Fans of comedy books might almost instantly draw comparisons between This is a Book and Woody Allen’s classic comedy texts. It’s a fair parallel. Like Allen before him, Martin presents a bemusedly skewed version of the world, all bent to meld with the ironies and ambiguities of the information age. Allen envisioned a moose mingling with a married couple dressed as a moose and an alien race demanding that the population of Earth do their laundry. In This is a Book, Martin throws out such gems as a set of frequently asked questions a genie gives to his lamp’s new owner, and a conversation between an alien and a human on what exactly pets are, if not slaves.
Known well among hipsters, sardonic teens and even intellectuals (the book jacket includes an endorsement by Malcolm Gladwell) for his standup specials and his delightfully oddball Comedy Central show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, it would be easy for Martin to simply recycle his stage show into book form, to present something that’s little more than a volume of gags from his live act that can be easily pored over while on the john. This is a Book has all the things fans love about Martin’s standup, to be sure, but the author also embraces the book form to take his humor in bolder directions.
All the Martin hallmarks are here: doodles of things like what varying lengths of beard mean and what a Christian beach towel looks like, ironic stating of the obvious (it’s called This is a Book, for God’s sake) and observant one-liners that are both zany and freakishly wise (“CHALLENGE: To wear a visor and appear credible at the same time.”).
But there’s something more at work in This is a Book. Though most of the “chapters” or just snippets of gags or conceptual flights of fancy, some of them are full-blown stories with a solid voice and the kind of bizarre insight we’ve come to expect from Martin’s comedy. Also present are plenty of gags that just don’t work when you’re saying them. But they work when you read them, and Martin proves here that he’s just as funny in prose as he is live.
This is a Book is the perfect companion for any Demetri Martin fan, and the perfect introduction/antidote for someone who isn’t yet a fan. It’s the kind of book that would be just as satisfying in one sitting as it would be over weeks, reading a Demetri-ism a day like some strange new platitude system. This is a Book is more than its title; not just a book, but a good book.
This is a Book is on sale April 25.
Advance Reading Copy courtesy of Grand Central Publishing