Marine Jaouen, Broadside Correspondent

When interviewing Demetri Martin, I expected the conversation to be punctuated by a series of humorous one-liners. Like some gifted word genius, he would magically sum up questions with clever single sentences, I would be gloriously entertained listening to my favorite comedian and it would be awesome.

After reality set in, I quickly realized that Martin’s answers were elaborate and eloquently explained, fitting for a comedian whose observational comedy includes word play like palindromes and paraprosdokians.

Martin discusses his path to becoming a comedian, his television show and his ambitions. Martin studied law at Yale University and New York University, but with one year left before graduating he realized that he wanted to try something new. Growing up with comedy from Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, a major part of his comedic background came from observing his father.

“My dad was a priest, so every Sunday I’d see my dad up in front of a big crowd, and he would do these pretty funny sermons that were mostly extemporaneous,” Martin said. “He didn’t prepare and write a lot, but he’d just speak for 20 minutes in front of the congregation, and he’d get laughs. He was a funny guy. So I think that was planted in my head without realizing it.”

Martin’s comedic style is punctuated by his one-liners and his use of guitar. Learning to play the guitar was another challenge, one that he embraced.

“That was the first time I thought, ‘Oh this could really help create an emotional framework and within that framework, then maybe the joke works better, by setting it up emotionally,’” Martin said.

To Martin, jokes are everywhere, ready for the taking: “I can just go anywhere with a notebook and daydream and think of stuff. Really just walk around and look at things and pay attention and see where the jokes are. It’s just . . . finding jokes out there.”

“When I was in New York, I would just wander around and go to different coffee shops. I’d write everywhere — on the subway, at the park, it was fun,” Martin said. “Moving out here [to Los Angeles], it’s more of a challenge. You can’t wander as much in L.A. on foot without looking like a crazy person. But I did learn how to doodle and write while I drive. That doesn’t sound like the smartest thing, but I got it to where I can keep a notebook on the hump between the two front seats and doodle without looking. I always try to have a book and a notebook with me so that if I’m in line, I can either be reading or writing. So I’m doing something productive and I’m not just standing there waiting.”

Translating his stand-up to a television show is a task that requires a lot of planning, Martin says:
“I was the guy who always did my homework in homeroom, always waited to the last minute, to the point where I need to wait ‘till the last minute. It was almost a problem, like I get a certain rush off of it.”
“[Now] I just feel like I’m in exams all the time,” Martin muses. “It’s like at the end of the semester, you’ve had a good time, and now it’s like, oh crap. I really have to figure this stuff out — I have two tests next week, I’m going to be staying up really late tomorrow night. That kind of thing. Whereas with stand-up, I never ended up in that situation. If I really procrastinated, I could improvise on stage if I had to. But with a TV show, there’s a camera crew hired, there are lights, a location we rented, we had to cast the actors. It’s a really different creative process.”

Martin has many ambitions for the future: “When a lot of this stuff settles down, what I wanted to do was go on another tour. Probably build a new stand-up show, make a new special.” His dream path would be to continue touring, make more movies and write some books.

Important Things with Demetri Martin airs on Comedy Central on Thursdays at 10 p.m.