Demitri Martin and Me
I love Demitri Martin, because I am Demetri Martin.
Not literally, of course. I didn’t inhabit his body and take over his soul. (Would if I could!) Nor is this blog a ruse that appears to be written by Patrick Vennebush when it is, in fact, written by Demitri Martin. I just mean that he and I are about as similar as two people can be without entering the world from the same womb. Check out this list:
|Demitri Martin||Patrick Vennebush|
|He’s weird. (In a good way.)||I’m weird. (No disclaimer.)|
|He did Mensa puzzles as a kid.||I did Mensa puzzles as a kid.|
|He uses convoluted mnemonics to remember numbers.||I use convoluted mnemonics to remember numbers.|
|He uses drawings and visual aids during stand-up performances. (See below.)||I use drawings and visual aids during math presentations. (See below.)|
|He was influenced by Steven Wright, Emo Philips, Eddie Izzard, and Mitch Hedberg.||I watched every Steven Wright performance on cable television when I was a teenager; my favorite joke is from Emo Philips; I own every Eddie Izzard CD; and one of my great regrets is that I never saw Mitch Hedberg perform live.|
|He was slated to play Paul de Podesta in Moneyball but was replaced by Jonah Hill.||I wasn’t in Moneyball, either.|
|He was born in a prime number year (1973).||I was born in a prime number year (1971).|
|He won a Perrier Comedy Award.||I sometimes drink Perrier while watching Comedy Central.|
|He once attended class wearing a gorilla suit.||I had no fashion sense in college.|
|He is extremely allergic to nuts.||I’m not allergic to them, but I really don’t like crazy people.|
One of Demetri’s drawings:
Oh, sure, I could list hundreds of other similarities between Demitri and me, but I think the list above is enough to see that the coincidence is uncanny. I mean, we practically live parallel lives.
Demetri used to sneak Mensa puzzle books — not muscle mags or girlie mags — into school to read during class. One of the puzzles purportedly from his Mensa Presents Mighty Mindbusters book:
If a crab-and-a-half weigh a pound-and-a-half, but the half-crab weighs as much again as the whole crab, what do half the whole crab and the whole of the half-crab weigh?
He said that solving problems from those books was validating.
When I got one right, I’d be like, “Yes! I am smart! These other idiots don’t know how much the crabs weigh.” But I do. Because I just spent Saturday working it out.
I solved puzzles like this, too. I don’t know if they made me feel smart, but I enjoyed the way I felt when I figured out a particularly tough one.
From the way he describes it, such puzzles may have had the same effect on both of us.
Whatever the reason, I spent a lot of time as a kid doing these puzzle books. And it came to shape the way I see the world. So now, as an adult, I see the world in those terms. For example, to me a phone number is always a sentence or an equation. Like my friend Becky…
He goes on to say that he remembers Becky’s phone number using a convoluted, mathematical mnemonic:
That is, he converts the first three digits into an expression that is equal to an expression formed by the last four digits. He concludes that it’s “much simpler,” but it’s unclear how.
Now that’s some crazy, messed-up sh*t.
And I’d probably think it even weirder… if I didn’t do it, too.
One night many years ago, my roommate Adam asked for the number of the local pizza shop. I replied, “33, 13, 203,” because that’s how I saw it. Adam looked at me like I was nuts, and he was probably onto something.
My friend AJ’s street address is 6236, which I remember as 62 = 36.
My street address growing up was 1331, which I associated with the third row of Pascal’s triangle. (It also happens to be 113, but I didn’t know that at the time.)
I chose the four digits of my PIN because… no, wait, that wouldn’t be prudent.
My co-worker Julia’s extension is 2691. I used to remember this as 2 + 6 = 9 – 1, until I recognized a more elegant geometric mnemonic: the sequence 2, 6, 9, 1 forms an isosceles trapezoid on my office phone’s keypad — or it would, were the buttons equally spaced.
I can’t explain why I do this. Perhaps, as Demetri says, it’s the influence of all those puzzle books. Or maybe it’s just that the mental conversion to an equation gives the number meaning, making it more memorable. Or perhaps it’s that I’m wired to see the world through a mathematical lens, despite not wearing glasses.
Larry McCleary, author of The Brain Trust Program, claims that numbers are difficult to remember because “most of us don’t have any emotional attachment to particular numbers.” Mr. McCleary, I’d like you to meet my friend Demetri…
Demitri and I are both into anagrams.
Even when I walk down the street, things look a little different. The signs… the letters dance around. It becomes a little puzzle for me. So, say MOBIL, the gas station — that becomes LIMBO. STARBUCKS becomes RACKS BUST. CAR PHONE WAREHOUSE… AH, ONE SOUR CRAP — WHEE!”
Yeah, I do that, too…
My first car was a CHEVROLET IMPALA, which transforms to COMPARATIVE HELL. Our neighbor’s son is CARSON, whom I jokingly call ACORNS. And I can’t see a STOP sign without also thinking of OPTS, POST, POTS, and TOPS.
If you’re reading this, you likely have some things in common with Demetri, too. What number mnemonics do you use, or what anagrams to do you see?