Demetri Martin is the current reigning king of the palindrome and paraprosdokian, and successor to previous one-liner royalty like Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright. But beyond the wordplay, Martin has been concocting material for his sketch-comedy show, Important Things With Demetri Martin, which has its second season premiering tonight (Comedy Central, 10 p.m. ET), and he’s realized that making a TV show isn’t quite the same as doing stand-up: “On stage, I look down on my notebook, and if I see a fart joke there and I want to tell it, I just say the words. But now it’s write, pre-produce, produce, post-produce.” Luckily all that effort is going towards a worthy end, and to prepare us for these upcoming episodes, Martin shared some important things we need to know about the new season.
1) Guest Stars: “Fred Willard will appear as a guest star. He was really funny and a real gentleman. That was a thrill for me and the guys on the staff, getting to work with him for the day, it was really cool. He’s a genuinely funny person, and he really doesn’t have to work too hard to be funny. And Jon Benjamin is in the series again. To me, he’s just such a funny guy and has really good instincts as a performer. He always makes things funnier than they would be without them. When I first put the show together and he agreed, I was really excited because I knew part of the show would be funny, at least.”
2) New Topics: “The first one is “Attention.” Then, we have “Ability.” And then “Space,” will be one of the episodes later. We’re hoping to get a little bit of both outer space and it as an abstract concept. It’s a weird process to try to pick a topic that you think you can do 20 minutes of material on without it being too redundant. Last year, I thought the way it would work would be we’d pick the topics first and then write for them, and we did that and it presented certain difficulties. For some reason some topics yield a lot more than others. And then we’d have sketches that we liked, but we’d think that they didn’t really fit into the topics that we committed ourselves to. This year we tried to do half-and-half. I had some ideas for topics that I thought would be cool to say some stuff about, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Let’s just generate some random ideas and then see what topics they cluster around.’ It’s kind of a weird constraint, because you lose the freedom of just trying to come up with funny stuff. But at the same time, it makes it more of a puzzle, more of a game of sorts. Which I do enjoy.”
3) More of a Good Thing: “There are ten episodes this year, and I only had seven last year. An increase of 30%. It was more difficult this time. And we shot in California this time, rather than in New York, so I think we got some more diverse locations.”
4) New sketches: “One of the sketches in the first episode is called ‘The Henchmen’ and Alan Dale is in that. He’s one of the bad guys on Lost [Dale plays Charles Widmore]. It’s one of those scenes that you’d find in an ’80s movie, where the bad guy has the hero cornered and in his clutches and the henchmen are there. I think it ended up being pretty funny.”
5) New techniques: “The broad strokes are pretty similar, but I tried to put in some different forms in there. There’s still a stand-up section and little sketches of short films, but with the in-between stuff, I tried to mix it up. And on the stage, in front of the audience, I tried some new things. Just new ways to deliver jokes. That’s part of the fun of it, that I can experiment a little bit with pretty simple comedic ideas that I can present a little differently. Like different kinds of list pieces, visual gags. I do some more of that data stuff, with drawings and charts. And there’s a segment called Good, Bad, Interesting, where we just had fun coming up with situations that are good, bad or interesting. It’s a nice simple little form, with a three-structure to it. It’s always fun. I like trying to build new, simple ways of delivering jokes. They don’t always work, but when they do, it’s really satisfying. Really late in the process we’ve been trying to get into stop-motion animation, but it’s really time-consuming. It’s with paper, like little strips of paper cut out. Like with my little logo, that Vitruvian guy, it took a while, but we did this one thing where the little guy’s arm goes up, and it’s just little cut-outs of paper. I don’t know if anyone’s going to care, but when I see it, I’m going to be like, ‘Hey, that’s really cool.’ It’s like a microcosm of the show, it’s really delicate and it requires a lot of work. And takes a lot longer than you think.”
Photo Credit: Martin Schoeller