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.

examining erasure and groundbreaking art in searching for augusta savage

examining erasure and groundbreaking art in searching for augusta savage

As more nostalgia topics have cropped up since the beginning of the – let’s admit it at this point – ongoing pandemic, PBS has been top of mind for so many people who were able to grow up – or raise their children – with its expanse of knowledge ringing throughout their homes. Having educational experiences accessible to many different demographics – and on public access television – is an important resource for many.

Searching for Augusta Savage is the first film in a new series from PBS called American Masters Shorts. Augusta Savage was a Harlem Renaissance sculptor and art educator, whose work largely reflected the joy and expression in the Black community. She overcame numerous obstacles to further her own education and get her work seen. She captivated audiences long before her death, and her art stood to progress the inclusion of Black artists in spaces they had otherwise been excluded from.

A curious thing is that many pieces of Augusta’s work have gone missing, and her name is not as well-known as it once was, or should be. Why is that? Why has her legacy not been salvaged and taught as widely as other artists of her time?

This 22-minute episode is a deep dive into what history can tell us about this incredible black artist’s life and work.

Augusta’s work is included in a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism through July.

samantha fish & jesse dayton make the crowd go wild at the truman | kcmo

samantha fish & jesse dayton make the crowd go wild at the truman | kcmo

I’m not sure I could think of a better pairing than the indelible Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton. Luckily, not only did they partner on a phenomenal album titled Death Wish Blues, but they are currently touring together with their incredibly unique styles of alternative blues. A more electric stage – and a more excited crowd – I had yet to see in 2024.

That all changed on Thursday, February 22nd. The Truman opened its doors to a full house, welcoming Samantha Fish back for a truly delightful hometown show. The band came out to near ear-piercing screams, and excited cheers of recognition with the first notes of the very first song. Smoke filled the crevices of the stage as Fish and Dayton’s mindblowing musicianship took over the warehouse space.

Selects from the evening below.

bishop briggs brings the don’t look down tour to kcmo

bishop briggs brings the don’t look down tour to kcmo

To round out the month of September – and to unofficially prepare the city for BEY DAY (October 1) – Bishop Briggs and MisterWives brought The Don’t Look Down Tour to Grinder’s in The Crossroads. On a beautiful evening, against the backdrop of a watercolor sunset, Bishop Briggs brought her quintessential high-octane energy to the stage.

With added block visuals and sharp, dominating lighting, her moody vocals swayed the audience into a fiery mood. She rounded out the 16-song set with the notorious hit “River” before whispering a humbled (and cute) “Thank you” to the audience. As she breathed heavily through her bows, her beaming smile could not be contained.

Photo highlights below.

Art of Survival
Wild Horses
Cherry on Top
High Water
Hallowed Ground
White Flag / Hi Lo (Hollow)
Take Me to Church (Hozier cover)

misterwives overjoys crowd in kcmo at grinders

misterwives overjoys crowd in kcmo at grinders

On the Eve of BeyDay in Kansas City, MisterWives and Bishop Briggs brought the girl power to one of the most iconic stages in the city with The Don’t Look Down Tour. Tucked away into The Crossroads District sits Grinders KC, a mulch-floored, sunset ceiling-ed venue that is perfect this time of year. Misterwives headlined, regaling the crowd with some of our nostalgic favorites peppered in among their latest, admittedly more introspective, releases. Their stage performance of “SUPERBLOOM” was the most magical moment of the show for me, as we all gazed up in appreciation at an almost-full moon over the stage.

MisterWives’ music reminds us to get in touch with who we really are. Vocalist Mandy Lee endlessly captivates with her ethereal vocals and enigmatic energy. The chemistry between Etienne Bowler (drums), William Hehir (bass), Mike Murphy (sax/keys), and Marc Campbell (guitar) is really fun to watch, as they dance around each other and stay in communication throughout the show.

The band has been through some growing pains in recent years, effectively losing their keyboardist Jesse Blum, experiencing relationship woes between band members, and label drama. But that hasn’t stopped them yet, and those facts show no signs of slowing them down. MisterWives – now more than ever – present as a force to be reckoned with. I can’t wait to watch their magic continue to expand minds for many years to come.

Out of Your Mind
Where Do We Go From Here? / rock bottom
All the Same
Why Why Why
Trip Around The Sun
Silver Lining
Trigger Pull
Too Late
Our Own House
Other Side
End of My Rope

If you happened to leave the show without a smile on your face, I can only assume you are battling some horrendously painful ailment at the moment, and for that, I give you space.