expect from Martin in the second half. Eventually, he straps on the guitar and the harmonica and goes into deadpan observation mode, which, at this point, feels almost like Andrew “Dice” Clay doing his nursery rhymes at the end of a set. I’m not comparing the quality of Martin’s material with dirty nursery rhymes – Martin’s stuff is much smarter and funnier, as if it even needs to be said – just that it seems a little obligatory at this point, like a band encoring with their greatest hits. But it’s what Demetri Martin’s audience has come to expect at this point, so he’d better deliver. Deliver he does, with another collection of sharp and odd one-liners that fits in well with everything he’s done in the past. I’ve never understood the inclusion of the guitar (it’s something that another deadpan comic, Nick Thune, has adopted as well); it seems to be there just to provide punctuation and break up the jokes. I’ve always thought that’s what the laughs were for.
Stand-up Comedian is a funny album, and a return to form for Demetri Martin (who has been largely missing from the comedy scene since his Comedy Central series, Important Things with Demetri Martin, went off the air). I like the first half of the record better than the second, because it feels a little different than what I’ve heard from Martin in the past. I hoped, during this section, that Martin had used his hiatus to reimagine himself as a comic, but the album ultimately gives way to his regular shtick. It’s a good shtick, of course, and he makes it work better than most, but it gives at least half of the record an air of familiarity. For diehard Demetri Martin fans (i.e. anyone attending college), that’s going to come as good news.
- Album Release Date: 10/2/12
- Label: Comedy Central Records
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