By Alex Hanson, Collage by Logan Jones
If you were to ask Demetri Martin if he were a fairy godmother, he’d probably say no, but follow up with a venn diagram comparing himself to a fairy godmother to illustrate the differences. This is what he does: Demetri Martin is a comedian that utilizes charts, diagrams, graphs, puns, palindromes, short stories, songs, poems, and any other clever mode of storytelling to tell jokes. In addition to being a standup comedian, he has starred in his own Comedy Central show “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” acted in movies including “Taking Woodstock” and “In a World,” and authored two books: This is a Book and Point Your Face At This. He’s also my fairy godmother.
A fairy godmother, I believe, is any role model whom you admired or dreamed of for some time before briefly encountering them and receiving their wisdom in a moment that would leave you forever inspired. Demetri Martin first came into my life through the television in 2007. I was eleven years old, reading in the living room while my dad had Comedy Central on. “Demetri Martin. Person.”, his standup special, came on. I was immediately drawn in by Martin’s use of a big notepad to display charts and his guitar-accompanied anecdotes. My somewhat distaste for standup comedy at the time had resulted a few instances of seeing dudes on television throwing out raunchy jokes on stage in order to milk shock from the audience. I thought standup comedy was rude and boring— but Demetri Martin was something else. He was truly clever and resourceful. Watching his standup show wasn’t just funny: it made me think about my world and experiences as fodder for visualized storytelling.
I learned all the facts I could about my new role model despite his relatively low-profile social media presence. My admiration for him grew even more when I discovered that he’d had a brief stint at NYU law— NYU was my dream school, and even though I had no interest in law, I felt even more longing to go to a school that had contributed to the development of my favorite comedian. When I joined Facebook, there was a feature to list people who inspired you. Demetri Martin occupied that box on my profile alongside Tim Burton, Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift.
After years of going to Twitter just to read his tweets even though I didn’t have an account, my admiration for Demetri Martin transformed into a true adolescent/fairy godmother relationship in 2011 at a bookstore in Los Angeles. It was a book signing event for his first book: This is a Book (those blunt titles make me swoon!). My dad drove my preteen brother, kid sister, and my brace-faced, slightly sunburnt fifteen-year-old self to the event. There were about fifty people, mostly in their mid-thirties, crammed into a tiny space between the bookstore’s window display and its floor-to-ceiling book stacks, and my family stood in the back as Demetri Martin stepped up to a small podium and introduced himself. He read a few excerpts from the book, which included short stories and palindromic poems as well as drawings and diagrams, giggling with the crowd at the funniest parts.
He then opened the floor for questions, and my face went from pinkish to deep red as I raised my hand. He called on me, and I incoherently shouted “Didyoudrawalotwhenyouwereakid?!” He couldn’t hear me so I took a deep breath and tried again: “Did you draw a lot when you were a kid?” I think I blacked out a little bit after I asked because I don’t remember exactly how he responded, only that he followed it up by asking me if I draw. “Uhhh yes! I do! I love drawing! I draw cartoons!” I could barely breathe.
Once the Q&A had concluded everyone in the bookstore made somewhat of a line to get their books signed. I held a fresh copy of his book, my sister held our DVD copy of “Demetri Martin. Person.”, my brother held the leaflet from inside the DVD case, and my dad wielded the digital camera. When it was our turn to get our respective relics signed, Demetri greeted us by asking if I was the artist in the crowd.
My brother told Demetri Martin how much he loved drawing too. My sister said she loved his jokes. I told him we’d been fans for four years, which at our age was a huge percentage of our lives. He laughed, then asked me about my plans for the future. I told him that I wanted to do either film or writing, but I wanted to keep drawing too. Demetri told me to keep creating, and said that he’d be seeing me again in a few years when I’m at art school in New York City. My dad took a picture of us, documenting my encounter with my fairy godmother.
Throughout the rest of high school, I cringed at my goofy picture with Demetri Martin but took his words to heart. Whenever I was feeling uninspired or dejected, I would open up my copy of This is a Book, smile at the “Hey Alex” signature inside, and remember what my fairy godmother told me. I’d make it to New York doing something creative. That fairy dust sentence carried me through high school, standardized testing, and the college application process.
By some magic, I’m now an undergrad at NYU and loving my time here. I always walk by the law school that Demetri Martin attended and think of him— how he encouraged and inspired me, first through his work and then within just a few minutes of meeting me. I got to New York City on my own, but it was helpful to believe that my fairy godmother believed in me throughout my journey here. I’m excited for the day I run into him again, but I know that the fairy godmother within him is proud of me already.
Logan Jones is a Cinema and Afro Studies student in Minnesota. You can always catch him at some point in the movie making process. Cameras, Coffees, Cycles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @logan_jonez.