deconstructing demetri martin: demetri deconstructed

deconstructing demetri martin: demetri deconstructed

Demetri Martin released a new Netflix special on Tuesday, the first of two to be released on the streamer this year.
Before it had been out for 24 hours, I watched it twice.

For those who knew me 10-15 years ago, this hardly comes as a shock. My family enjoyed his comedy when I was is teenager. I believe we were eating Ben & Jerry’s pints for dinner and watching Demetri when guys from a neighboring school came over and asked us (the twins) to homecoming. (My parents were cool and once in a while, we got to eat ice cream for dinner. What of it?) It’s no surprise that lines of his dry comedy are what we both chose as our senior quotes in the yearbook. My sister even surprised me one year with tickets to his show for our birthday.

I didn’t realize until now how much I was missing Demetri’s unique brand of comedy. Sure, I have always followed him on social media, but he’s not one of those comedians who lives on his page either. He has built a seemingly quiet life with his wife and two children in California, releasing books, acting, writing, producing, and doing voiceover work between comedy gigs. Yes, we got a well-formed special every few years (2004, 2007, 2012, 2015, 2018), but we have been left to clips, quirky one-liners, and small peeks into his personality since the last special – Demetri Martin: The Overthinker – released in 2018.

So when Demetri Martin: Demetri Deconstructed popped up on my television, I waited mere hours to enjoy it with my parents. And then I went upstairs and watched it again.

First of all, the effort he puts into his intros is actually admirable. If you’re wondering about his use of black and white in his latest special, it’s explained before he even takes the stage. He uses his voiceover talents to help the audience identify his thought process, recognize – and relate to – his idiosyncracies, and make layered jokes. It seems to allow him a structured vulnerability, the affinity for “off-handed” comments that are planned, but well-timed comedically.

Demetri’s choice to incorporate drawing and other forms of art he enjoys in his set is – and has always been – bar none. Sure, iconic comedians have brought additional talents to the stage. (Acts like Bo Burnham, TIm Minchin, and others enjoy singing during their comedy acts. I’ll be watching Steven Martin’s doc soon, and have always admired his picking talents.) Demetri has always drawn representations of his jokes. His method includes charts, graphs, and tables, not-so-subtle reminders that his comedy is very unique.

I have to admit, I didn’t see subpar ventriloquy as the new trick in Demetri’s toolbelt I would enjoy. His spot-on impersonation of a demon from hell – and I have to specify that it is not the devil – was impactful because of its silliness and relatability.

Demetri is also known for using music in impactful moments. It is common knowledge/widely thought that he would play guitar and other musical elements throughout his sets so that executives at Comedy Central and elsewhere couldn’t edit his material to their liking for public airing. In this way, he kept more of his artistic integrity on jokes that were always widely family-friendly. Now, the threat of artistic integrity might not exist as much for Martin. But he does incorporate fun jazz beats throughout his set, giving impact to the punchlines and guiding the audience into a more relaxed and intimate-feeling environment.

While I don’t want to give away any big pieces of his set, I will say that this special commands your full attention. Jokes about Bitcoin, tic tac toe (brilliant, in case anyone is wondering), crowd work, self-deprecation, industrial strength scented trash bags, logistics, and well-known phrases can be expected. Lighting is artfully used to enhance his dramatic readings of hilarious, “mysterious” thoughts. And he accomplishes all of this while looking like – and having the energy of – someone much younger than himself.

If you love curious, intricate, silly humor that you can quote around (most of) your family, Demetri Deconstructed will accomplish this for you. Check it out on Netflix now.

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

liz miele’s standup special murder sheets is necessary entertainment

If you’ve stumbled upon Liz Miele‘s latest comedy masterpiece on Netflix and are expecting a horror podcast to come to life, you might be reaching from – or into – the wrong genre. As horrific as some of her personal anecdotes are to people, I’m sure, Miele finds so much humor in her everyday life that she is able to make even a laundry mishap sound edgy and crucial to a set.

In a 2012 interview with Miele, I asked her what up-and-coming comedians she was most excited about. She rattled off a list of people she worked with. This list included Carmen Lynch, Nate BargatzeDan SoderRory ScovelRyan ConnerJordan Carlos, Jermaine Fowler, Kelly MacFarland, and Myq Kaplan. Before many of them hit their true stride, she was cheering them on. I’m ready to watch each of them, in turn, champion her new special, as she has stayed so true to herself in her brand of comedy, yet exponentially elevated with each new comedy routine and standup taping.

What I love about a comedian so well-versed in their craft is how they can easily weave their inspiration into their work. Liz has effortlessly given space to her parents and their shared profession, her siblings and their mutual impact on each other’s lives, and all of the people and beings that are meaningful to her at this stage in her life.

Just when you think there is an established rhythm of jokes about her family dynamic interwoven with insightful commentary and the occasional birth order trope, Miele returns to cat-heavy storytelling. While this could otherwise drastically affect the momentum of a standup comedian’s set, it actually just re-confirms her status as a cat person. (Which I did note in my 2012 interview with: “Fair warning: She has a thing for cats.”) It’s a reminder – hilariously placed – of the single-mindedness most animal “parents” suffer from at times, and pulls in a demographic (animal lovers, cat people) that can relate to this stage work.

But the genius in the “cat work” is that she uses stories about her cats to propel her singledom (and willingness to date, change, etc.) into the forefront of the conversation. This expertly ties back to her modern dating jokes earlier in the set.

If you hang on through the credits – well earned, as they are – you will see the results of Miele’s intricate storytelling, a true testament to her authenticity. “I wrote an 11-minute joke about this whole process.”

Invested, talented, and deeply funny. Those are my takeaways on Miele’s character at this stage, with the release of Murder Sheets. Check it out now on Youtube.

cats, family, donuts: liz miele keeps it personal (and fun!)

cats, family, donuts: liz miele keeps it personal (and fun!)

We have big-time love for one of our favorites Liz Miele, but some of you might not be as familiar. So, here’s a little run-down. Liz is a stand-up comic with a strong personality and fabulous stage presence. Hailing from New Jersey, she has been active in the comedy world since the tender age of 16, utilizing anecdotes from her life as an avid runner, sweets enthusiast, and big, loving family. She keeps us laughing far longer than necessary, with her infectious attitude and ability to think on her toes. (Fair warning: She has a thing for cats.) So sit back, relax, and enjoy a cupcake while you read about your new best friend.

Serial Optimist: You talk about what sparked your interest in comedy in your article “Too Immature” in the April 2005 Issue of The Comical and you started doing stand-up at the age of 16. How did you get into the comedy scene so early?

Liz Miele: I was obsessed with stand-up. I always knew I liked being funny. I wanted to be Sandra Bullock when I was a kid. I just wanted to do funny movies but then at 13 I discovered stand-up and everything changed. I was obsessed. I watched, recorded and quoted it everyday. That’s what I wanted to do! “You mean everyone has to listen to me? YES!” I started writing my own jokes at 14 and did my first show at 16 in NYC.

SO: So you’re the second oldest of five children. How does your family react to your stand-up?

Liz: It’s changed over time. I’ve always been obsessed with animals especially cats and both my parents are vets who own two animal hospitals. So my parents just believed I would become a vet and take over so I think they were a little shocked. But they have been super supportive since day one. Even when I was punished and not allowed to hang with friends or leave the house I was still allowed to go to the city and do my shows. They got it was not just a hobby. Now it’s a little different. I’m brutally honest and curse a lot and I don’t think [my dad] likes it so he doesn’t go to shows. And I get my sense of humor and my sailor mouth from my mom so she loves it. She comes to any big show or show in NJ she can. And my siblings, Theresa, Emily, Sam and Greg are all supportive and have come to countless shows!

SO: Love that family love! Now let’s jump to a random question. If you could describe yourself in 5 words, which words would you choose?

Liz: Loud, Logical, Thoughtful, Crazy, Funny.

SO: Those seem pretty accurate! Before walking on stage, what are your thoughts? Do you have a routine? Butterflies? Just doing a bunch of cocaine?

Liz: Depends on the show. Regular shows I don’t think much. I just review my set and make sure I remember to do the new jokes I’ve been working on. Important shows and auditions I have to talk myself down and calm my mind. I’m not very nice to myself and often feel like a fuck up. So it’s me saying, “It doesn’t matter. This means nothing. You are a professional. You’ve done this a thousand times. If it doesn’t go well or you don’t get this it wasn’t meant to be. Just be you. People like you.” Lots of lies and very self-helpy!


SO: Tell us about your relationship with Carmen Lynch, how you all met, and how the idea for the awesome “Apt C3” came about.

Liz: Carmen was at the second show I ever did when I was 16. I remember seeing her onstage at Rose’s Turn. SO TALL! She doesn’t remember me. Many years later we just did a lot of shows together and I remember one week we did a few shows together and we were talking as we walked to the subway together and having a good time and I kinda asked her out. I was like, “Do you wanna be friends? Like hang out for real?” And Carmen was like, “Yeah for sure.” So we started hanging out. She’s just so funny and thoughtful. We became close fast.

“Apt C3” came from her moving in with me and my other roommate, Chris, about a year ago. Chris is a fashion photographer and videographer and he wanted to make funny videos with us and during Hurricane Irene we were all trapped together and Chris and Carmen came up with the “Hurricane Irene” sketch. That weekend we filmed three sketches and thus began our weekly web series of super short funny videos about us being roomies. We wrote, acted, and edited them all together and also took a weekly picture. It was a lot of fun.

SO: Being a comedy nerd, who are some of your favorite up and coming comics?

Liz: This is gonna come out selfish but it’s really a lot of my friends and dudes I came up with. The coolest thing about being a comic in NY is you are friends with some of the funniest people in the country. So Carmen Lynch (duh!), Adrienne IapalucciJusty DodgeMaria ShehataHari KondaboluGina Brillon, Nick Cobb, Leah BonnemaNate BargatzeDan SoderRory ScovelRyan ConnerMike VecchioneJordan CarlosBaron VaughnKelly MacFarlandMyq KaplanJoe List…dude this list could go on forever. I work with brilliant people daily!!

SO: It did kind of go on forever there towards the end, you’re a lucky cat (sorry had to) to be surrounded by a great group of people! You recently posted a video to your blog (people seriously follow it, it’s greatness) with your reaction to an audience member touching you mid-joke. Also recently, there was a video circulating with a heckler. How do you bounce back from that and get back into the mindset of your comedy?

Liz: Well during the set where the dude touched my thigh mid joke it looks like I was calm and joking but I was like, “What the fuck?” and even in a room full of people a little scared. I think that’s why my reaction was so funny because they were honest thoughts. That table had heckled me in the middle of my act and I had shut them up dismissing them as drunk cause what they were saying didn’t make sense but when I go touched I had the light and had to wrap up. I was just honest. “I don’t know what to end on cause I just got molested” and it was funny cause everyone saw it and I just told a quick one liner and got out of there.

As for the guy heckling me and hitting on me, I was legit angry. Fuck you dude for thinking you are so awesome that you can interrupt me and not even apologize. So I let him know he was being a douche and I have a job to do. So it was easy to go, I’m doing something. You are a loser and then show him that my jokes are worthy of listening to. And cause I’m angry and can’t let things go I kept bringing it up to prove a point and be a little bit of a dick back!

SO: Some comedians say hecklers can help a set, as long as they aren’t the drunk and ridiculous kind, but it can help take the set to a more improv level. What are your thoughts?

Liz: My thoughts are I don’t need your help! It becomes a train wreck more often than not. Those dudes in my videos were slightly drunk and surrounded by non-drunks to keep them in check. But there are so many different kinds of hecklers that you have to be careful and read the heckler to know the best way to respond because you can turn the audience against you if you are too mean, or lose the audience by giving this one person too much power and attention, or you can be too serious and lose the funny in the set and break that wall.

I always try to ignore them first cause that can stop them just from not giving them what they want which is attention. I only deal with it if its so loud and obvious it has to be dealt with cause it’s hurting my concentration and the show. But they can ruin a show for hundreds of people. I don’t need you to improv. I can do that on my own when I want to. I planned my act and decide what I wanna do in the moment. I don’t need help from the audience. I’ve been doing this every night for 10 years. I think someone that embraces it doesn’t have a strong act and needs a distraction from that fact. This is an art form about jokes and story telling, not about dealing with the drunk and the emotionally immature. That’s not why I became a comic. It’s not my job to babysit you cause you don’t have an outlet to speak your mind in your own life.


SO: Well said. Your official bio boasts that you love cats and that yours is named Pasta. Please, tell us more about Pasta?

Liz: Yes, I’m a cat lover since as long as I can remember. Like I said my parents are vets and I grew up next to my mom’s practice which was an all cat clinic called, Carnegie Cat Clinic. Pasta, is 7 years old. I got her as a kitten on my friend Ashley’s farm in NJ. She is an all black domestic short hair with a few white hairs near her tail. She is much nicer now but the first 3-4 year of her life she was a real asshole. And it was a running joke among my friends. Bite everyone, never cuddled. Wanted nothing to do with anyone and was real mean.

Then she started to calm and be nicer at 3 and then I was homeless for a few months during a bad break up and didn’t see her for 3 months and I must have messed her up cause she has crazy abandonment issues now. She sleeps next to me or crawls into my arms in the middle of the night. Sits on my lap as I work at my computer. Follows me from room to room and cries outside my door if I lock her out. She has done a full 180 from unaffectionate dick to over-eager friend.

SO: What would be your most creative argument to get people who dislike cats to change their mind?

Liz: Just give them one. You can’t convince anybody of anything with words if they have already made up their mind. If someone hates spinach they won’t change their mind until you make some amazing spinach and prove them wrong. Cats are easy to take care of, usually aren’t needy and if you love them they love you back.

Most people I know are accidental cat owners and lovers. They fell into cat ownership and love their cat but thought they sucked before. Cats get a bad rap cause they do their own thing but we are busy people. You’d be surprised how nice it is to have someone around when you want them and gone when u don’t.

SO: You like all things sweet. What’s your favorite sweet treat?

Liz: Donuts and chocolate chip cookies are a tie. The Donut Pub is my fav donut place in NYC and Insomnia Cookies is my fav cookie place. Both open late so I can eat them in between gigs.

SO: Your first stand-up album is set to record on Oct 2 in Boston. What can fans look forward to from the album? This is a huge deal! 

Liz: More stories. I’ve really gotten into fleshing out some crazy experiences I’ve had in the last two years. Also just a lot of new material. I was surprised myself when I was putting together my set how much was written in the last 4-6 months.

SO: The Cha Cha Slide or The Macarena?

Liz: What is this question? I don’t know what the Cha Cha Slide is and I remember The Macarena from elementary school but honestly it was dumb and embarrassing. Boo this question!! I like car dancing while driving with my brothers and sisters trying to embarrass them while other cars are near!

SO: What makes you smile on a daily basis?  

Liz: Cat pictures, my friends’ ridiculous Facebook comments and texts, quoting movies and jokes with my little sister, Emily, my cat doing something cute, Carmen walking past my bedroom door saying something ridiculous and funny.

SO: Hugs Liz, thanks for making us laugh!


SO Note: Follow Liz @lizmiele, and get excited for Liz’s live album recording in Boston next month! Check out her website for more info!

**Originally published to SO on 9/19/12. Unnecessary editor updates have been redacted.

‘Only Murders In The Building: A Season 1 Recap Of This Feisty Murder Mystery

‘Only Murders In The Building: A Season 1 Recap Of This Feisty Murder Mystery

It’s been 10 months since the first episode of “Only Murders in the Building” premiered on Hulu. This week, our beloved trio of geriatric-minded comedians – and we would argue that Selena Gomez, at times, takes the cake for seeming the most mature – is back on the small screen with the season 2 premiere.

What is all the hype about?

Take two legendary comedians (Steve Martin and Martin Short) and one millennial who has always had a dry sense of humor and comedic timing like no other (Selena Gomez) and put them in a room together. Add in a murder mystery storyline set in Manhattan for some east coast flare, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Vibrant, nuanced, twisted. Audiences rated it a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes while critics gave it a glowing 100%. Dad jokes, slapstick, and sarcasm. “Only Murders in the Building” has it all.

What happened in Season 1?

In a situation of happenstance, Charles-Haden Savage (Martin), Oliver Putnam (Short), and Mabel Mora (Gomez) meet in a diner during an evacuation of their apartment building, The Arconia. Conversation strikes when they realize they are all trying to catch up on the latest installment of a true-crime podcast.

But the evacuation in their building was for more than just a standard fire drill. The three new friends find out that one of their neighbors has been murdered. With their shared, vested interest in the case, they decide to create a podcast around the killing–effectively getting to the bottom of a case the police can’t seem to crack.

Tim Kono’s (Julian Cihi) murder isn’t as cut and dry as our protagonists wanted to believe. First, there’s the neighbor with a cat who doesn’t really like anyone in the building. There’s the fact that Mabel and Tim were childhood friends, something she hides for several episodes. (Why?) Plus, there is someone else who knew their childhood friend group–Theo (James Caverly)–living in the building with his father (Nathan Lane).

But his rich father couldn’t possibly know anything. He sponsors the podcast.

While their sleuthing leads them to one red herring after another, the tension and fear for their safety builds. Mabel is seemingly stalked and attacked by a man that turns out to be another member of their friend group, fresh out of prison for a murder he didn’t commit. (Or did he?)

Savage’s new girlfriend – another tenant named Jan played by Amy Ryan — is stabbed and left to die just inside her apartment door. Nosy, annoyed neighbors begin to throw obstacles in their mystery-solving path. But is it because the podcast seemingly blows up overnight, making the entrance at The Arconia a busy mess of fans? Or is it because one of these neighbors is the murderer?

Spoiler Alert

While there were certainly moments of clarity throughout the season, the uncovering of the murderer in the last two episodes and the way she spirals is a bit of a shock to the viewer. Jan, the oboist girlfriend of Savage, was Tim’s unexpected lover and murderer.

Case closed, right?

Well, the last episode unveiled a fresh murder. And now Mabel is being framed.

Season 2 is Here

Today is your lucky day. As of midnight on June 28, 2022, the first two episodes of Only Murders in the Building season 2 went live on Hulu.