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I take great umbrage!" the feisty voice of Jiminy Glick says during a recent phone interview with Martin Short from his home in Los Angeles. Reflecting on such absurdities, which frequently come out of his characters' mouths, Short adds, "I'll think, I've never used that expression in my life.... I don't even know what it means."
The marvelously neurotic and adorably hyperactive Short, who brings his "one-man variety show," A Musical Evening with Martin Short, to the Arsht Center this week, says he views performing as a party. "I love doing the show. All of my characters will be there," he says. "Franck Eggelhoffer, Irving Cohen, Ed Grimley, Nathan Thurm ... they show up, is what I'm saying. They are all part of the same thing. It's very loose; it's very improvised and it's fun."
Glick will be there, too, interviewing "a surprise special guest." In addition to his menagerie of oddball characters, he says, "There's a band, I'm singing, I'm dancing, there's stand-up."
"Actually I've never really done stand-up. That's not what I've done. I came from Second City [SCTV], which was improv. I never, like, did the clubs." He continues, "There is music, but it is a comedy. There's a fine line as to whether you can sing or not.... If your agreement with the audience is that you are doing comedy, they don't want to hear you sing 'Wind Beneath My Wings.'"
Dr. Short (he received in 2001 an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, McMaster University, in Ontario) is an Emmy and Tony award-winning comedian, actor, writer, singer, and producer. He turns 58 years old March 26, so New Times wishes him an early happy birthday. "Thank you so much. I've been in show business for a while now," he replies, laughing.
He didn't start out craving the spotlight. "I went to McMaster University because I wanted to be a doctor, so I spent my first two years in premed. I realized I didn't like science that much. That was the catch," he says. "So I switched to social work for the next two years. I got my bachelor's and then I decided to take one year off before getting my master's. During that time, I auditioned for a part in the show Godspell and got it. I was in show business. I was lucky."
He began developing his characters in 1977, while a cast member on SCTV, and was hired in 1984 by Saturday Night Live to "revive the show" after Eddie Murphy left. "I only did one year [on SNL] ... as did Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. We all had one-year contracts," Short explains. "I guess the show was in flux because Eddie had left and now they didn't have ... um ... that show was always worried about whether it was gonna make it to the next year."
On the Emmy-nominated Primetime Glick, which aired on Comedy Central from 2001 to 2003, Short portrayed the bizarre talk-show host, who is perhaps best described as an overweight Barry Manilow on speed. Glick did David Lynch spoofs and interviewed Hollywood stars such as Jerry Seinfeld while stuffing his face with junk food.
And how did he prepare for some of those infamous interviews? "Well, Jerry Seinfeld is a friend of mine. John Waters I had never met. Dennis Hopper I had met a couple times. I always equate it to," Short pauses and then says animatedly, "you are sitting at a dinner party and suddenly you find out your brother's wife's friend is married to Martin Short and they're coming to dinner. Suddenly he is sitting right beside you, and in the course of the evening you end up talking to him." His voice becomes calm again. "Some characters that I've done through the years are very specific, and some benefit from me just improvising. Jiminy is one that is totally improvised."
New Times mentions his MySpace profile (www.myspace.com/lcandambermusic) and wonders why he hasn't added us to his friends list. "I don't even know how to get on MySpace. I wasn't even aware that I had a MySpace," he laughs. "The obsessive Internet stuff can drive some people crazy. They almost become addicted to Googling themselves. I avoid that. But YouTube is kind of brilliant."
Speaking of YouTube, we have one last request. Will he tell us his famous "Lucille Ball on the airplane" story, the one he did on Letterman and Conan? "No," he says. "It's too early. I am just getting up here. YouTube it.... If it's on YouTube, you don't need me to do it."