I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

I missed Martin Short's new book in the tidal wave of upcoming celebrity memoirs that always greets the season, but this is somehow appropriate in that Short has always seemed to be on the cusp of massive fame but has had to settle into simply being well-known. I snatched this book off the shelf and read it in a weekend since in my world, Martin Short is one of the funniest men alive. Like Short, the book is charming and hilarious while his reminiscence of his wife of 30 years and her death by ovarian cancer is moving.

Short got his start as a professional actor in a Toronto production of Godspell with future SCTV co-stars Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas as well as David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer and Gilda Radner, who he would end up dating - can you imagine being out with those two on a double date? A Canadian branch of Chicago-based Second City eventually opened with John Candy, Brian Doyle-Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Joe Flaherty joining the cast. If it seems like there were a lot of funny future celebrities hanging out in Toronto at the time then that certainly was the case, and we end up hearing stories about all of them.

Short eventually joined up with Second City in Toronto, made his way to Hollywood where he starred in a few ill-fated pilots and landed at the now well-established SCTV where he proceeded to create some of the characters for which he is best known, including Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr. and songwriter Irving Cohen. Some of the characters followed him to Saturday Night Live, where he joined a cast that included funnymen comedians Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest and Jim Belushi. On the verge of superstardom Short made a number of movies that did...ok. Since that time he has popped up in starring and supporting roles on TV as well as feature films, with an upcoming role in the adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice in the pipeline. Chicago was lucky enough to see him onstage in a comedy show with friend Steve Martin a number of years back and he has even hosted his own Broadway show.

There are two particular aspects to this book that make it stand out. First, it is full of anecdotes about Short's relationships with his famous friends, who include the aforementioned Steve Martin and Paul Shaffer as well as Nora Ephron and others. If you don't want to crash one of his star-studded Christmas parties after reading this book then you really don't know how to have fun. There's even a poignant section on Robin Williams that must have been written since his death. Admittedly, my favorite celebrity anecdote involves a conversation between George Burns and Jack Benny that he heard second hand and which is too filthy to share here.

Beyond being a celebrity memoir though, this is a love story, with Short's wife a presence throughout. His warm remembrance of her makes this a very touching holiday read for any fan of Martin Short's comedy.

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