It’s 6:15 p.m. and there is already a line inside of the Staller Center. Students are lined up in anticipation for the performance of one Demetri Martin, the acclaimed comic known for his visual display of jokes and twists on word play.
Martin is the head comic of the USG Annual Comedy Show, which has featured the likes of Aziz Anzari and John Oliver. Martin seems like a departure from the typical guest, but that is only because he is not a typical comic. As he would do in his stand-up show, or his prematurely cancelled Comedy Central show “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” he does small bit jokes instead of stories leading to funny endings like most comics. He does the same thing with an acoustic guitar strapped to him, along with using drawings to explain hidden (often hilarious) different uses or meanings.
Last night’s show for students was actually meant for more than one use. Most of the students at the show have either had midterms this past week or have had some coming up in the next few days. So this show was a much-needed break from the pressures of school through comic relief. The stress shows as the students around me were all tired and chatting about how they have been studying without sleep for days. The worry for these kids was that, when Martin hit the stage, half the audience will pass out from exhaustion.
At 7 p.m., everyone was let inside the Staller Center auditorium. The Beatles were being played over the speakers, which was just the right amount of good to warm up the audience. The entire auditorium was packed with students by 6:50 p.m. and the range of students there covered all four years of SBU. Some kids were extremely pleased to see a wooden stand on a table perched onstage, looking like a stand for a drawing pad Martin would no doubt use in his act.
Martin’s opening act was Canadian born, now Long Island stationed Levi MacDougall, who was a writer on Martin’s TV show. He was welcomed warmly onstage by the audience and felt ready for last night’s show, saying that he had done “just enough cocaine to loosen me up.” MacDougall had a gimmick where he was as awkward as possible onstage. His sentences were filled with frequent “uhhs” and “umms” as he built jokes up from an odd personal thought he had (like Martin would typically do). He is a slow storyteller for sure, but his punch lines are effective. Sometimes, his jokes were out of nowhere and require thought before you can laugh. MacDougall is a great writer, but he also appears to be an impressive stand-up act as well.
But the students were here to see the blue shirt, mop-top haircut and the monotone of Mr. Martin. At 8:35 p.m., with no fanfare or blaring entrance music, Martin walked right out to the stage to great applause and cheers. He started off with a brief Q&A with the audience that turned into him poking fun at the closed pool here at Stony Brook. He even found time to show concern for a student double majoring in psychology and history, telling her she is going to have a hard time finding work outside of school. He wondered what professors say at commencement addresses when students are sent off into the real world with the difficult job market (“Good luck?”). Martin was in fine form, debating what it would be like if sports mascots were real and competed against each other (“Magic vs. Heat: f***ing awesome!”).
His drawing board featured everything from a “female silencer” (a diamond ring) to the interesting concept of pulling a hat out of a rabbit instead of vice-versa. Martin could muse about anything and, at times, he seemed to be making it up on the spot. At one point, an audience member in the front row told Martin that something that looked like a spider just fell behind him. He notes “Well, that’s an interesting last thing to hear before I die.” From there, he talked about being lucky that he is so large whenever he is caught in a spider-web. Martin also thought it would be funny to pretend he is caught in the web, to which the spider would think “I’m set for life!” He also brought back his “Good, Bad, Interesting” segment from his show. This resulted in laughter from the whole crowd enjoying their studying detox with a funny guy who, despite being 40 years old, still looks like a guy who sits next to you at the Melville Library pulling his hair out over his Organic Chemistry midterm review.