One-Liners, Many Lines
Demetri Martin started integrating easel drawings into his stand-up and his two-season Comedy Central series, Important Things With Demetri Martin. His new Point Your Face at This is 250-plus pages of Martins simple line drawings. Illustrates BOOKS-MARTIN (category e), by Rudi Greenberg © 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, March 26, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Comedy Central)
Examples from Demetri Martins Point Your Face at This. The drawing at left is similar to how he would tell the joke onstage with an easel. The one at right plays with expectations. Ants have a strict sense of order and tend to walk together in a line. Martin thought it would be funny if something went wrong and no one is in charge -- just going around and around and around. Illustrates BOOKS-MARTIN (category e), by Rudi Greenberg © 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, March 26, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Grand Central Publishing)
Like most kids, Demetri Martin used to doodle during class. “Then I stopped, maybe in sixth grade,” Martin said. “So my drawing has not really evolved very much.”
When he dropped out of New York University’s law school to become a comedian in the late 1990s, Martin picked up doodling as a diversion from crafting material for his stand-up act. “It became a game for me that’s really similar to writing jokes,” Martin, 39, said. “I’ve got notebooks full of drawings; some of them are jokes, some are just shapes.”
He started integrating easel drawings into his stand-up and his two-season Comedy Central series, Important Things With Demetri Martin. He also included simple sketches in 2011’s This Is a Book, a collection of personal essays, short stories and one-liners that made the New York Times best-seller list.
The former Daily Show correspondent had planned to do a book of short fiction next, but thought it might be worthwhile “to do a book of drawings between my two ‘real’ books.”
Point Your Face at This, out last week, is 250-plus pages of Martin’s simple line drawings. Mirroring his compact, deadpan stand-up style, each drawing reads like a one-liner. You either get it or you don’t. Then you move on to the next one.
“I can draw, if you want to call it, ‘better,’ ” Martin said. “But I like the simplicity of just a few lines and not much shading. … I like if there’s an emotion, or a joke, or an idea that can come across in just those few lines.”
The book’s first page, a simple “preview” of many lines and shapes he uses, acts as a sort of table of contents. “It might also be a way to say, ‘Hey, I know it said “drawings” on the cover, but lower your expectations — this is the skill set you’re going to see in here. It’s not da Vinci,’ ” Martin said.
Some drawings are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s The Far Side, which Martin loved as a kid. “It was cool to go to used bookstores and just look for and at old comedy books or cartoon books” for inspiration, he said.
Even though Martin had notebooks full of drawings to cull from, he started over almost entirely for the book. He even bought an old-fashioned fountain pen, the kind you have to dip in ink, to sketch the new drawings.
“And they just look like my ⅛crappy marker drawings — after I did all that work,” Martin said. “I will say there is a certain variation in some of the lines that’s kind of cool that comes from the pen. Even though it’s kind of subtle, it has a little more life to it. At least, I have to tell myself that since I spent a lot of time on it. I need those points.”
Beyond his books and stand-up, Martin is developing an animated series for Fox — about a family with a roadside attraction in the redwood forests of Northern California — and some film projects.
First up is Will, a long-in-development screenplay with The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius at the helm. Martin won’t star in it, but said, “I wrote a character I think I might be perfect for.”
He’s also writing a feature on spec that he would like to star in — and direct, though he’s never done the latter. “I think I might direct a short this summer so people don’t think I’m crazy,” he said.