After a sucessful stand-up career and finishing the first season of Important Things With Demetri Martin, his highly rated Comedy Central series, Demitri Martin is making his foray into feature films with Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock.
This is new territory for you. Was there a personal decision to seek out more dramatic film roles?
No, this was just lucky. I was contacted because James Schamus (the producer) had seen a clip of me on YouTube, thanks to his daughter. I guess the wheels started turning in his head and he thought, "We might be able to use this guy."
What was the biggest adjustment, working on a film of this size?
I quickly learned I wasn't going to be improvising in this role. They had a script, and they wanted me to do things a certain way. In my own show, I'm free to improvise, and if it's sh*tty, I'm free to edit it. In the movie, after a scene, the script supervisor would come over and say "You forgot to say and."
After working with a director like Ang Lee what's next?
I was cast in this other film I was really excited about. It's called Moneyball, and it got a lot of press. I couldn't believe it, I was like "Wow, I'm going from Ang Lee to Steven Soderbergh, this is crazy!" That was on a Thursday; they cut my hair and we did a screen test, a make-up test, and everything, and then Friday I found out the movie was shut down. If there was ever a lesson in the fragility of a movie's existence, that was a good one for me.
So you're not leaving TV any time soon.
Important Things got picked up for a second season, and I just started writing with some writers in California. I'm going to shoot the second season there, I think it will be easier to produce. It will come out in the spring.
How's living in Califorinia different from New York?
I used to love skateboarding as a kid, and for most of the years I lived in New York, I had a long board. Before I could afford cabs, I really would skate everywhere. Now that I'm in California, I'm getting reacquainted with outdoor activities. I go walk by the beach, I draw a lot, I try to daydream.
Now, there's a scene in this movie where you drop acid.
All the things I just said must be better than dropping acid.
How did you prepare? What did they ask you to do for that scene?
That was a funny day they had this van set up, and the ceiling could come off. We had all these props and authentic clothes, we're all set and the lighting is rigged, and there's incense and everything. Then we're like, OK, so what do we do? Because I haven't dropped acid, and Ang hasn't dropped acid.
Actually, your co-star Liev Schreiber said it was a very accurate representation.
Is that right? That's awesome. But there's a guy named David Silver, who's a historian on the film, and he was a colleague of Timothy Leary's, from what I understand. He was off-camera saying "OK, it's kind of like this, like maybe, yeah, you'd probably be worried about like your limbs and like 'Where's my arm? Where's my arm?'" And I'm thinking like "Am I an asshole? Is this even close?"
Other than dropping acid, any suggestions for coming up with jokes?
I always try to figure out rules for myself. When I did open mics, a lot of times I would be next to another comedian, and right before I went on, I'd say "Give me a word," and then they would say something like "toaster". I would make sure I did a joke about a toaster, no matter how bad it was. I'm in a basement in the East Village, who cares if I do a shitty joke about toasters? But over 100 trials, if I get a good joke about a toaster, that's like 1/10th of a Letterman set. It's all a game, know what I mean? I love it!