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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Just make lemonade

By Natalie Hale

Comedian Demetri Martin is the kind of person you’d want to take to a park and sit on a bench with simply to watch people pass by. To him, it’s all one big show and gives him ideas for his routines.

Wordsmith, amateur skateboarder, break-dancer, unicyclist, pencil twirler, singer, guitarist, trendspotter, writer, artist, poet, Yale graduate, law-school dropout and professional comedian, Martin certainly has a large hat collection.

“As a nerd growing up, I was always trying to impress people,” Martin said of his rigorous schooling and life pursuits.

The death of his father during his junior year of college forced Martin to think about what he really wanted out of life, he said. It made him question if he was going to law school for himself or for others.

“When you see something like that, it will really jolt you. You start thinking, ‘well, what is the point, am I going to die at 46?’ He’s gone now. That’s one person I can’t impress. That’s when you realize you have to (live) for yourself,” Martin said.

Yet, after his graduation from Yale University, he went directly to New York University School of Law on a scholarship because it was a part of his life plan.

A self-proclaimed “nomadic obsessive,” Martin said he passionately embraces whatever interests him. He sees this obsessive nature as an indication that he’s happy and on the right track.

The unusually termed trait began young–with break-dancing. Martin obsessed over it day and night, dancing whenever he could. This translated to skateboarding, which evolved into dunking basketballs at every available chance.

But when he went to law school–the plan he had had in mind since he could remember–that enjoyment disappeared.

“It was almost like I lost myself while I was trying to do the law school thing, because it was more grown up, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ll get this career thing going.’ But finally, when I found comedy, it was the same fit, the same as break-dancing, skateboarding and dunking,” Martin said.

After his second year at NYU, he accepted that law wasn’t what he wanted to do and, despite his family’s disappointment, dropped out.

“I realized at this point that I could be a poet or a dancer or a writer. It is now based on what I enjoy, not who I am trying to impress,” Martin said of his self-realization.

A proofreader by day and comedian by night, Martin worked hard to make ends meet and gain a fan base.

Selected from hundreds of writers and comedians, he joined the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” team as a writer and actor. Things progressed quickly as he refined his method of comedy and writing.

He was eventually ranked the 21st funniest person in America by Entertainment Weekly, just six places behind his boss, O’Brien.

After working for O’Brien, Martin worked all over the board for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” did his own “Comedy Central Presents” show and now works for John Stewart at “The Daily Show” as the show’s resident “trendspotter,” among other things.

On his Web site, Martin appears to be a man of few words. The same can be said of his comedy, which is laconic–leaving it up to the audience to get his inferences.

Get Martin on the phone, however, and there is no stopping him in the conversation. He loves to talk about everything–things he has seen or thought or borderline crazy mind games he plays with himself to come up with jokes.

When it boils down to it, Martin loves comedy and has finally restored that “nomadic obsessive” behavior because of it.

Martin gave this advice for figuring out what you want in life: “When you wake up in the morning and you are looking forward to whatever you are going to do that day, then I think you have a good life?Follow your heart.”

Martin’s new CD/DVD, titled, “These Are Jokes” is available in stores now. He is taking his comedy on tour, but won’t be stopping in SLC. He admits it’s lame, so if you want him to make a stop, let him know. Check out his Web site at for tour dates, poetry, videos and drawings.

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