Comedian talks of family expectations, Austin at BookPeople reading

Allison Harris

The line to see comedian Demetri Martin, who released his first book last week, stretched across two stories of BookPeople on Friday.

Martin, a stand-up comedian who has appeared on “The Daily Show” and his own program, “Important Things with Demetri Martin,” read excerpts from “This Is A Book” to about 250 people and answered audience questions.

Martin said he decided to write a book when he began to develop comedy ideas more suited for print, such as the 19-page story “Sheila” about a man who falls in love with a ghost. He said it was exciting to create something more permanent and tangible.

“The other things I’ve made, they float away in the air or they require technology,” he said. “They require a DVD player or a CD player or an iPod. This just requires eyes and a face — it’s God technology.”

Martin did a stand-up special in Austin in 2007, and the positive experience encouraged him to make Austin one of the stops on his tour.

“When I did my stand-up special here, the crowd was so good that I thought, if I could choose cities, Austin has to be on my list,” he said.

Martin got into comedy at the age of 24, after dropping out of New York University law school after his second year. He said initially disappointing his family freed him from their expectations.

“Once they’re bummed out I’m a comic, I can come home the next week and be like, ‘I changed my mind; I want to be a dancer now,’” he said. “And, they’d be like, ‘All right, I mean, you already failed, so it doesn’t matter now.’”

Mandy Brooks, director of children’s events and marketing at BookPeople, said Martin would draw a different crowd of people to BookPeople.

“The event is unique in that we don’t get comedians here every day, but when we do have funny people at the store, it’s always more fun than, say, an event about postpartum depression or climate change,” she said in an email.

Advertising freshman Alison Stoos said she appreciated that Martin took time to read his book instead of just signing copies of it.

“It’s always interesting hearing about his background, how he was a law student and then took a chance on something as risky as stand-up comedy,” she said. “It’s really cool how it all worked out for him.”