Demetri Martin Needs to Think Over “The Overthinker”

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Image Courtesy of theNerdPatrol | Flickr

Spencer Wu
Senior Copy Editor

Nowadays, stand-up specials aren’t that special. If you peruse Netflix’s comedy section, you’ll see a ton of titles from a number of comedians, including “Demetri Martin: The Overthinker,” which falls short of expectations.

As a Demetri Martin fan for upwards of five years, I am disappointed to say that I have seen little growth in his comedic content and delivery. Despite continuing what once was his signature avant-garde art form (expressing his uniqueness through drawings, skits, and multiple instrumental play), Martin’s latest special leaves more to be desired. The style of comedy he has revolutionized a few years back has hindered his growth as a comedian.

“The Overthinker” is a far cry from one of his first performances, the inquisitive and introspective masterpiece that is “If I.” He tries to be meta by voicing over his thought process post-production or annotating certain jokes on-screen, but this technique is used sparingly and hits with little impact, save for a slight chuckle.

Production and execution aside, a handful of jokes had some staying power. Those accompanied with his deadpan delivery reminded audiences of Martin’s clever wordplay and keen observational eye. Throughout the set, he offered his musings on an eclectic group of topics, like how dogs must think it’s odd that people pick up their feces, how the dollar sign would fare better as the universal sign for shish kebabs, and how donut holes and a hole in a donut are both called ‘donut holes,’ but the hole in the donut is just an absence of a donut hole, summoning a logical fallacy.

Martin conducts a complex meta joke in his act by overthinking a joke about overthinking. “The other day, I was thinking, I tend to overthink things. Then I thought, ‘Do I, though?’” His internal monologue voice-over continues: “Maybe I do. I don’t know.” This layered joke caught the live audience and presumably Netflix viewers by surprise, demonstrating his creativity.

However, the rewatchability factor is low for me simply because I feel like I’ve already seen him perform this set before. And that doesn’t just mean he reused jokes — which he does — but rather a vindication of converging to his comfort zone that is prevalent in his past specials.

There are a few jokes with similar premises from previous specials that he retold. For one, he talked about one of the most embarrassing ways to die — by drowning in a pool on a cruise ship. “Did you hear that Demetri died in the Pacific Ocean? No, he died on the Pacific Ocean.” Longtime fans will recognize the punchline, along with his tweaked autobiography, birds, and half shoe size jokes, among others.

With his trusted drawing pad and guitar by his side, Martin stays complacent and does little to show dramatic growth in his craft. As he dives deeper into adulthood, the fast-paced edge seems all but lost.

In order for Martin to continue to grow as a comedian, he has to refrain from toeing the border and instead jump outside the comfort zone he made for himself a few years back. It’ll be interesting to see how he comes back with another project.

Spencer Wu is a second year Actuarial Science major. He attended Walnut High School and has been a journalist since his freshman year of High School. In his free time, Spencer likes to play fantasy basketball as well as in real life on the court. He enjoys puns, cooking, and nice shoes.

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