Short sto­ries

Comedic legend’s chatty bio brings plenty of charm

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS -

FOR a coun­try whose mod­est ver­sion of show business lacks any­thing re­sem­bling a star sys­tem, Canada sure has pro­duced more than its share of stars. And it could fairly be ar­gued that Martin Short — ac­tor, singer, co­me­dian, TV legend, movie star, Broad­way jug­ger­naut — stands tallest among them all. De­spite hav­ing been a res­i­dent of Amer­ica for sev­eral decades, Short is a de­cid­edly Cana­dian kind of star — unas­sum­ing, po­lite, kind, good-na­tured, self-ef­fac­ing and very much beloved in show­biz cir­cles. How he got from here — well, Hamil­ton, Ont., to be pre­cise — to there is de­scribed in charm­ingly chatty fash­ion in Short’s aptly ti­tled new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, I Must Say: My Life As a Hum­ble Com­edy Legend. As the most en­dur­ingly suc­cess­ful mem­ber of Canada’s great­est-ever gen­er­a­tion of show­biz ex­ports, Short’s is cer­tainly a tale worth telling. Writ­ten in chrono­log­i­cal fash­ion and em­ploy­ing a light, con­ver­sa­tional style, I Must Say is an easy read filled with anec­dotes and rem­i­nis­cences that of­fer read­ers a rare in­sider’s glimpse at the for­ma­tion of this coun­try’s most for­mi­da­ble clus­ter of com­edy stars. He states at the out­set that be­ing a star was never his dream while he was grow­ing up in mid­dle-class Hamil­ton, the youngest of five chil­dren of a steel-in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive and a con­cert vi­o­lin­ist. But the an­tics he de­scribes very much sug­gest that Short was groom­ing him­self — if not for star­dom, then at least for a lifetime as a per­former: “Out­side, on Whit­ton Road, nor­mal Cana­dian child­hood was tak­ing place, with kids play­ing hockey in the street un­til dark­ness fell and the street­lights came on. Inside, lit­tle Marty was snap­ping his fin­gers and singing, ‘Weather-wise, it’s such a cuckoo daaaay!’” It may have been dreams that steered him to­ward show­biz, but it was stark re­al­ity that set within him the re­solve to get there. When he was 12, his el­dest brother — whom he idol­ized — died in a car crash; by the time he was 20, Short had lost both his par­ents. Hav­ing en­dured that ac­cu­mu­la­tion of heart­break, there was noth­ing in show business — re­jec­tion, fail­ure, missed op­por­tu­ni­ties — that would de­ter Short from be­ing who and what he in­evitably be­came. The big­gest break, of course, was the first one. In 1972, Short landed a role in the nowl­e­gendary Toronto pro­duc­tionp of God­spell, which placed him in a company that would in­clu­den the likes of Eu­geneE Levy, An­drea Martin, Gilda Rad­ner, Vic­tor Gar­ber, PaulP Shaf­fer, Jayne East­wood and Dave Thomas, and into a show­bizzy so­cial cir­cle fre­quented by Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Cather­ine O’Hara and sev­eral other soon-tobe fa­mous Cana­di­ans. After a some­what tu­mul­tuous re­la­tion­ship with Rad­ner ended, he met and fell in­stantly and deeply in love with fel­low per­former Nancy Dol­man, an un­der­study in the God­spell pro­duc­tion who would be­come his wife, part­ner and soul­mate for the next 30 years. The rest, as they say, is his­tory — Cana­dian show­biz his­tory — and Short turns out to be quite a sto­ry­teller, of­fer­ing in­ti­mate de­tails of his suc­cesses, mis­steps and, even­tu­ally, his tri­umph as a cast mem­ber on SCTV and Satur­day Night Live, his mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful big-screen ca­reer, and his later-in-life re­turn to his stage-mu­si­cal roots. Short might be ac­cused of go­ing a bit over­board with en­ter­tain­ment-in­dus­try name-drops, but this is a show­biz mem­oir, and its au­thor has more than earned the been-there-done-that right to dish. As much as I Must Say is an en­ter­tain­ment biog­ra­phy, it’s also a love story, al­beit with a very wrench­ing end­ing. Short is frank and straight­for­ward in de­scrib­ing the loss of his beloved Nancy to can­cer, and light­ens the mood slightly by ad­dress­ing that muchdis­cussed To­day Show ap­pear­ance in which an obliv­i­ous Kathy Lee Gif­ford quizzed Short about his mar­riage, clearly un­aware that she had died. Through­out the book, Short also in­tro­duces read­ers to many of his best-known sketch char­ac­ters — Ed Grim­ley, Jiminy Glick and many more — and of­fers in­sights into how, where and why they sprang from his imag­i­na­tion. As Short sto­ries go, this one’s rather en­ter­tain­ing. Brad Oswald is the Free Press TV

writer.

JOHN MA­HONEY / POST­MEDIA NEWS INC. FILES

Martin Short’s bio is in part a heart-wrench­ing love story of his late wife Nancy.

I Must Say: My Life as a Hum­ble Com­edy

Legend

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