Life’s a zoo
IN Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, Martin Short provides the voice of Stefano, a sea lion from a washed- up European travelling circus and a newcomer to the super- successful animated franchise.
If anyone has enough comic energy to match the movie’s cascade of quips and 3D effects, it’s the veteran Canadian star ( pictured), who’s famous for his stints with SCTV and Saturday Night Live characters Ed Grimley and Jiminy Glick, movies such as Father of the Bride and, more recently, guest turns on Damages and the sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Short talks about the busy career that’s made him a titan of comedy and now a cartoon sea mammal wearing a clown collar.
What did you think of Madagascar 3 when you saw it all put together?
It’s amazing. You do these voice sessions. It’s just the directors and you, and you try different things and you improvise. And you do that for about 10 sessions over two years. And then when you finally see the film – usually, when you see yourself in a movie, if it’s live action, you kind of cringe and you’re self- conscious, right? But in this, you get lost in it, because you haven’t seen the animation and the animation is so original.
How long did you have the Afro Circus song ( performed by Chris Rock as Marty the zebra) stuck in your head?
Well, it’s still not shakeable. I blame Chris Rock for that. You first were noticed in America on the Canadian sketch show SCTV. Was the secret to its success the fact you were able to crack each other up?
I remember doing this piece called The Nutty Lab Assistant where Ed Grimley took a potion and became John Cougar Mellencamp. We were shooting on a stage and in the audience [ were] John Candy and Andrea Martin as two characters. They were laughing uncontrollably about something and I thought, that’s why the show works. Those guys have worked together now for 10 years already, since ’ 72. There was such a long history with everybody, even before the show started. People just knew each other’s chemistry. They trusted each other. Because it was in Toronto, I don’t think there was a tremendous concern about, ‘‘ What do the networks say?’’. The biggest concern was, ‘‘ Do we think it’s funny?’’.
Regarding your SNL days in the mid1980s, what bit or character lives on the most on the web or in reruns?
I’d say synchronised swimming [ the skit where he and Harry Shearer play an inept male pairs team]. Synchronised swimming had its own life because they’d show it at the Olympics, they’d show it on best- of specials. It seemed to be repeated a lot.
You played a really dramatic role on the drama Damages with Glenn Close. Were you surprised at how well the show was received?
I was pleased with how well they do it. If you’re an actor who’s also the producer and therefore in the edit room, then you should take all the credit. If you’re an actor who is giving this palette of paints to the artists – and the artists in that show’s case are the executive producers – then they can cut it and paste you and include you or not include you to make you look great or make you look bad. I think they take the credit on that one.
You do elaborate musical parodies whenever you’re a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. How long do those take to develop and can you do anything you want?
There’s a brilliant guy named Matt Roberts who’s executive producer of the show and he really writes those songs. I contribute a thought or two along the way. We talk about it maybe a couple of weeks in advance. Then he submits it to me. Paul Shaffer will send me an MP3 and I learn it. Then we’ll have a rehearsal that day and do it.
When you’re on Letterman, you make your entrance and then say ‘‘ thanks for remembering’’ to the audience. What inspired that?
You know, I don’t know. It seemed so preposterous and self- absorbed. And then it became like, after the third time, I’d say to the writers, ‘‘ Now, I shouldn’t say this again’’. ‘‘ Oh no, you have to!’’ ‘‘ Are you sure?’’ ‘‘ Oh please, you have to’’. And Dave’s writers, who’ve been with him from the beginning, when I come out, they’re standing to the side but I can see them in my periphery. And I say, ‘‘ Thanks for remembering’’, and you just see them double over. They just love it. So I’m really doing it for them. You’ve appeared on How I Met Your
Mother. What do you think of the new generation of comic actors? I think that show is done very well and they are really talented, that group, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel and all of them. When Neil Patrick Harris performs funny songs at the Tony Awards, do you feel he’s sort of your honorary son?
He really is, he really is.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED
Now showing Village Cinemas