The phrase comedic genius gets thrown around a lot, but Demetri Martin brings a uniquely literal spin to it. His stand-up is not about nerds but for them—brainy one-liners interspersed with pie charts, palindromes, and ruminations on lexicography. It's a strange brew that started percolating in 1997, when he dropped out of NYU law school. His act eventually landed him a writing gig on Late Night With Conan O'Brien in 2003, and in 2005 he became the trend-spotting correspondent for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. Martin's performances convinced Stewart to pin his postelection hopes on him: Important Things With Demetri Martin, which airs on Comedy Central, is the first scripted series from Stewart's Busboy Productions. A quirky combination of skits about the religious proclivities of rats and graphs delineating "the frequency with which a person urinates not in the bathroom," Important Things is a refreshingly cerebral antidote to the average comedy show. "I'm trying to make the show as accurate of me as possible," Martin explains. "If it doesn't work, I can say, 'Yeah, this is how unfunny I am.'" That phrase will not get thrown around a lot.

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