Martin Short Biography

Comedian, Actor (1950–)
From Three Amigos to Saturday Night Live to Broadway, Canadian comedian Martin Short has amused audiences both on screen and on stage.


Born in Canada in 1950, actor and comedian Martin Short toured with Toronto's Second City comedy troupe before moving to New York, where he was cast on Saturday Night Live. Movie roles soon followed, and Short appeared in some of the biggest comedy hits of the 1980s, including Innerspace and Three Amigos.

Early Life

Martin Hayter Short was born on March 26, 1950, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Known for his wacky characters and dead-on impressions, Martin Short was a born entertainer, aspiring to have his own variety show at an early age. Up in his bedroom, Short would record a show of his own making, which featured songs and interviews. "I wanted to be Frank Sinatra; I thought being Frank was cool," Short told People magazine.

His family was supportive of his creative efforts and his siblings often joined in the fun. "Being the youngest of five, you're adored, you're fueled with confidence." Short told TIME magazine. His mother, Olive, was a violinist and concert master for the Hamilton Symphony, and she offered her son constructive feedback on his singing. His business executive father, Charles, was also unfazed by his son's activities. "Absurdity and eccentricity were not criticized," Short told reporters.

But Short's seemingly idyllic life was not without personal hardship. His oldest brother died in a car accident when Short was only 12 years old. His mother then fought a long battle against cancer, during which Short and rest of his family worked hard to keep her spirits up. Sadly, she died when Short was 18. He suffered another loss a few years later, when his father passed away after a stroke. Despite these great losses, however, Short remained upbeat and positive. "I never looked at it as if it was a tragedy—that I didn't have them my whole life ... our whole family took the attitude that if you have wonderful moments, don't second-guess them, just enjoy them," he said.

Aspiring Actor

At McMaster University, Short studied for a degree in social work. He also began exploring his interest in performing during his last year of school. Auditioning for a 1972 production of Godspell, Short was surprised to land a role. "I couldn't believe it. I'd been in show business for about an hour and suddenly I had a job," he said. It was during the run of the show that Short became acquainted with fellow cast member Nancy Dolman, and the two began dating.

After Godspell, Short worked on a number of stage productions and television programs in Toronto. He served as the host of a weekly Canadian music show, Right On (1972), before joining the Toronto's Second City comedy troupe. Before long, Short moved to New York where he landed a role on the short-lived sitcom The Associates in 1979.

Soon after the show was canceled in 1980, Short endured another sitcom flop—I'm a Big Girl Now (1980) with Danny Thomas and Diana Canova—before landing his first big break. He joined the cast of the popular late night comedy show SCTV, which featured the likes of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Dave Thomas among others. For three years, Short delighted audiences with such characters as lounge singer Jackie Rogers, Jr.; songwriter Irving Cohen; and easily excitable oddball Ed Grimley. He also imitated such well-known personalities as Dustin Hoffman and comic legend Jerry Lewis.

Mainstream Comedian

Switching from one sketch comedy show to another, Short signed up to be on the popular Saturday Night Live. on SNL, Short reprised his role as Ed Grimley and debuted character Nathan Thurm, a tightly wound and sketchy lawyer, both of which became popular with the show's fans. Short only appeared on SNL for one season.

Branching out into feature films, Short starred in the buddy comedy Three Amigos (1986) with Steve Martin and Chevy Chase. He found some success with the science fiction comedy Innerspace (1987) with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. Then in 1991, Short had a supporting role in the remake Father of the Bride, starring Steve Martin as the title character. His turn as a quirky wedding planner was well received, but Short was unable to become a big box office draw.

In 1993, Short put his many talents to good use on the Broadway stage. He starred in a revival of The Goodbye Girl with Bernadette Peters, which earned him a Tony Award nomination. Short also achieved one of his early dreams the following year, when he launched his own syndicated talk show. While the program received warm reviews, it failed to capture enough of an audience to stay on the air. Because of his obligations to the show, Short had to turn down Mel Brooks's offer to star in the hit musical The Producers, based on his earlier film by the same title. Matthew Broderick ended up taking the role.

Recent Roles

Short eventually made his way back to Broadway in the 1999 revival of the Neil Simon musical Little Me. A critical success, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Short returned to television with the mock celebrity interview program Primetime Glick in 2001. On the show, he revived one of his popular characters, a rotund and clueless journalist named Jiminy Glick. All sorts of famous personalities appeared on the series, including Tim Robbins, John McEnroe and Tom Hanks. Not everyone got the joke—comedian Tom Green reportedly walked out on his interview with Glick. The show was canceled in 2003, and Short portrayed the character on the big screen the following year in the film Jiminy Glick in Lalawood.

Short brought Jiminy Glick back as part of his 2007 one-man Broadway show Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me. In this show, he explored his life and poked fun at its lack of common celebrity drama.

In recent years, Short has shown more of his dramatic side. His guest appearance on the crime drama Law & Order: SVU in 2005 was widely praised. Then in 2010, Short joined the cast of the legal drama Damages, starring Glenn Close.

His wife, Nancy, with whom he had three children, passed away in August 2010. Short and his family live in California.

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