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DVD Review: Important Things with Demetri Martin – Season One

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After watching Demetri Martin non-act his way through the seriously disappointing Taking Woodstock, I was looking forward to seeing him do what he does best in the mini-first season of his new Comedy Central series Important Things with Demetri Martin. Although he could have a career in film if he lands the right roles, he’s clearly more comfortable making people laugh with his blend of pithy observations and pseudo-intellectual humor.

Season one of Important Things is chock full of the kind of stuff that has made Martin so popular. He reflects on the important elements of life in a stand-up/sketch comedy blend that recalls Chappelle’s Show if that show were made by a nerdy white guy.

Martin riffs on a different topic each episode, all extremely important things belonging to very different categories, from power and brains to chairs.
The sketches are hit-and-miss — there are tired recurring bits about that forgotten philosopher not quite as famous as Socrates and the artist not as remembered as Da Vinci.  However, there are plenty of laughs to be found in the short stand-up segments and the appearance of familiar Martin props, like a variety of musical instruments and a large notepad used to augment jokes.

The show is busy, constantly moving from one thing to the next with musical interludes, animated sequences, and Martin just generally finding silly things to do. The format works well, and Martin is a naturally affable host, interacting continually with the studio audience.

Demetri Martin has a way of infusing humor into what is not inherently humorous, but it’s a different kind of observational humor than what Jerry Seinfeld has gotten so much mileage out of. To-do lists, equations, and the letters that make up a word are Martin’s equivalent of Seinfeld’s airplane bathroom and public speaking. It’s to the point, slightly absurd, and has enough intellectual flair to set Martin apart from most other comedians today.

With only seven episodes in the first season, the show doesn’t feel like it completely gets off the ground or hits its full potential, but hopefully that will occur in the show’s second season, scheduled to premiere in early 2010.

The first season DVD, contained on a single disc, includes episode commentaries and about 20 minutes of deleted sketches and jokes from a variety of episodes.

The DVD menu itself has to be mentioned as well — it is one of the most inscrutable things I’ve ever seen. If you only want to watch a few episodes and you want to watch them in order, you might as well select play all and stop it yourself when you’re finished, as the episode titles are scattered across the menu in no distinguishable order. Perhaps the joke’s on the viewer, if it is, it's not a joke that works particularly well.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.