When Jiminy Glick interviews Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong Sunday, it’s bound to be a train wreck.
Glick will be unprepared. The conversation will be awkward. And while the audience won’t be anywhere near the edge of their seats, Glick might just fall out of his.
But that’s OK. Because Glick doesn’t do interviews for the audience; Glick is all about Glick. Which is what makes the clueless, physically awkward, at-times patronizing interviewer so entertaining.
“Jiminy is an uninformed interviewer — a moron with power,” said Martin Short, the man inside the fat suit.
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As Jiminy Glick, Short has interviewed scores of celebrities — people such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres and Jon Stewart. But when he tours the country doing his stage show, he’ll interview anyone.
“I’ve done the mayors of cities, I’ve done the star of the football team, I’ve done the local guy on the weather,” said Short, who had local organizers select a subject for his upcoming show at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center on Sunday. “With Jiminy, he’s kind of why we’re laughing. So I’ve found it works with famous people, and it works with someone we’ve just pulled up from the audience.”
Known for creating funny characters on shows like “SCTV” and “Saturday Night Live,” Short’s stage shows bring them to a theater near you. The touring shows are sort of like “SCTV” and “SNL,” except with one person portraying an ensemble cast.
“It’s a full variety show,” he said. “I sing, and I dance, and I do standup.”Well-known characters such as Glick, Ed Grimly and Jackie Rogers will be there, he said, as will his character Franck from the movie “Father of the Bride” and Katherine Hepburn.
“And I take everyone on a journey through my attic as a kid,” he said.That attic is where a 14-year-old Short premiered his “Martin Short Show,” except back then, there were no audiences — just a kid recording bits. But the teenaged Short didn’t think he would actually one day have a “Martin Short Show” on TV. (He would eventually have three shows with his name in the title.)
“I don’t think I ever thought the dream was realistic,” he said. “I didn’t live in Manhattan. I lived in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. So I thought of it in terms of what would I really do, not what would I pretend to do in my off hours.”
What he really planned to do was social work, which he studied at McMaster University in Hamilton.
“University is a time when you’re really expected to hone and refine these interests you have,” Short said. “And during my four years at university, I did constant plays and musicals. Eugene Levy was also there, and he suggested I give it a try.”
Short and Levy both performed in “Godspell,” a musical, along with then-unknown actors Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin — all of whom would eventually perform at Second City in Toronto and later on the TV version, “Second City Television” — or “SCTV.” Paul Shaffer, the musical director of the “Godspell” show, would become the first of that crew to test the American market, going to New York.
“We were all intrigued at what it was like,” Short said. “He was like the Magellan of the group.”
Many of Short’s famous characters were created during his time in Canada, including sleaze ball attorney Nathan Thurm, albino entertainer Jackie Rogers, Jr., and “completely mental” oddball Ed Grimly.
Grimly, known for his pulled-up pants, Alfalfa-like hairdo and “I must say” catchphrase, was a childlike man who first appeared during a Second City sketch.
“I was doing a scene with Catherine O’Hara and Peter Aykroyd, brother of Danny Aykroyd, called ‘Sexist,’ ” Short said. “Two people are applying for the same job. I greased my hair up, and Peter said to me, as a joke, ‘It seems to be getting taller and taller every show.’ So I put it straight up to make him laugh — and the audience laughed. And I thought, ‘Well, wait a second — isn’t that kind of the point?’ And then I appreciated it as kind of an abstract piece of modern art.”Grimly, who would also star in an animated kids show, was known for his love of playing triangle and his intense admiration of Pat Sajak.
“I’d never met him,” Short said of “The Wheel of Fortune” host. “I just liked the name Sajak.”
Short’s characters — which drew on the physical comedy of actors like Dick Van Dyke, Harpo Marx and the Three Stooges — hit mainstream America when he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1984. While Short was only on the show for one season, it helped revive “SNL’s” ratings and helped launch his movie career, which would include roles in films such as “Three Amigos,” “Innerspace” and “Father of the Bride.”
During a return to “SNL” as a host, he created the prototype for Glick, who would eventually have his own TV show, featuring awkward — but funny — interviews. After spending 2-1/2 hours in makeup, Short would emerge in a fat suit and bad hair to interview celebrity guests with little or no preparation. Because while Glick was a Hollywood insider, he knew nothing about pop culture.
“I would grab information from people, but the way Jiminy’s mind would work, he wasn’t really interested in them, he was more interested in himself.”
Short’s touring show stems from his one-man Broadway show “Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.”
While he continues to tour, he’s also doing film and TV work. Currently, he has three animated motion pictures lined up, including the Tim Burton film “Frankenweenie,” the star-studded “Dorothy of Oz” and “Madagascar 3,” sure to be a summer blockbuster.
For the latest “Madagascar” movie, Short plays a pinniped named Stefano.“He’s a sea lion, who works for the circus,” Short said. “I was just in Cannes for that. It’s a huge event — a big movie.”
A movie Jiminy Glick would know nothing about.