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What’s in the Box?

As I prepared to interview Demetri Martin, I was flipping through his new book of drawings, Point Your Face at This, when I came across a joke I didn’t get.

Most of the drawings had read like Martin’s stand-up: short, punny and immediately funny. This one seemed more philosophical.

The sketch featured a box with the words “Being” and “Present” written on it and four tiny humans crawling around it, like insects. I couldn’t figure out if it was a present with human beings inside or a play on being present.

Martin called 10 minutes later, so I asked him about it.

“That one seems like I might not have pulled it off in execution,” Martin replied, explaining that it stems from how “you can only live in the present, yet it seems so hard to be in the present. … I think I mixed my visual metaphors and it ended up not quite working.”

Here was a widely successful comedian, actor and writer admitting that a joke in his brand-new book might not have landed.

That’d be like if I wrote a column, read it later and no longer understood the point I was making.

Actually, that happens all the time.

Comedians: They’re just like us.

— Rudi Greenberg