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June 05, 2017

Demetri Martin – on track for stardom?

As writer, director and star of 'Dean,' Demetri Martin channels late father, Dean, and deftly blends humor and sadness in new film

The quirky comic who had potential stardom yanked from him with “Moneyball” – Comedy Central's Demetri Martin seems to be on the fast-track with his 2016 film, “Dean.”

During Seinfeld’s “The Limo” episode, Kramer is convinced that Jerry Seinfeld isn’t a comic.

“Jerry, he’s too normal to be a comedian,” Kramer insists. “These comedians, they’re sick, neurotic people.”

Kramer could have been speaking about Martin. A decade ago, while covering the quirky but cerebral comic at Montreal’s “Just For Laughs” festival, I wrote that Martin is the most normal comic I’ve ever encountered. The polite humorist has always been thoughtful and patient during interviews. The Daily Show alum even remembered that we hadn’t connected for three years when we recently chatted about his film “Dean,” which is being screened at the Ritz Five in Old City. 

When asked about being dropped from playing Brad Pitt’s right-hand man at the last moment in “Moneyball” for Jonah Hill’s star power, Martin was fine with how his fortune's changed.

“That would have altered everything,” Martin said. “I was fine with it.”

Martin, 44, was sincere. He married and is now the father of two young children. 

“I couldn’t be happier how things turned out,” Martin said. 

“Maybe I would be a much bigger name now, but that’s not what it’s all about.”

His status might be changing very soon. Martin has made the transition from deadpan comic to filmmaker. He is the writer, director, and star of “Dean,” a project which deftly blends humor and sadness. Martin displays a Woody Allen-esque touch in the film in which Martin, in the title role, a Brooklyn cartoonist, deals with the death of his mother. His father, played by Kevin Kline, deals with the loss much differently by trying to rid himself of memories.

Martin was inspired by his personal life. However, the difference is that his father passed away and his mother is still present. 

“I opted to go that way and I ended up acting with Kevin Kline, who is just phenomenal in the movie,” Martin said. 

“I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working with him and the rest of the cast. I drew from the memories I had when my father passed away. My father was just 46 when he died. My mother was a widower at 41. When I look back at my dad, he was all grown up in his 40s, and I still look like a little kid with my sneakers and my iPod. My father was definitely different.”

His father, who was named Dean Martin, succumbed from kidney cancer when his son attended Yale in 1993. 

“It was devastating,” Martin said. 

“I remember growing up and there was my dad and his friends, who were these macho Greek guys."

Martin is sensitive but unpredictable when he delivers stand-up. 

“The worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades,” is an example of one of Martin’s jokes. Martin’s material has been amusing, just not very deep. Expect the impact of “Dean” to have an effect the next time Martin performs in Philadelphia. 

“After making the movie, it’s made me want to do things differently with stand-up. We all evolve, or at least I hope we do.”