Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt


The first time Martin Short went to a broadcast of "Saturday Night Live," it was 1976, and he was there to see his ex-girlfriend, Gilda Radner. They had met in Toronto, not far from where Short grew up, at auditions for a Canadian production of "Godspell." Short sang "My Funny Valentine"; Radner sang "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." They both got cast. By the time Short joined Second City and Radner joined "Saturday Night Live," they had dated on and off for two years. "She was kind of magical," Short recalled recently. "She would carry this big purse full of bingo chips, because she'd go to a bingo party and play eighteen cards at once."

Short, who turned sixty-four in March, was sitting in the balcony of "S.N.L." 's Studio 8-H, looking down on the unpeopled set of "Weekend Update." He was on something of a victory lap. In his new memoir, "I Must Say," he chronicles his boyhood in Ontario, the "SCTV" years, his marriage (to Nancy Dolman, whom he started dating during a lull with Radner), his starry Christmas parties (Tom and Rita, Kurt and Goldie), and his brief, stressful stint on "S.N.L.," which he joined in 1984, after Radner had left.

This was during one of the seasons when Lorne Michaels was not producing the show and Dick Ebersol took over. "The George Steinbrenner year--that's what Dick called it," Short said, referring to the all-star cast: Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Billy Crystal. Not planning to stay in town long, Short sublet a place on York Avenue, leaving his wife and baby back in Toronto. "I tried to quit four shows in. That's in the book," he went on. "Dick said, 'You have the highest Q rating.' I didn't know what that was. I said, 'Oh, that's good.' Then he said, 'If you feel this way at Christmas, then I'll let you out of your contract.' " He stayed through April.

He laughed to himself and said, "In 1990, I made 'Clifford' with Charles Grodin, and he had written a book. And he'd say"--his voice turned gruff--" 'You know, one time I was in London--well, it's in the book.' So I find myself saying, 'It's in the book.' "

Short flicked at a piece of prosthetic behind his ear--the remnant of a character he had created the day before, for Tina Fey's new television show, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."

"I played this bizarre dermatologist," he said, pulling up a picture on his phone: Morlock hair, surgical skin. …

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