Glam and pressure

Martin Short stars in mock-autobiography

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Comedian/actor Martin Short humbly admits he's had the perfect amount of fame.

He obtains theater tickets, eats at great restaurants and experiences a sort of important role in show business. So it seems somewhat befitting that the title of his Broadway-bound show appearing at San Francisco's Curran Theatre is "Fame Becomes Me," conceived by the Tony Award Winner himself along with "Hairspray's" Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Make no mistake, however, acquiring fame is not the glamorous world portrayed on weekly entertainment shows or monthly magazines of actors clinking champagne glasses while exchanging "Let's do lunch" remarks. No, sir.

As 56-year-old Short describes it during a phone interview, having fame can mean a life of torment - a constant blip on the gossip radar. In the words of the hilarious comedian himself: "People like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are put through torment just because they want to be actors. Their very existence is so cocoon."

Move center stage to Canadian-born Short, whose new musical is a satire on the obsessive nature of modern day media and the pressure put on a performer's life.

"Fifteen years ago you'd see a gymnast on TV. Today you'd see the gymnast who lost his cousin to an illness," he says quite seriously.
It's seems obvious, especially after a conversation with this very funny, pragmatic man who on occasion will indulge in a hearty laugh, that Short's intentions are to mock the very source of energy that took him to the top. Well, maybe.

"Fame Becomes Me" is a musical mock-autobiography, meaning he laughs at himself along with the forces around him. It's a funny show, no doubt, eclipsed by musical numbers, heart-rending confessions and basically, unbounded entertainment.

Short, who nonchalantly admits humor is what Canadians tend to do and feels he is a very lucky man, is a veteran of comedy in Canada and Broadway. He has appeared in the Broadway productions of Cy Coleman's "Little Me" (Tony Award), Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl" and Mel Brook's "The Producers."

He joined SCTV Comedy Network in 1982, where he garnered an Emmy Award, before heading to "Saturday Night Live." It was at SNL that Short created his signature characters of Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr., Irvin Cohen and Nathan Thurm. In 2001, Short introduced star-interviewer Jiminy Glick in "Primetime Glick," earning an Emmy nomination for the zany character. By the way, expect to see him resurrect some of these personalities at the show.

Considering the interview was restricted to 15 minutes, questions and answers were limited, especially since Short, and rightfully so, tends to think before he talks. From Los Angeles, here's what this talented man had to say about the show and himself:

How would you describe your show?

This show is really where I come out and do a big opening number and tell jokes. An audience member, who ends up being me, says this isn't good enough; I don't want to see a Clay Aiken wannabe.

I've always thought about doing a show like this and starting writing a year ago. It's a better idea to do it now, though, because it's the forefront of what people are talking about these days.

How did the idea emerge for this show?

Probably from doing concerts. I thought why not do a series of concerts in New York. Then I thought it should be more theatrical. I wanted a point of view and original music and I wanted to do that with Marc Shaiman. We went step-by-step and talked about what the show might be. We did a workshop last fall and from that we got a sense of "do we have anything here?"

What motivates you?

You know, I never tried to take show business personally. I'm thrilled when people say to me that they were once depressed, like one man did, and I changed that. It means a great deal to me. Basically it's what I do for a living. This is my little gimmick and I love it. It's fun. I would never do anything that wasn't fun.

So the show must be exciting?

The cast is fantastic. They're funny, bright people. If this was a drudgery, then I would be crazy or broke. We have eight shows a week and the music is challenging but it's also gratifying. You get in great shape.

Do you imagine your ideas on stage?

Yeah. It's literally like a chef working on recipes. You try things that you have to try and you try not to take things personally. And it's all in attitude. It's OK to fail, everyone is just doing the best they can to do something good.

You're a very funny and talented man. Do you ever cry?

Oh, all the time! I'm an easy one. I won't cry if I hit my leg, but certainly at the movies. Comedians are really acting a funny character. Actors tend to be more sensitive.

Some of the folks from SNL, like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd , have gone on to do serious roles. Do you see yourself doing films like that?

Never say never but I like comedy. I think you make an agreement with the audience. It's like at the zoo, where monkeys have the right to relax and ponder on things, but you're not necessarily standing by their cage when they do that. You come back and they're still doing that.

Well, then who are you? The monkey or the visitor?

I'm a monkey.

(Phone rings. It's Rita on line two. He says he'll call her back).

Apart from yourself, who do you think is the funniest man alive?

Probably my brother Michael. I'm not going to offend other comedians.

(He gently mentions the time is approaching the 16th minute).

Last question. Who is Martin Short?

Um, Oh, I think he's a father to three kids, husband to Nancy and he works in show business.