Telling a good joke is difficult. I don’t mean the kind of joke where you get to develop a story with characters and emotions and your opinions and reflection. I’m talking the kind of joke where you say a thing that is just an observation and follow it up with a thing that is funny. Setup. Punchline. If you’re thinking it isn’t too difficult, go ahead and think about the last time you tried to tell a joke to a group of people. Oh, it was embarrassing, wasn’t it? I bet you stumbled and forgot a detail and ended the punchline with something lame like “to that effect” or “I think that’s how it goes” or “I’ll show myself out and please don’t tell my friends and family about this.”
Demetri Martin is good at jokes. Setup to punchline jokes. They’re quick, easy to quote, and generally hilarious. His latest album, Standup Comedian, is another fine example of his ability to unpack a lot of laughs out of very short, to-the-point jokes.
Standup Comedian initially has this kind of goddamn college kid with a fucking notebook that says shit in it kind of vibe. Martin starts off with a few funny riffs about the room he’s in and then immediately begins laying out joke after joke. It really does feel like a guy just reading a bunch of stuff out of a notebook scrawled with an infinite number of puns and observations and silly drawings and this imaginary scenario is probably also in a coffee shop and you sort of hate this place and that guy because what kind of an asshole just reads a bunch of jokes off from a notebook like that?
But any personal problems you have with that kind of tone are quickly buried deep into your subconscious—where they and all of your emotions belong—as each and every one of Martin’s jokes really do land a well deserved laugh. Even when you see where he’s going to end the joke after hearing the setup, Martin’s voice is able to deliver the punchline so quickly and efficiently that you don’t get time to silently criticize him and you, instead, just laugh.
The goddamn college kid with a fucking notebook that says shit in it and holy fuck is that seriously a harmonica vibe continues when Martin eventually pulls out his guitar. However, like the rest of the album, the jokes that are told with musical accompaniment are still clever and hilarious and you never really have time to dislike what Martin is presenting to you. Plus, hearing Martin sing the punchlines of some of his jokes as if they were the chorus to some kind of deranged, old Bob Dylan song (or a normal, modern Bob Dylan song) is surprisingly delightful.
Standup Comedian works from beginning to end. I don’t recall being turned off by a single joke from the entire album. And even though thinking about Demetri Martin reminds me of people from my personal life I hate, Standup Comedian is a great comedy album and certainly deserves a listen or two.
Final Rating: However many miles away you are from that coffee shop where that goddamn guy with the beard and the dumb hat always plays guitar (that would be a two for me, which is quite a respectful and unbiased score).
Buy Demetri Martin’s “Standup Comedian” via iTunes: