Q&A: Martin Short

Comedian Martin Short on Comedy Central's "Primetime Glick"

Comedian Martin Short on Comedy Central's "Primetime Glick" (2001) (Credit: Handout)

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Whether comedian Martin Short takes the stage, gets on camera or appears on-screen, he does so with zest and boundless energy. He's 62, but that's merely a number because his spirit knows no age.

Short spoke to Newsday about his diverse career, the origin of his comic sensibilities and bonding with Steve Martin and Tom Hanks.

It's a party with Marty. All the characters that I've done through the years will show up, like Ed Grimley, Jiminy Glick and Franck [from "Father of the Bride"]. There's a lot of improvising. I bring guys up and turn them into "The Three Amigos." It's jam-packed and moves quickly. There are video clips when I'm changing. It's fun.

How much did being the youngest of five in your family impact your comedic sense?

Because I was baby Marty who was lifted, cuddled and played with by my parents and siblings, it gave me this kind of confidence and made me fearless. I was certainly filled with self-worth.
Your career began with a production of "Godspell" in 1972. Did you realize it would change your life forever?

I seemed to know early on that the odds of being successful in show business are very much against you. I had no real interest in not being successful, and I didn't want to be broke. But I also didn't want to look in the mirror at 50 with regrets. When I started all this, I gave myself one-year contracts because I figured that I'd have time to go back and get a master's in social work.

Did you design your career to be as varied as it turned out to be?

I find myself drawn to an eclectic kind of career. Rather than Broadway, I like doing a few concerts here and there. Instead of being on a TV series, I prefer to do an arc on something. It keeps it more interesting for me. I have done a lot of varied things. Other than retiring, there are very few things that I haven't attempted.

You gained critical acclaim for your role on "Damages." Would you like to do more drama?

I'm not obsessed with doing that because I kind of think the audience makes a deal with someone. They don't give this honor to everyone, which is, "You really make me laugh." That's like a psychic connection. As a kid, when I'd see comic guys that I loved play the assassin, it seemed a little belabored. I was like, "Oh, I see, you are stretching publicly. Can you let me know when you are going to be funny again?"

As a father of three, did you use your comedic talents raising your kids?

I think I did, but it came naturally. I wasn't coming into their bedroom in character, but I was a little bit of joker daddy until there was that "Can you see me in my office, son?" moment.

How were you able to maintain a normal family life in Hollywood?

It's about having a perspective on the importance of your talent versus the importance of your kids, your marriage, your life and yourself as a friend or a sibling. It probably stems from confidence. A lot of inappropriate behavior by famous people is tied to fear. When you are confident, you don't need an entourage of 12.

What is the piece of work that you are most proud of?

I'm proud of the Broadway production of "Little Me," as well as my work on "SCTV," plus the specials I've done. I learned a long time ago that one of my roles had to be that I was on my side. I tend to be generous of myself. I will watch something I did and say, "That was pretty good."

Is there a role you regret passing up?

No. I was asked to do "Dumb and Dumber," but it wasn't for me. It was better who they cast.

What's it like hanging with Tom Hanks and Steve Martin?

Tom and Steve are close friends. We have colonoscopy parties together. We go to Steve's house, take the potion, play poker, have a sleepover, go to the clinic the next day and then have lunch.

Hitting it big as Jiminy Glick

Martin Short is known for his cast of characters, but perhaps his most celebrated is Jiminy Glick, the obese celebrity talk show host who is the perfect combination of sweet and devilish. For example, when Glick interviewed filmmaker Mel Brooks, he inappropriately asked, "What's your big beef with the Nazis?"

"Jiminy's agenda is not to be mean. He is the moron," says Short. "The less I prepared, the better the interviews would be."

The character was originally created for the short-lived "The Martin Short Show" in 1999. Short wanted to do interviews on the street with people, but it wasn't working out.

"They would just laugh and ask for an autograph. I thought that was a drag," says Short. "I had done the film 'Pure Luck,' where I got stung by a bee and I swelled up. People said they couldn't recognize me. So we used that look as a disguise."

Short as Glick went on to star in Comedy Central's "Primetime Glick" from 2001 to 2003.

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