An eclectic career is more interesting than the mastering of one role.
It’s the approach 64-year-old Canadian comedian, actor and writer Martin Short has taken in show biz since his early days at SCTV and Saturday Night Live.
“At a certain point in your career, you’re driven by paying the rent and putting food on the table for your family, which is a fine thing to do, but then at a point, you kind of have that covered, then it almost becomes more daunting because you have to do something that you’ve done for many years and keep yourself interested in it,” Short says, en route to the Performing Arts Centre in New York.
While writing a memoir, promoting a new fall FOX series (Mulaney, in which he plays Lou Cannon, a self-centred comedy legend and game show host who hires SNL alumnus John Mulaney as a writer), and hitting the stage with fellow comic legend Steve Martin, Short has also found the time for a solo tour.
The one-man show stops by the University of Victoria June 5. If you ask Short, it’ll be a “Party with Marty.”
“I don’t think it’s about: does every joke work? Does every second work? What I think is more important is that the audience, particularly if they’ve know you for a long time, or indirectly, they can tell if you’re nervous or not comfortable and that affects the whole evening. I think if they think you’re having fun and you’re loose, they feel that they’re experiencing a special night with you and they feel a connection – that’s the goal.”
While stage fright and stress aren’t factors in the veteran performer’s routine, and he struggles to identify a current challenge within his wide range of projects (the memoir writing might comes closest to satisfying that criteria), he states emphatically that he could improve on everything he does.
“There’s nothing at this stage that makes me say: ‘Oh my God, can I make it?’ If there was, then I’d quit. I’m 64,” Short says. “I just do the most interesting job offered to me and try to do the best I can doing it. But I don’t say: ‘Gee, this will lead to something, or this is my goal. My goal is to be successful at the time. For me, I’m not particularly goal-oriented. I don’t have seven-year plans.”
Had he, there’s no knowing where he might have set his trajectory after having landed a coveted position as an SNL cast member and writer during the 1984-85 season.
“I had left SCTV which I adored, because it ended. I didn’t really feel competition with anybody as much as it was hard to come up with something that would work in front of a live audience. It was like final exams every week. I was working with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer – really great people. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It’s a pressure situation, that show. Everyone’s trying to do the best they can and it’s impossible for it to be perfect because nothing’s written on Monday and you do it on Saturday. But I was glad I only did it one year. I found it a lot of pressure, but I’m glad I did it.”
From Broadway to Hollywood, recurring characters and a primetime talk show, projects past and present – Short remains grateful.
“The reality is, that everything is subjective. Even a film like Three Amigos, at the time was not well-received by critics and now it’s iconic. I think with an actor, any experience is a positive experience if he learns something from it. Its outcome is not necessarily in his hands.”
Short on Canadians in comedy
“I see myself as Canadian, because I am. I don’t necessarily have a strong belief that comedy is based on childhood influences. I don’t think it matters if you were born in Buffalo or Toronto, necessarily. I think that Canada is a great place for people in comedy because it has so many influences: the American influence, the Canadian influence and the British influence. I think that we also just support odder behaviour comedically. If you went to Second City in Toronto, for example, you would see people doing more character work. Second City in Chicago is more political satire and to me the Canadians are always funnier. I think Canada’s a great way to grow up and be nurtured because nothing is drummed into your head as much. We’re freer agents in a way. But in the same respect, artistic and comedic experiences are often borderless.”
Martin Short at University Centre Farquhar Auditorium, June 5 tickets.uvic.ca