Martin Short has done just about everything a star can do: television, movies, the Broadway stage, and lots and lots of talk show appearances. “His funniness,” according to David Kamp in a recent profile in Vanity Fair, “has earned him an exalted place in show business.” Whether singing, dancing, fathering brides, or cultivating characters such the man-child Ed Grimley or the abominable talk show host Jiminy Glick (whom Short refers to as a “moron with power”), he is a consummate entertainer. With the November release of I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend (HarperCollins), Martin Short goes beyond entertaining to reveal a life that has seen tragedy and heartbreak.
With all his talk show appearances, it’s not surprising that Short declares, “I’m a natural type of storyteller.” At first he wasn’t keen on writing a book because he didn’t want to include “that story about that thing,” but then it dawned on him that you don’t have to include everything. And writing is something he does—and believes we all do in a way—in our journals, our computers, our thoughts.
Short, who lost both parents by the time he was 20 and lost his wife of 30 years when he was 60, says that writing is a way of “puncturing something that’s disturbing. When you confront the hard stuff, it’s not as disturbing.” He says, “I made a choice. My natural orientation was to be buoyant and positive, so rather than being damaged, I think I became empowered. The more you understand the hardships in life, the more you are able to celebrate the good things.”
One of the motivations to tell his story was to give fans “a greater knowledge of who I am and what has made me who I am.” He notes that as a “clown boy” with Letterman, Fallon, Conan, and a long list of other talk show hosts, including Carson, he could be reserved about the private aspects of his life. But, he notes, “one upside of getting older is that you gain some wisdom,” and owing to that he believes his book will be “pretty good.”
Short was not an overnight sensation. He describes his trajectory to stardom as “slow and steady wins the race,” which is why he thinks his book will have broad appeal, especially to the average actor. His book is about the journey and the process, about life and loss. While he has become well-known, he points out that he has not achieved the star status of the likes of John Travolta. In fact, as he jokingly told Conan, he imagines one word on his gravestone: “almost.” His legions of fans would disagree that there is anything short of complete when it comes to this five-foot-seven-inch giant of the entertainment world.
Today, Short is one of the Breakfast speakers; later he and Amy Poehler take center stage in the Special Events Hall at 12:30. Grab your lunch and brown-bag it with these two comic geniuses.