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Martin Short

Martin Short

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Also Known As: Martin Hayter Short Died:
Born: March 26, 1950 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Hamilton, Ontario, CA Profession: Cast ... actor TV producer writer
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BIOGRAPHY

An astonishingly energetic comedic player in film and on television for over three decades, the ever-youthful looking Martin Short floored audiences with his livewire performances on the legendary Canadian sitcom "SCTV" (Global/CBC/NBC, 1976-1984) before becoming an international star thanks to "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), "Three Amigos!" (1986), and "Primetime Glick" (Comedy Central, 2001-03). Short's most memorable characters - the manic Ed Grimley; the obese, obtuse Jiminy Glick - burst out of the screen with a volcanic energy that was riveting to watch and even harder to contain in formulaic Hollywood comedies. Television and the stage were his best showcases; the perfect environment for his improvisational skills to be unleashed to their fullest potential. An Emmy-nominated shift towards the dramatic in the third season of the popular series "Damages" (FX, 2007- ) showed that Short's versatility was apparently limitless, and the admiration for and accolades showered on his talents were richly deserved.

He was born Martin Hayter Short on March 26, 1950, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the son of Charles Short, a steel company executive, and Olive Hayter, a violinist and concertmaster for the Hamilton Symphony Orchestra, both of whom died when Short was in his late teens. He developed a fascination for show business at an early age, staging imaginary talk shows in his bedroom that even included an applause track. Despite this interest, he did not plan to become a performer; his initial focus was medicine before shifting to social work as a student at McMaster University in Hamilton.

While at university, Short was encouraged to audition for a Toronto production of "Godspell" by friend and fellow student Eugene Levy. Both landed parts in the show, which also starred such up-and-coming talents as Gilda Radner, Victor Garber, Paul Shaffer and future "SCTV" alum Dave Thomas, as well as actress Nancy Dolman, who was Radner's understudy, and whom Short would marry in 1980. During "Godspell's" theatrical run, the legendary Chicago-based improvisational troupe The Second City came to Toronto to establish a sister company. Thomas and Levy encouraged Short to audition for the group, but he demurred, feeling that the challenge was too great. Instead, he delved deeper into musical theater and appearances on Canadian television, including a short stint as the host of a teen-oriented variety show called "Right On" (CBC, 1972).

Short soon grew to have reservations about his decision; many of peers had gone on to find fame on "Saturday Night Live," while he struggled to keep his career afloat. By chance, he attended a show by the Los Angeles-based improv group War Babies, which counted actor Peter Riegert among his members. The experience was a galvanizing one for Short, who saw in improv a means of reconciling his stage aspirations with his childhood obsession with the excesses of show biz. A phone call to Toronto landed an audition with Second City, which he joined in 1977.

During this period, Short also continued to act in films and television. Roles in Canadian-lensed features like "Lost and Found" (1979) with George Segal and Glenda Jackson preceded a short stint on the American sitcom, "The Associates" (ABC, 1979-1980), a James Burrows-produced comedy about aspiring Wall Street lawyers. Short reaped the lion's share of the critical praise for his overly exuberant performance, but the series lasted less than a season. He quickly segued to "I'm a Big Girl Now" (ABC, 1980-81), a starring vehicle for "Soap" (ABC, 1977-1981) star Diana Canova that also tanked after a season. In 1982, he returned to Canada to join the cast of "SCTV," which provided him with his first taste of genuine stardom.

Short became a regular on "SCTV" at the end of the fourth season when he replaced outgoing cast members Catherine O'Hara and Rick Moranis, as well as longtime friend Dave Thomas. His contributions to the series included some of the most memorable characters in its network run, including the surreal, seemingly insane Ed Grimley, who was obsessed with "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak; obsequious albino performer Jackie Rogers, Jr.; over-prepared interviewer Brock Linehan, a parody of popular Canadian broadcaster Brian Linehan; irascible composer Irving Cohen ("Give me a C, a bouncy C"); and a host of celebrity imitations, including painfully accurate takes on Jerry Lewis, Katherine Hepburn, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and Dustin Hoffman. Short, who also contributed to the show's scripts, shared an Emmy with the rest of the cast and writing staff for Outstanding Writing in 1983.

After "SCTV" completed its network run in 1984, Short immediately moved to its American equivalent, "Saturday Night Live," for a brief but popular run that immeasurably boosted his stateside visibility. Such popular "SCTV" characters as Ed Grimley and nervous lawyer/compulsive liar Nathan Thum were revived on the NBC sketch comedy show, as well as his dead-on celebrity impersonations. Short's appearance on "SNL" helped to review the show's fanbase, which had flagged after the departure of Eddie Murphy, and in turn, would launch his successful career in films and television.

A 1985 live special, "Martin Short: Concert for the North Americas" (Showtime, 1985) featured many of his best-loved characters, as well as guest appearances by several "SCTV" cohorts. It earned a Cable ACE nomination, and led to a similar 1989 special for HBO titled "I, Martin Short, G s Hollywood," directed by longtime friend Levy. His first Hollywood feature was the broad comedy "Three Amigos!" with Short, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin as Depression Era movie stars mistaken by Mexican villagers as their on-screen cowboy hero roles. An audience favorite, it led to more film work, most of which cast Short as accident-prone nebbishes. In J Dante's Oscar-winning "Innerspace" (1987), he was a hypochondriac store clerk who becomes the inadvertent receptacle for a miniaturized vehicle and its pilot, Dennis Quaid, while the soggy comedy "Three Fugitives" (1989) cast him as a hapless father who robs banks to raise money for his ailing daughter. These and other box office duds, which included "Pure Luck" (1991) and "Captain Ron" (1992) with Kurt Russell, helped to torpedo Short's career as a comic star, though his turn as a fey, incomprehensible wedding planner in the Steve Martin comedy "Father of the Bride" (1991) and its 1995 sequel were reminders that Short's comic abilities were not receiving the showcase they deserved.

Short soon turned back to television to wrest some control over his career, though the results were equally varied. "The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley" (NBC, 1988) was a Saturday morning live-action/animated series built around Short's long-running man-child character, with fellow "SCTV" alum J Flaherty, Catherine O'Hara and Andrea Martin along for the ride. It was a minor cult favorite, but his attempt at a sitcom, "The Martin Short Show" (NBC, 1994), with Short as a TV star opposite Jan Hooks and Andrea Martin, was axed after just three episodes. A sketch comedy special, "The Show Formerly Known as The Martin Short Show" (NBC, 1995), with "SNL" vets Phil Hartman and Hooks among its cast, was widely praised, as was his talk show, "The Martin Short Show" (Comedy Central, 1999-2000), a truly perverse spin on the fawning tone of most primetime gabfests, with Short frequently interviewing celebrity guests as the clueless, obese Jiminy Glick.

The character of Jiminy Glick was popular enough to warrant his own series, "Primetime Glick" (Comedy Central, 2001-03), with Michael McKean as Glick's bandleader and nemesis, Adrian Van Voorhees, and Hooks as Glick's deeply narcotized spouse. Major celebrities lined up to struggle through interviews with Glick, who proffered baffling questions between near-psychotic outbursts. The series earned Short an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in 2003. Glick was also front and center for the little-seen feature, "Jiminy Glick in Lalawood" (2004), which also featured Short as David Lynch in a murder mystery plot set at the Toronto Film Festival.

In addition to his big and small screen successes, Short was made a member of the Order of Canada, the highest recognition bestowed upon a citizen of that country for distinguished service, in 1994. He later received Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, which was given to Canadians of significant merit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Elizabeth II's ascension to the throne. Short was also made a Doctor of Letters from his alma mater at McMaster in 2000, and shared the Earl Gray Lifetime Achievement Award with his "SCTV" castmates in 1995.

While bouncing between films and television, Short also cultivated an impressive list of stage appearances on Broadway. He made his debut on the Great White Way in 1993 opposite Bernadette Peters in the musical adaptation of Neil Simon's "The Goodbye Girl," which earned him a Theatre World Award and Tony and Outer Circle nominations. Six years later, he claimed a well-deserved Tony for the 1999 revival of "Little Me," Neil Simon's musical about a self-obsessed young woman's rise to fame and the numerous men in her life, all of whom were played by Short. In 2003, he took over the Los Angeles production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" opposite Jason Alexander; Short was Brooks' original consideration for the role of Leo Bloom, but the actor declined, citing his reluctance to move his family to New York for a year. Short later launched a popular one-man show, "Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me," which saw him revive such well-loved characters as Ed Grimley and Irving Cohen. A portion of the show was devoted to an impromptu interview with a member of the audience - usually, a celebrity in attendance - conducted by Jiminy Glick.

While enjoying his stage success, Short kept busy with supporting roles in films and television, as well as a blossoming second career as a voiceover artist in projects like "The Prince of Egypt" (1998), "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" (2001) and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" (2008). Comedy was still his forte, as seen by his manic turn as Jack Frost in "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" (2006) and a truly uproarious guest shot as horribly maimed fitness nut Uncle Jack on "Arrested Development" (Fox, 2003-06), but Short also began venturing into straight drama. A 2005 appearance on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) as a psychic with questionable links to a murder case preceded a season-long turn as a shady lawyer on the third season of "Damages" (FX, 2007- ). His turn as Leonard Winstone, the trusted legal counsel to a wealthy family rocked by scandal, as well as a man with a hidden past, earned Short near universal acclaim and a Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

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