PANAMA CITY — Martin Short is part of my childhood memories, watching “The Three Amigos” with friends and “The Father of the Bride” with my parents, and he has inspired recent laughs with my son, who watches “Santa Clause 3” … over and over.
“You can’t escape me!” exclaimed Martin Hayter Short, 62, who prefers to be called “Marty.”
The Tony and Emmy Award winning comic actor, writer and producer will bring his characters to life on stage when he comes to the Marina Civic Center on Dec. 15, the night after he hosts a Christmas special on “Saturday Night Live” with Paul McCartney as the musical guest.
“The show is kinda like me on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ except without the cast,” he said. “Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers … Jiminy with surprise guest screens all over, music. I might go out in the audience and bring three guys on stage for ‘The Three Amigos.’ ”
The 1986 film starred Marty as Ned Nederlander alongside Steve Martin and Chevy Chase.
His phone voice was more demure than I recall from movies, but Marty’s laugh was recognizable. I thanked him for all of the laughs he has given me and my favorite characters he brought to life, but he doesn’t pick favorites.
“They’re all kind of my favorite,” Marty said. “They’re your creation … picking a favorite would be like picking a favorite child,” and that’s something this father of three — Katherine, Oliver and Henry — never would do.
“I think you parent from a natural place. You want to be who you are honestly,” said Marty, who takes himself seriously as a parent and an actor. But when it comes to the success of each joke, that’s a laughing matter.
“To me, it is more important to be in a zone, loose, feeling playful,” he said.
Marty, who has a bachelor’s degree in social work, longs to make a connection with his audience and help them through laughter.
“I started off in pre-med, wanted to be a doctor,” he said. “I wasn’t cut out for that.”
But humor and performance came naturally to Marty, the youngest of five children. He was born in Ontario, the son of Olive, a concertmaster with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and Charles Patrick Short, a corporate executive.
“I’ve always had a parrot-like ability,” Marty said. “I think you have a natural ability. Sometimes you’re not even aware. Sometimes I’ll create a character and pull a voice from one I heard on the street as a kid.”
He admits it is more fun to play the antagonist, and finds opportunities for improvising in movies after he has “nailed the part,” though it depends on the directors.
When asked which character has the best hairstyle, he responded, “Franck (Eggelhoffer in ‘Father of the Bride’), but I guess you can’t knock Ed Grimley.”
Ed’s hairstyle, a greased cowlick, took on new heights as part of a joke.
“That was from Second City stage,” he said. “I was there every night and made my hair a little greased.”
One night he decided to really play it up and it stuck — “the audience adored it.”
The nerdy, hyperactive man-child, dressed in an orange plaid shirt, was obsessed with popular culture, particularly Pat Sajak, host of “Wheel of Fortune.” Marty originated the character of Ed on the stage in Toronto as an unnamed school parent in a sketch. His hair went from being greasy and disheveled to being greased straight up after another cast member said his hair seemed to get taller with each performance. The baring of teeth caused the audience to laugh as well, and it became another character trait.
This time of year, I think we can all relate to Ed in “The Fella Who Couldn’t Wait for Christmas,” when we “can’t sleep one bit” because we’re just too excited. Maybe this season we all can strike a triangle, then dance with wild abandon.
Marty created several other characters at Second City Television, including Jackie Rogers Jr., a phony albino entertainer. In 1984, he moved from SCTV to “Saturday Night Live.”
“The kind of beauty of this sort of thing is you’re shot out of a cannon,” he said. “Usually it’s when most people are most exhausted, it is the last hour of a hard work week. If you can just walk in and focus on the opening monologue, the show can focus.”
The physical appearance of Jiminy Glick, an obese celebrity interviewer on Comedy Central’s “Primetime Glick,” was inspired by Eugene Proctor’s bee sting reactions in the 1991 movie “Pure Luck.”
Marty has a knack for playing multiple characters and making them believable, even voicing three of different ages in one movie — Mr. Frankenstein, Mr. Burgermeister and Nassor in “Frankenweenie.” This year’s movie was the second collaboration for Marty and Tim Burton, who also directed the 1996 film, “Mars Attacks!,” which starred Marty as White House Press Secretary Jerry Ross.
As for how he would like to go down in history, Marty said, “I don’t care about my acting ability. I would like to be remembered as a genuine, nice man ... a decent guy who understood the human condition.”
“I must say.” — Ed Grimley character catch-phrase
“Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.” — Ned Nederlander in “The Three Amigos” (1986)
“I am trained in martial arts. Judo, aikido, karate. The first thing they teach you is self-control. If someone calls you a jerk, you don’t hit them. You just walk away.” — Eugene Proctor in “Pure Luck” (1991)
“I said it was the bestest-looking wig I ever saw. It was a compliment.” — Clifford Daniels in “Clifford” (1994)
“Every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you, party pooper, George Banks!” — Franck Eggelhoffer in “Father of the Bride II” (1995)
“Aren’t you kind.” — Jiminy Glick in “Primetime Glick” (2001)
“I invented chill!” — Jack Frost in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” (2006)
AN EVENING WITH MARTIN SHORT
What: Stand-up comedy with Martin Short
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Panama City Marina Civic Center
Details or tickets: MarinaCivicCenter.com