A grab-bag of one-liners, stories and cartoons from the hipster-favorite comic.
In his stand-up performances, Martin presents himself as the cheerier cousin of comedians like Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg, experts at simple, observational gags. His debut book is larded with plenty of that brand of Twitter-ready humor—e.g., “You never forget your first kiss. And that’s what makes it so hard to forgive my uncle”; “Tell me again how a silver lining helps me?”; “100% of people who give 110% do not understand math.” But Martin shines in the longer comic pieces. “Dad” is narrated by the grumpy child of a man who was raised by wolves. In a deleted scene from A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect, leading to an entertaining riff on grammatical tenses. “Socrates’s Publicist” imagines the deadly consequences of the Greek philosopher acquiring a chirpy PR rep eager to brand him and bring his “question thing” to a wider audience. The best, and longest, piece, which imagines a relationship in the afterlife, is so rich with ironic twists it would be at home in one of Woody Allen’s classic books. Martin occasionally tries too hard—one piece makes too much of the phrase “green with envy” —but mostly he displays an enthusiasm for finding literate jokes wherever he can find them, from describing a person’s schedule entirely in abbreviations to providing clues for a crossword puzzle in which the grid entirely filled with the letter A. Less successful are the dozens of simple doodles that stuff the book. When they’re presented onstage by his deliberately stiff, AV-club–alumnus persona, the cartoons can be endearing. On the page, however, they mostly read like rejected Far Side panels.
Not every joke works, but Martin has energy to burn when it comes to mining linguistic absurdities for laughs.