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Trendspotter is the trend

Demetri Martin's role on The Daily Show is to discover what's hip. Now he finds himself in th at category.

By JAY CRIDLIN
Published October 19, 2006


Want more of Martin's thoughts on Microsoft, Dane Cook and life at Late Night With Conan O'Brien? Visit Eric Deggans' TV blog at blogs.tampabay.com/media for deleted excerpts. Or check out Martin's art, jokes and videos at his Web site, www.demetrimartin.com, or his Microsoft-sponsored site, www.clearification.com.

It is perhaps too soon to call Demetri Martin the next ultramegastar of standup comedy.

But here's a good sign: The world's richest man is betting on him.

"I'm totally curious to meet Bill Gates," says Martin, the writer-comic picked to be the face of Microsoft's multimedia campaign for its next-gen operating platform, Windows Vista. "Bill Gates is kind of in that rare stratosphere - like, Bill Gatessss!"

Martin may be entering his own rarified air. NPR hailed the 33-year-old Yale grad as "the voice of Generation Y" for his hipster wardrobe, quirky music and artwork, and offbeat one-liners.

He spent a year writing for Conan O'Brien and contributes segments to The Daily Show called "Trendspotting," in which he shines a smirking spotlight on youth trends like hookah lounges or MySpace.com.

On Sunday, Martin will be at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center as part of his first major national tour.

The law school dropout recently called from a stop in Cleveland. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

 

Be honest. Before the Microsoft deal, were you a Mac guy or a Windows guy?

Actually, way back, I was a Tandy guy. I started as a Commodore guy, then I was a Tandy guy, then I was a Mac guy, and then in all my day jobs I was always a non-Mac guy. So now I'm a Windows Vista guy. I've covered the whole landscape.

 

How do you feel about the term "hipster"?

It's funny. When I started, I would just go down to the comedy clubs, and it was not quite the right fit for me. In some clubs, I just feel like: "Oh, I'm the dork. I get it. I'm weird." It's like how you felt in high school. Then I go to these small rooms, like the back of a bar or a small theater or a music club, and I realize: "I'm not weird. I feel normal here." But then all of a sudden I'm an alternative comic. I'm a hipster comic. Whatever the moniker is, it doesn't really matter. As long as you find that little sliver of this country where you feel comfortable, then at least you get a chance to do your comedy.

 

It's like your comedy is not confined to jokes.

I used to try to just write one-liners, because I love jokes. I love Steven Wright. I loved Gary Larson as a kid. Then I realized when you're just letting your mind wander, the things that you find aren't always jokes. It might be a single-panel drawing, or it could be a line of dialogue for a movie, or part of a sketch. I think the really good comedy, the best of it, is art. If you look at someone like Andy Kaufman, it just feels artistic, you know?

 

Bigger jerk: Stewart or O'Brien?

Neither. Conan is down to earth, and he's just an honest, good guy. And Jon Stewart, that guy's awesome. He's really all over his show. I've said this before - it's like they're comedy professors. If I did a piece for Conan, I'd go to rehearsal, and he'd just say, "You don't need the middle part. And you need an extra joke on the end." And you always leave thinking, "How did I not know that?" I had the same feeling with Jon Stewart.

 

Do you write your "Trendspotting" segments yourself?

I write them with a producer. I'll come and pitch a trend sometimes, or I'll come into the office and they'll tell me one. Like, they said, "We want you to do this for the Christmas season - Xbox 360, the hot gift." So then I check the Internet, find some stuff about it. What's funny is it's kind of made me a trendspotter. I have to look for things that are interesting now.

 

Where do you want your career to go from here?

I want to have a life. I've been traveling so much for the last couple of years. I would love to have a girlfriend, and a nice apartment, and go to the same restaurants, eat at home, do all that stuff. It's weird, because I'm not even famous or anything. I know there is tons of cool stuff about being famous, but you've got to be careful about how much you really want it, because you look up one day, and you're like, "Oh wow, I haven't talked to any of my friends in four months. What am I doing?"

 

From Martin's new CD/DVD, These Are Jokes - "I find that at most theme parks, the theme is: 'Wait in line, fatty.' " - "I'm going to open a store called Chasm. We're going to be just like the Gap, but way bigger." - "I heard this guy say to his friend, 'Man, I'm really good at checkers.' Which is the same as saying, 'Man, I'm not good at a lot of things. I (stink) at everything except checkers. King me, dog.' "

Preview

Demetri Martin performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $30.75. Call (813) 229-7827 or visit www.tbpac.org.