Monday, August 31, 2015

A Very Funny Man, I Must Say

My recent spree of reading biographies has included reading about: Steve Martin, Dick Van Dyke, Rob Lowe, Michael J. Fox, Tina Fey, Sammy Davis Jr. and John Lithgow. My next book to tackle was the autobiography of an entertainer who comes from our neighbors to the north...Canada.

One of my favorite Canadian entertainers has to be Martin Short. Others in that group would include the progressive rock band Rush, Michael J. Fox and Paul Shaffer. Short's autobiography is called "I Must Say: The Life of a Humble Comedy Legend". The title comes from his catchphrase as the nerdy, Pat Sajak-obsessed geek Ed Grimley. He is good friends with fellow canuck Paul Shaffer, former bandleader and sidekick of David Letterman. Shaffer and Short worked together in the 1970's during a Toronto production of the musical Godspell. Marty Short was obsessed with show biz from a young age. When others were listening to the Beatles in the 1960s, he listened to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and watched the films of Jerry Lewis. He had an Irish Catholic dad who drank a lot. His father was an executive at a steel company. His mom worked as a musician in an orchestra.

From 1981 to 1984, Martin Short was part of the cast of SCTV, a Canadian sketch comedy show. The program was a starting point for many comedians such as Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, and more. On SCTV, Short created some of the characters that went on to feature when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live.

Here are some of Short's projects over the years.

1976-1977 The David Steinberg Show (10 episodes)
1979-1980 The Associates (13 episodes)
1980-1981 I'm a Big Girl Now (14 episodes)
1981-1984 SCTV (33 episodes)
1986 Three Amigos
1987 Innerspace
1988 The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (13 episodes)
1991 Father of the Bride
1994 The Martin Short Show (3 episodes)
1995 Father of the Bride 2
1996 Mars Attacks
1999-2000 The Martin Short Show (63 episodes)
2002 Curb Your Enthusiasm (1 episode)
2001-2003 Primetime Glick (30 episodes)
2010 Damages (13 episodes)
2011 Weeds (3 episodes)
1984-2013 Saturday Night Live (21 episodes, 1984-85 for most appearances, some also in 2005, 2006, 2013)
2010-2013 The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That (Voice, 61 episodes)
2011-2012 How I met Your Mother (3 episodes)
2014-2015 Mullaney (13 episodes)

He is known for his odd, wacky, over-the-top characters from SNL such as Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr., Nathan Thurm and Irving Cohen. He found the SNL job to be highly stressful due to the tight schedule and the live performances. He was used to SCTV, which was not live. He only had a one year contract for SNL, and he almost left part of the way through the season. He was successful, but it was not a good fit.

After the failure of his 2nd version of The Martin Short Show he wanted a character that he could hide behind. His solution was to play the grossly obese celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick. Primetime Glick lasted from 2001-2003 on Comedy Central. His wife Dixie on the show was played by fellow SNL alum Jan Hooks. His bandleader was played by Michael McKean from Spinal Tap and Laverne and Shirley. His character was named Adrian Van Voorhees and he played the harp. The show featured Jiminy interviewing celebrities such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Conan O'Brien and Eugene Levy. Short would sometimes perform as other characters in skits within the show, like he did on SCTV and SNL. He would sometimes play an elderly woman who would sit in the audience of the show. Her name was Miss Gathercole and she was obviously based on Bette Davis during her final years. In the book, Short recalled a time on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where he was on the same show as Davis. Eugene Levy has said that the Glick character is Short's greatest creation. Jiminy is a glutton, a lusty, clueless, self absorbed oaf. He refers to obscure celebrities from the glory years of show biz such as Sal Mineo from Rebel without a Cause.

The final segment of the book discusses Short's wife Nancy and her cancer battle, which sadly took her life in 2010. The two had met during the 1970s when both of them were doing the musical Godspell in Toronto. The two were married in 1980 and had 3 children. Before meeting Nancy, Martin had dated SNL star Gilda Radner. The book summarized the close bond between Martin and his wife.

These days, Martin Short takes on various roles in films, TV and on Broadway. He also tours and performs live shows with good friend Steve Martin.

* Some information from