Demetri Martin: Spiral Bound

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Anyone attending Demetri Martin's show based on his Perrier win ­ and the fact he's playing the Assembly Rooms' sizeable Ballroom suggests that's a lot of people ­ may be left baffled as to what all the fuss is about.

Sure it's atmospheric, creating a pregnant, poignant mood to suit the New Yorker's shy geekiness, but for the winner of the top prize in comedy, laughs are thin on the ground.

The pretext of this ethereal offering is suitably odd; what Martin pretentiously calls corporeal neuroprojection ­ the spurious concept that someone can physically be drawn into an inanimate object they hold dear, in this case the precious notebook on which he writes his every comic thought.

It's a neat conceit to give form to a disparate range of ideas and thoughts, and helps create the otherworldly feeling where the quiet Martin is most at home. But he gets too hung up on the metaphysical concept to remember to include the jokes. Escaping the tyranny of the punchline is one thing, but this Martin takes it to extremes.

On one page, he finds scribbled-out material about his divorce at an early age, telling how he compromised his ambitions for his sweetheart, but the relationship fell apart as her pragmatism clashed with his romanticism. The tale is as touching as it is self-indulgent, given that like so much of the show, it contains no laughs.

Not that he's incapable of writing a joke. An extended song based on the alphabet provides 26 classy one-liners, one for every feint line on his beloved pad and each of them a quotable touch of Wildean genius. But almost the entire comedy content of the hour is condensed into these six or seven minutes.

In presentation and spirit, Spiral Bound is a show of fragile beauty, but in comedy it falls some way short of the mark.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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