In an infamous “Saturday Night Live” sketch, William Shatner once counseled “Star Trek” fans to “Get a life!”
“For crying out loud, it’s just a TV show,” he told a roomful of Trekkies in the 1986 skit. “You’ve turned an enjoyable little job that I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time.”
Shatner’s stance toward “Star Trek” and the role that made him famous — that of Capt. James T. Kirk, the cunning, courageous commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise — has clearly softened over the decades.
“No question that I’m speaking to you as a result of ‘Star Trek.’ I have appreciated the fact lo these many years,” the 81-year-old said recently. “I’m only entirely grateful for having (had) that experience.”
The prolific performer will discuss his life and far-ranging career — as an actor, author, director, producer and Priceline.com spokesman, among other things — in his one-man show “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It,” Jan. 19 at the Cohan Center in San Luis Obispo.
“I’ve tried to tackle a number of subjects that are fun … and more serious subjects (like) death and love,” said Shatner, whose show features anecdotes about everything from growing up Jewish in Montreal to meeting Koko the gorilla.
“It’s great entertainment and full of a lot of laughter and some tears.”
Shatner was originally approached to do a one-man show in Australia, he said.
“I thought, ‘If I fail, not many people will know,’ ” joked Shatner, who then brought the show to his native Canada.
The latest version of “Shatner’s World” premiered at the Music Box Theatre in New York City in February.
According to Shatner, the 100-minute show, which contains some adult content and language, taps into a personal philosophy.
“The one-line idea of the show is saying ‘yes’ to life, ‘yes’ to new opportunities, ‘yes’ to love, ‘yes’ to the ability to take advantage of the time you have on Earth,” Shatner explained. “Rather than saying ‘no’ and being careful, I quite frequently throw caution to the wind.”
That adventurous approach is evident throughout much of Shatner’s career, which has included starring roles on “Star Trek” and “T.J. Hooker” and guest appearances on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Columbo” and “Psych.”
Shatner won a Golden Globe Award and two Emmy Awards for his portrayal of arrogant attorney Denny Crane on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.” More recently, he hosted an interview show, “Shatner’s Raw Nerve,” and appeared in the sitcom “$#*! My Dad Says.”
His film credits include “Osmosis Jones,” “Over the Hedge” and the “Miss Congeniality” movies.
Shatner’s other creative accomplishments include a comic book series, several science-fiction novels and a handful of memoirs, including 2011’s “Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large.”
He’s also recorded three albums, starting with “The Transformed Man” in 1968. Shatner collaborated with singer-songwriter Ben Folds on 2004’s “Has Been” and teamed up with several artists for 2011’s “Seeking Major Tom.”
Asked if there are any remaining areas of the entertainment industry he longs to conquer, Shatner quipped, “Opera and ballet.”
For all his accomplishments, Shatner said he’s ever conscious of the fleeting nature of fame.
“No matter what kind of celebrity somebody may achieve in (their) lifetime, it is in essence over when (they) die,” Shatner said.
“I’m all too aware of how ephemeral fame is and life is, and I’m engaged in keeping my awareness of the life around me alive.”
IF YOU GO
"Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It"
8 p.m. Jan. 19
Cohan Center, Cal Poly
$50 to $90
756-4849 or www.calpolyarts.org
TEN OF WILLIAM SHATNER'S MOST MEMORABLE ROLES
Capt. Harrison Byers, “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961)
In his first major film, Shatner plays a U.S. Army captain assigned to the American military tribunal of four German judges accused of Nazi war crimes. “It was a spectacular film for me in that I got to meet all these legendary actors that have long since been forgotten,” he said, including Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland and Spencer Tracy.
Marc, “Incubus” (1966)
“Incubus was a cursed film from the very beginning,” Shatner said, partially because writer-director Leslie Stevens insisted that the film be shot solely in Esperanto. “There were 17 million people who spoke the language in the world, and he thought they would come and see it.” Instead, the horror film, which stars Shatner as a young soldier who encounters a succubus, was a colossal flop.
Alexander, “Alexander the Great” (1968)
Shatner credits this TV biopic about the ancient Macedonian conqueror with fueling his fascination with horses. “Playing Alexander and becoming acquainted with (his steed) Bucephalus fanned that interest into a passion,” he said. “As a result my life altered in that direction.” Today, the actor and his wife, Elizabeth Shatner, are avid equine breeders, trainers and equestrian competitors.
Capt. James T. Kirk, “Star Trek” (1966 to 1969)
For multiple generations of science fiction fans, the name “William Shatner” is synonymous with that of Captain Kirk. Shatner originally spent just three seasons exploring the stars with Leonard Nimoy as his logical first officer, Spock, and DeForest Kelley as his cantankerous chief medical officer, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy. He went on to reprise the role in “Star Trek: The Animated Series” and seven “Star Trek” feature films.
Thomas Jefferson Hooker, “T.J. Hooker” (1982 to 1986)
As veteran police detective T.J. Hooker, Shatner got a chance to reshape his public image as a grizzled tough guy and ladies’ man. He also forged a close bond with co-star Heather Locklear, who played an attractive fellow officer.
Host, “Rescue 911” (1989 to 1996)
Shatner served as the host of this groundbreaking reality-based show, which used re-enactments and occasionally found footage to depict emergency responders dealing with automobile accidents, high-speed chases, house fires and other disasters.
Denny Crane, “The Practice” (2004) and “Boston Legal” (2004 to 2008)
Shatner uses the word “genius” to describe David E. Kelley, the creator of legal dramas “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.” “I knew (‘Boston Legal’) was going to be wonderful because of David Kelley,” he said. Playing an egocentric, ultra-conservative womanizer who verbally signs sentences with his own name turned out to be a treat as well, Shatner added. “It gives you a great deal of freedom.”
Dr. Edison Milford, Goodson III “$#*! My Dad Says” (2010 to 2011)
In this sitcom inspired by Justin Halpern’s popular Twitter feed, Shatner is the title dad: a thrice-divorced grump whose unsolicited rants provide ample fodder for his son, a struggling writer and blogger.
Priceline Negotiator, Priceline.com (2007 to present)
A spokesman for travel website Priceline.com since the late 1990s, Shatner enjoys a near-mythic status as the Priceline Negotiator, who recently returned from the dead to offer customers even more discounts on hotel rooms, airplane flights and car rentals.
Self, “The Captains” (2011) and “Get a Life!” (2012)
In his 2011 documentary “The Captains,” writer-director Shatner interviews the other actors who have played Starfleet captains in the “Star Trek” franchise: Scott Bakula, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Chris Pine and Patrick Stewart. He also chats with his friend and mentor, Oscar winner Christopher Plummer. Shatner switches his focus to “Star Trek” fandom in his 2012 TV documentary “Get a Life!