THE COMEDY CENTRAL lineup has always been a dangerously mixed bag. Half the shows are smart, sharp, and hilarious, like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Chappelle's Show; the other half are full of fetid, overused and boring jokes spewed from the orifices of Carlos Mencia and Larry the Cable Guy. There is absolutely no middle ground. Knowing that, I was nervous about watching Demetri Martin’s new show, for fear it would jeopardize the high esteem in which I hold him as a comic.

Much to my chagrin, the promotional lead-up didn’t offer a great forecast. The commercials were a random mish-mash of seemingly over-the-top skits, reminiscent of the worst Comedy Central has to offer. I debated skipping the show, but in the end my curiosity won over. As I settled in to watch the premiere, my fears were quickly allayed. Important Things is not another half-witted, crass sketch comedy show. It’s fresh and entertaining and imaginative: a beautiful concoction of stand-up, prop-based, and sketch comedy, all with Demetri Martin’s signature brevity and randomness.

Every episode of Important Things has an overarching theme (“timing” in the case of the premiere). Every joke and segment is performed without reference to the others, but all relate back to the central, “important” issue. My favorite skit featured Martin and Amanda Peet being directed in an emotional breakup scene for a fictional production. Peet delivers her lines angrily, but Martin seems unable to catch the mood. (He can only manage to  complain nonchalantly about her infidelity.) As the director repeatedly stops the filming, Demetri rages around the set, cursing, jumping, and throwing vases, growing angrier and angrier after each failed take as the production crew attempts to harness his rage for the scene. His deadpan accusations of whorishness and his fury at being criticized meld brilliantly and hilariously into a surreal example of inappropriate timing.

The stand up and prop-work that’s intermingled with the sketches stays true to Martin’s perennial style. His jokes are simple and witty, his punch-lines delivered at unexpected moments. He employs guitars, bells, harmonicas, slides, easels and simple drawings as visual aids. This keeps the audience off balance and constantly laughing. It’s a style all Martin’s own and evidence of the freedom that he was allowed in creating Important Things.

A few jokes and sketches that fell flat amidst the brilliance, but critiquing them would almost be quibbling. Demetri Martin is a strong addition to Comedy Central’s lineup, and, if the pilot is any indication, this show is destined to give the network another current classic. For those of you that missed the premier, you’ll have to wait for a re-run as Comedy Central does not offer full episodes online. In the mean time, I’m going to need to prioritize my Wednesdays. Lost, you now have a contender for my attention.

Important Things with Demetri Martin airs Wednesday nights at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.

 
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