My favorite Martin … Short, that is

Jul 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

I forget which glossy national magazine it was, which is merciful of me, but one of them a few years ago put humdrum actor Matthew McConaughey on its cover and hailed him as “the man who’s come to save the movies” or some such drivel.
McConaughey never saved even one movie in the intervening months. In several of them he was downright stinko. But this is what happens. “A lumpen hunk like McConaughey gets all this spurious attention and meanwhile a Jedi Master like Martin Short is socko or boffo in everything he does-saving a million movies with cameo appearances (catch him, unbilled, in `The Big Picture’ on cable some time, to name one example of dozens), brightening immeasurably whatever size screen he’s commandeered at the moment -and as a reward, he gets taken for granted. Oh, the humanity!”
Bring on the awards
Many if not most of the nation’s TV critics and print reporters covering television are assembled now in Pasadena, Calif. (or have the networks moved them to Barstow by this time?), and one of the things they’ll be doing is their annual voting of awards for the best this and that in TV.
If they have a life achievement award, and they still refuse to give it to me (forgetting, apparently, how proud it would make Mom), might I be so bold as to humbly suggest they give it to Marty Short? That is, they let Marty Short have it?
If not, maybe they could give him a best-this-or-that award for his brilliant new series on Comedy Central, “Primetime Glick.” On this painfully hilarious romp (Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET), the man of one thousand and one faces impersonates his latest creation, Jiminy Glick-who is not quite the cross between Jiminy Crickett and Sammy Glick he may sound like.
Jiminy is a stunningly recognizable type: a Hollywood hobnobber, show-biz elbow-rubber and shamelessly self-serving sycophant. He’s a parasitic little birdie that rides around on the hippo of show business, or maybe a swollen and engorged tick.
The celebrity interviews he conducts-in a wildly modulated basso/soprano voice-are remarkable for their nonsensical non sequiturs, smarmy innuendoes and flat-out definitive fatuity. They’re masterpieces of inanity.
Short goes extra miles by encasing himself in layers of foam latex and a huge blubbery prosthetic chin to make Jiminy gigantic. You might think this would impair his marvelous physicality, the nutty nimbleness he exhibits in another Short character, the ultimate innocent Ed Grimley. No, the padding doesn’t impede Short at all. Indeed he is always breaking up his guests as he tries to find a comfortable position in his chair, sort of like a fat dog making circles before deciding on just the perfect position for a nap.
With “Primetime Glick,” Short is biting a hand that refused to feed him. He’s savaging the TV Talk Show, especially the celebrity-oriented kind, after having attempted a syndicated one of his own last season. If it had worked, he would have been fixed for life, the way Rosie O’Donnell is now that her show has been top-ranked for a good long time.
O’Donnell told me in an interview back when she started that once the show had run five years or so, she would retire from TV and use her accrued fortune to raise her adopted kiddies. But what’s this-I read in a trade paper that Rosie’s now contemplating a gig hosting a revival of that moronic game show “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Rosie, how could you?! You’re going to stand there jabbering with contestants who’ve come dressed as cheeses or Jesus? So much for Ro-Ro’s high standards.
“Primetime Glick” savages the fawning interview as practiced on “Entertainment Tonight” (where the interviewers now imagine they’re David Letterman and feebly attempt to joke around with their subjects) or as perfected by the unctuously oily James Lipton on Bravo’s “Inside the Actors Studio.” But Glick will perversely interrupt himself mid-fawn to slide in a petty zinger, something clearly inspired by an item he gleaned from the National Enquirer or People magazine. He’s not malicious, really, just an idiot.
Much of “Glick” is obviously ad-libbed. The parodied interviews of such stars as Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld sometimes have more substance than a “real” interview would. Short as Glick breaks up guests like Janeane Garofalo by running off on insane tangents-in Garofalo’s case that she’s the same age Marilyn Monroe was when she died. This led Garofalo to speculations about the role of the “Texas School Book Suppository” in Monroe’s mysterious death.
The Shales connection
Liz Smith got a gander of Glick’s Moby Dickly chin and wondered in her column whether Glick was modeled after me. The nerve of that woman! But then she added that Glick was a fool whereas Shales might not be. Frequently Glick’s monologue includes a meaningless tirade against Liz Smith, whom he always says he’s mad at but whom everybody loves.
Living legend Bernie Brillstein, who co-produces the show with Short, assures me Short did not base Glick’s look on me but even if he did, it would be more honor than insult. Oh and for good measure, each “Glick” fix includes an appearance by Short dressed up as an old bag of an actress, a crazed caricature of Bette Davis talking about her multitude of illnesses and grievances. The sterling supporting cast includes the great Andrea Martin (a Short cohort in the golden days of “SCTV”), Michael McKean and Jan Hooks.
“Primetime Glick” is the biggest little half-hour in television, bursting with ideas and bubbling over with Short. As Glick can barely be contained by his chair, so the Short show bursts at its seams, or so it seems, or so its seams seem.
His talent is enormous, stupendous, colossal! He’s a one-man three-ring circus, a great national comic resource. So yeah, there ought to be an award. A big heavy shiny award. Something to say, “Thank you, Marty Short, for making this a better planet on which to live.”