Martin Short, one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, has a career that spans television, films and Broadway, with plenty of acting, singing, writing and producing along the way. Known for his fearless comedic performances, Short created iconic personalities such as Saturday Night Live’s Ed Grimley, a triangle-playing nerd obsessed with Wheel of Fortune; Franck Eggelhoffer, the flamboyant event planner with a mysterious accent in the Father of the Bride movie series; and Jiminy Glick, a patronizing celebrity interviewer who knows very little about pop culture. Recently Short has voiced several animated films, including the upcoming Dorothy of Oz as well as 2012’s Frankenweenie and Madagascar 3. As part of a nationwide tour, he is coming to the Philharmonic Center for the Arts April 9 to perform a one-man comedic show in which he’ll bring his zany alter egos to life.
NI.com: Tell me about the performance you’ll have at the Phil.
SHORT: It’s a one-man variety show. I guess it’s like if I was hosting Saturday Night Live, but I was the host but I was also the cast. So all the characters I’ve done will show up and I’ll interview a surprise guest as a character, Jiminy Glick, and Ed Grimley will show up. Franck [Eggelhoffer] will show up. [laughs] It’s kind of a mad show. It’s just very loose and it’s fun.
You’ve created so many well-known characters and starred in so many recognizable roles. What would you say is your favorite or most meaningful?
I don’t have a favorite. It sounds pretentious, but they become your kids. You like them all. You’ve created them all. I usually let people tell me what they like. Comedy is a very subjective animal. So what one person might like, the other person might despise. But that’s all okay.
What would Ed Grimley be like today?
I think he’d be very similar. What I always liked about that character is that he was an adult who hadn’t lost the enthusiasm and excitement for the possible options of life. I guess he was like the type of person who’s had a heart attack and now smelled the roses for the first time. But he just hasn’t had the heart attack. He’s just filled with excitement: [in Grimley’s voice] “Oh, what if the phone rings? Who will be on the phone?” and, “Oh, I love Christmas.” It’s not that he was a little boy; he was an adult with a little boy’s enthusiasm for things. We all hope that we don’t lose that.
What would you say was Ed’s life motto?
The essence of his life was [in Grimley’s voice] in the everyday, just most exciting, fascinating things that could exist, I must say.
Who was Jiminy Glick’s favorite person to interview?
Steve Martin, Steven Spielberg, Mel Brooks, Eugene Levy—a lot of great favorites. A lot of people are my friends, you know. It’s kind of like, who’s your friend? Who do you like the best?
And whom would he like to interview?
The best Jiminy Glick guest is someone who treats Jiminy like a real person. It’s someone who treats Jiminy as if he’s been in show business for years, and he may be a moron but you’ve got to do his show.
If I were to ask Jiminy what his qualifications were as an interviewer, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, what would he say?
[laughs] Right? He’d probably say [in Glick’s voice], “I think my best quality is that I don’t listen. I think that’s a mistake many interviewers make.”
What advice would Franck Eggelhoffer have for brides today?
[In Eggelhoffer’s voice] Be chic, be elegant and not give a damn about what people think. Know who you are, know what to say and not to give a damn.
Can you tell us about Franck’s background and his accent? Where is he from?
I never determined that. I felt that he was born in Eastern Europe but he’d summered in France and he’d wintered in St. Barths and he’d been on yachts, and so his accent was so filled with pretention that at times he’d say, “Yes,” and at times he’d say, “Yah.”
Have you ever had a joke go wrong?
A million of them. That’s the world you live in. But you don’t worry about that. I mean, the whole secret of show business is you don’t take it personally. It’s just a business you do. And of course jokes will go wrong, things will bomb and you just accept it. If you had a fruit market, some of the fruit would turn unexpectedly.
You’ve done singing, writing, producing and acting and appeared on Broadway, TV and the big screen. What other career goals do you have?
I’ve never directed a movie. I’ve never directed a play. And I’ve had many offers through the years to do that. And I guess I could say, “Oh, some day I’d like to direct.” But I don’t think that’s true [laughs]. I think that I would’ve done it.
I think that I prefer to be doing what I can. I suppose when I reach a point that I don’t feel that I’m pulling off what I’d like to pull off on stage, that I’m not as spry, then I could see doing something else or totally doing something else. But I think that I’m constantly challenged and enjoy the world of being an actor.
I’ve always done a wide range of things. After you’ve been doing it a long time, you’re not worried about paying your rent. The bigger concern is: How do you keep yourself from not getting bored by doing the same thing you’ve done many, many times? Nothing’s as exciting as the first movie or the first time you’re doing a Broadway show or the first time you’re doing a television series. But when you’re doing the eighteenth movie or the twentieth movie [laughs], it’s not quite the same. You try to see how many firsts you can get in there or create a wide variety of types of entertainment.
If you weren’t in the entertainment industry, what would you be doing?
I was going to be a social worker. I have a bachelor’s in social work. I don’t know. I have a feeling I would’ve gone into politics. I’ve always been fascinated by politics, even as a little kid. So I have a feeling that social work would’ve led to social behavior, helping mankind, and then taking it from there.
What would you say is your life motto?
To be happy. Everything happens to people, and you just have to figure out a way to still find happiness and joy in life, because it’s not a rehearsal. This is it.