Martin Short visit is long time coming

Martin Short

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

“If I lose you, I’ll call you right back,” Martin Short says, explaining that he’s driving and has to put me on speakerphone so his hands can concentrate on the steering wheel as he motors his way around Los Angeles.

“They’re pretty strict about this in California. As well they should be,” he adds.

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And so, my “Party with Marty” begins. Actually, I didn’t coin the phrase, he did. That’s what he is calling his show at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 20. “Think of it as a one-man ‘Saturday Night Live,’ except that I’ll be hosting and playing all the characters,” Short says. “It’s going to be part stand-up, part improv, part song. Jiminy Glick will be interviewing a surprise guest. I’ll bring people up on stage as a tribute to ‘Three Amigos’ (his movie with Steve Martin and Chevy Chase). The show will be loose and fun.”

Glick, the overweight talk-show host, is just one of the many fictional characters Short has created over the years. Other memorable ones include man-child nerd Ed Grimley, shady lawyer Nathan Thurm and eccentric wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer. Chances are better than good all three will be among the many Short alter-egos making an appearance at the Touhill show, which marks the first time Short has performed in St. Louis.

“I came (to St. Louis) for a wedding in 1992 but I never performed there,” he says.

His one-night stand in St. Louis is not part of any tour. Rather, the Emmy and Tony award winner prefers to mix up his projects. He may be best known as a television comedian, having done stints on both “Saturday Night Live” and before that, “Second City TV” but he has appeared in numerous movies and stage plays and is an accomplished singer and writer. He also was nominated last year for a supporting actor Emmy for his dra dramatic turn as a calculating lawyer in “Damages” on the cable network FX.

He explains that while as an actor he likes “to stretch as much as the next person,” he favors comedy simply because he likes to be funny. “I like to do comedy that is more layered and tricky,” he says. “I agreed to do ‘Damages’ because I was such a fan of the show and I loved doing it.”

Short, 60, says humor is in his genes. The youngest of five children growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, he describes his home as extremely loving and says he was brought up with great deal of confidence. “My father was funny. My mother was funny. It was a funny, happy family and there was a trickle-down effect.”

Short’s father worked as an executive with a Canadian steel company and his mother was concertmaster at the Hamilton Symphony Orchestra. Neither, however, was Jewish, though it seems most everyone thinks Short is. Why exactly is that?

“I’m not sure, but that is true,” says Short. “I know that I grew up with only Jewish friends. I was always drawn to the smartest kids, maybe because I was a smart kid, and in my class the smartest kids were Jewish. My best friends were Mitchell Rosenblatt and Ricky Levy.”

Short says he wasn’t baptized until he was 7-years-old. “When the ceremony was over, I turned to my father and asked, ‘Am I Jewish now?'”

As a top student, Short entered Canada’s McMaster University intending to study medicine. (“Being a fan of ‘Quincy’ wasn’t enough to get me through all the sciences,” he jokes.) He graduated in 1972 with a degree in social work, but that same year, after he was cast in a Toronto production of “Godspell,” his interests shifted to the stage. As it happened, Gilda Radner was also in that same production and the two started dating. A couple of years later he caught the eye of Radner’s understudy, Nancy Dolman, and began seeing her. The two married in 1980.

In late August of this year, after 30 years of marriage and three children, Dolman passed away at the age of 58. She had suffered with cancer.

When I asked Short how he and his children were doing, he acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy. Then he adds: “I think everyone is landing in a positive place. At least I like to hope so.”

Staying busy, as many of us know, can help when dealing with loss, and to that end, Short certainly seems to have no shortage of work. Currently, he is involved in a two-week workshop to help develop a musical stage version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” that will be directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes. Short is playing Willy Wonka. Tony winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of “Hairspray” fame are writing the songs. The hope is that the show will go to Broadway next year.

Then there is the upcoming animated movie, “Frankenweenie,” co-written and directed by Tim Burton, which is slated for release in 2012. Short will take on multiple roles, including Mr. Frankenstein, the father of the film’s hero. Short tends to gravitate toward animation – he’s lent his voice to more than a half-dozen characters -because he likes all the improvising involved in the art form.

“Movies are so expensive to make,” he says. “So you may have up to five takes and that’s it. With animation, it’s so free and loose. You get to try a million different things. You often get to sing songs. And I like the timeless aspect of the art form. It can live on forever.”

One project that Short wouldn’t mind being involved with is the movie version of “Arrested Development.” On the former TV show, which the movie would be based, Short played the character of Uncle Jack. According to the popular movie site www.imdb.com, series creator Mitchell Hurwitz is completing a script for the film, and many of the series stars, including Michael Cera and Jason Bateman, are on board. “I haven’t been asked (to join the cast),” Shorts says, “but I probably would be glad to do so. The show was a great experience.”

As much as Short enjoys doing film and TV, the stage is his greatest love. “You feel such fabulous adrenaline after a live performance,” he says. “You go up there and try to win people over. It’s exhilarating.”

And that is exactly what he hopes his St. Louis audience will feel after they Party with Marty.

 

Martin Short

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20

Where: Touhill Performing Arts Center, One University Boulevard on the campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis

How much: $45 – $100

More info: 314-516-4100 or www.touhill.org