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Martin Short’s characters have their ‘I must say’ at Arcada


By Deborah L. Kunesh
St. Charles Republican
Wed Feb 13, 2008, 11:33 AM CST


St. Charles, IL -

Whether you love him as the endearing, nonsensical Ed Grimley, with pants hiked up to his elbows, the fluttering dance walk and pointy hair, as Jack Frost in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” as Ned Nederlander in “The Three Amigos” or for one of his many other characters or impersonations, you are in for a real treat and, maybe, a few surprises.

The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles welcomes Martin Short to its stage at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, for what Short describes as a very PG-rated, one-man variety show/party, complete with monologues, improv and some favorite characters.

“I always liken it to, if we were at a party and some great piano player sat at the piano and somebody said, ‘Hey, Marty, do a number,’” Short said. “And I’d get up and sing and joke and tell stories and do characters, bring people up (to) improvise with me and suddenly 90 minutes would be up and, ‘OK, good night’ — that’s what it is.”

We recently caught up with Short by phone to get a sneak peek into his new movie, his influences and his coming suburban performance.

All about Marty

Educational path:
“During four years of university (pre-med, then social work), I was continually doing plays and productions. I realized it was important to look in the mirror at 50 and (be able to say), ‘What if you tried being an actor?’ and I could say, ‘Yeah, I tried, remember, and it didn’t work out,’ so I decided to give myself a year before doing a master’s in social work and that’s what I did.”

Childhood aspirations:
His mom, the first female concertmaster in North America, influenced him. “I had imaginary television shows in my attic and I’d perform and I had an applause record and I’d make tapes and she’d listen to them and critique them. No one in my family, they all, you know, they all thought I was nuts, but no one put it down, no one had an attitude about it. (They were) very accepting, very supportive.”

Applause in the attic:
“‘Sinatra at The Sands’ had a long bit of applause at the end, and I’d make a recording and I’d double it and triple it and so now I had my own applause tape.” (laughing)

On being funny:
“You know, I don’t think I thought of it a great deal. I grew up in a very funny family and I was the youngest of five, so it was kind of like trickled down, you know. I don’t think I was any funnier than anyone in the family.”

Snaring a role in “Godspell”:
“When I was still in my fourth year doing exams, they had this audition for a production of ‘Godspell’ and a lot of people wanted in. There was like a thousand auditioning, and they selected 10 people, and the people who were chosen were people that would go on to do a lot of different things … Gilda Radner, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Victor Garber, and Paul Shaffer was the musical director. It was kind of a pivotal first year for everybody.”

TV debut:
His first televised acting gig was playing a giant Visa card in a commercial. “It was purely (a) decision I’m going to be an actor ... and I was like, hah, right at the top!”

In character:
“I like Ed Grimley, Jiminy Glick, Franck (in ‘Father of the Bride’). They all show up at the concert, by the way. I like a lot of characters I’ve done, to be quite honest with you. I think they’re fun.”

Genesis of Grimley:
“He was developed on a Second City stage. It was a scene about two people applying for a job. It was called ‘Sexist,’ and the woman’s clearly qualified and the other guy is Ed Grimley, and the employer just can’t determine who’s better. I was doing it with Catherine O’Hara and Peter Aykroyd, Danny Aykroyd’s brother, and one night Catherine said to me ‘Gee, your hair in front seems to get bigger every night,’ so one night I put it in a point, just to make her laugh, and she laughed, and the audience laughed, and so I said, well, isn’t that the point of it all.”

“The Spiderwick Chronicles”:
“It’s a phenomenal film actually. I just saw it. It’s about a family that goes to an old house and the mother is going through a divorce. She can’t afford to live in New York and she brings her three kids, and they don’t want to go, and one kid, in particular, is rebelling because he wants to be with his dad. He finds this book and he opens it and suddenly a torrent of things happens, one of which is this kind of elf, Thimbletack (whom Martin voices), appears and says, ‘You shouldn’t open this book’ and he forms into a bogart, which is a monster, and what he does is unleash these horrendous elves and goblins who want to get the book, so that’s the key to the story. It was filmed in Montreal, but I did the voice work in New York.” It opens Feb. 15.

Lesson of Barney Fife:
“I think what influenced me was the commitment to a character (by Don Knotts) and the fact that the character wasn’t funny because he was doing jokes, he was funny because he was sincere, and that’s always stayed with me.”

Surprising facts:
“Some people are surprised that I’m 57, not 47. Some people are surprised that I have kids that are graduating from college and are pleased to hear that I’m with the same woman for 35 years.”

Top accomplishment:
“Oh, I think having a successful family is what really matters — the rest is just a trade.”

For tickets, visit or call Onesti Entertainment at (630) 587-8400. The Arcada Theatre is at 105 E. Main St. (Route 64).