Demetri Martin: Spiral Bound, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

Whatever you think of this show, you will leave the theatre thinking what a nice man Demetri Martin is.

Whatever you think of this show, you will leave the theatre thinking what a nice man Demetri Martin is. The Greek-American (or should that be geek-American?) has a personable air, he is gentle, charming and able to raise a smile with the slightest touch. Conflict is not something that looms large in his life or work, he doesn't have to rub himself against the world to get his comedic juices flowing; rather, he takes a step back, sketches the absurdity of life, and then takes a guess at what it would look like backwards. It was this subtlety that hypnotised last year's Perrier panel into awarding him the ultimate prize.

Described in this paper last year as "Lisa Simpson doing stand-up", Martin's follow-up show certainly has a cartoon quality about it. Bursts of music that wouldn't be out of place in a Charlie Brown movie go together with snappy lighting and sound effects to punctuate the tale of how Demetri gets lost in his own notebook, hence the title. What he reads in his notebook reminds him of various events in his life, such as quitting law school to be a stand-up, and marrying and then divorcing all before he was 27 (he's 31 now). And, of course, his notebook is where he writes his gags, which he initially throws out in no particular order, before letting them fly off the paper alphabetically.

This A-Z section dominates the show and gives it much needed momentum. He strums his guitar through the jokes in what is comedy-by-numbers, or letters in this case. So, for example, "F is for Finger Puppets, which is OK as a noun"; "G is for Get Well Soon cards - no, I want my friends to get well now." On the one hand, it's a nicely presented construct, on the other, it seems a little too effortless.

Some material is recycled from last year's show, which is fine when it works, but musing on the practical application of pole-vaulting? Definitely a disqualification from the Olympic judges there.

Spiral Bound is Martin's life in suspension, a moment in time where he can reflect on his life before he escapes the notepad and runs towards his future. Time and spatial awareness are subjects that he has already explored in 12:21, a short film he made, shown on Channel 4, that depicted a single minute in his life, the thoughts and emotions that go through his head while he is making his way to an audition for which he is already late. It's all cute and kooky stuff, and his jokes would look nice on postcards, next to the pop-psychology range.

As a Perrier winner and full-time writer for NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Martin should be at a premium. Yet, because of the demands of his high-profile day job, and, I think, to the nature of his humour, nothing has happened overnight for him.

Since last year, Martin has unsuccessfully auditioned for a Woody Allen movie, and busied himself writing a sitcom. What sacrifices he will have to make to fill the small screen with his clever material, I dread to think.

To Sunday (0131-226 2428)

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