Exclusive: Demetri Martin takes on “Taking Woodstock”

Demetri Martin isn’t exactly what one thinks of when the
subject is the “next big thing”. But the soft-spoken thirty-five-year old son
of a Greek Orthodox priest is poised to potentially be just that. On February
11th Comedy Central debuts Important
Things with Demetri Martin
, a sketch and variety show that will rest on
Martin’s slender shoulders.

Martin’s profile will rise even higher next August when he stars in Ang Lee’s
new film Taking Woodstock. Martin
isn’t just in the movie – he is the
movie, appearing in virtually every scene as Elliot Tiber, the gay man who
inadvertently helped launch the Woodstock
concert in the summer of 1969.

It’s quite a change of pace for Martin best known for his
stand-up comedy including writing for Conan O’Brien and contributing the
“Trendspotting” segment to The Daily Show.
AfterElton.com had the chance to talk with Martin last January while he was in Los Angeles at the
Television Critics Association tour promoting Important Things.

Martin at last month’s TCA promotional tour
Photo credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

So how did a comic best known for his wry observational
humor end up playing a closeted gay man in the 1960’s? According to Martin:

James Schamus, the head of Focus Features, called my agents
and said, ‘Hey, I want to meet with Demetri, just a general meeting.’ Okay. So I went in to Focus, and I just
met with the guy. He was really nice. He just asked me questions about what I
was working on. Great, well, good to meet you. We just talked about music and
plans, just writing things.

Martin didn’t give the meeting much thought until a month
later when he received another call that Schamus wanted to meet with him again
– only this time with Ang Lee and
about a specific role.

Martin’s reaction? “Wow. Okay. They’re doing a movie about Woodstock. Okay. Cool.
Yeah. 60s. Awesome. It’s based on a book. I was like, oh, great. Taking Woodstock.
I’ll get the book. And I got the book.”

Written by Elliot Tiber, Taking
chronicles the unlikely chain of events that led to his playing a
pivotal role in bringing the Woodstock
concert to life. The book also details Tiber’s journey from a small town Jewish
kid living in the closet in upstate New York
to his coming out and subsequent experiences during the Stonewall Riots while
living in Manhattan.

Elliot Tiber

Photo credit: Bobby Bank/WireImage

Martin’s reaction upon reading about the man Ang Lee might ask him to play?

I read the book and I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s about the 60s [and] Woodstock. And then
there’s a chapter about being gay and his first gay experience as like a
twelve-year-old kid or something in Manhattan.’
And I was like, ‘Oh, wait a minute.’ And then back to like Woodstock stuff … oh, cool. And then back to
more and more detail, about S&M stuff that and a lot of stuff he was into.

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