The world never looks quite the same after Demetri Martin describes it for an hour every few years or so. The endlessly fascinated comic pores over everything around him–from the tenacity of Tic-Tacs to the absurdity of phrases so common most of his viewers probably used them that day–and describes it all in such a way that makes modern life seem far sillier than it did moments before. But in order to see the world the way he does, and translate it for everyone else, he first has to get in the right mindset.
Martin used to be known as a man of few words, but only because he’d been pegged early on as a one-liner comedian in the vein of Steven Wright. Over the course of a career that’s seen him branch out into creating a Comedy Central series, writing and illustrating books, and starring in films, the comic has also evolved his stage repertoire into a style that can only be described as “Demetri-esque.” On his just-released Netflix special, Live (At The Time), Martin mixes longer stories with bits accompanied by guitar and harmonica, and still occasionally manages a perfect joke in under 10 words. (“I have an L-shaped sofa. A lower-case one.”)
To get a sense of how he arrives at this polished material, Co.Create caught up with Martin and asked about his creative habits. Read on to find out how the comedian stays steadily walking toward that next great idea. (He goes on actual walks. A lot.)
I would describe my daily routine as forever just out of reach. I’ve tried many times to create a routine and stick to it. And each time I fail. As soon as I get close to pulling it off I end up going on the road or finding some exciting new way to procrastinate or cramming to finish a script or something. I still try, though, because it helps me–even if I’m deluding myself.
I work best in the morning. That’s when I feel sharpest. Then, as the day goes on, I get progressively dumber until it’s time to go to sleep.
I recently saw Dial M for Murder for the first time. I found it completely engaging and very entertaining. The experience of watching that film reminded me that if I’m going to sit there and watch something I should put some effort into making sure it’s something excellent. When I do, it usually ends up being a better way to spend my time and attention.
I do not know what the key to a creative life is but I do know this: whenever I challenge myself I have a better chance of making something good.
I like to go for walks, ideally in places where I can daydream without getting hit by a car or anything like that. I do my more stationary work at home–on a treadmill desk. It gives me the experience of walking without having to turn around and come back. It feels productive and futile at the same time, much like my career.