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Slate Does a Hit Piece About ... Martin Short, of All People

I caught this episode of Conan O'Brien's podcast a week or so ago with Steve Martin and Martin Short. Where, among other things, they talked about how they met while doing The Three Amigos in 1985, stayed friends all these years, done several live tours together, hosted SNL, and are now doing Murders in the Building, which is the sort prestige comedy critics love and inspires parodies:

I didn't give it much thought, other than to say episode made me laugh and look up the SNL monologue Martin and Short did where they did each other's eulogies, which is a great premise for a bit:

… and to realize it's a hell of a thing to last in comedy as long as these guys have. Working in different media. Coming up with new projects and reinventing themselves well into their '70s. I mean, just about everyone I knew owned Steve Martin stand up albums. And I first saw Short on SCTV as part of the greatest cast in the history of sketch comedy. And one of the most underappreciated shows in ever, because NBC put it on from 12:30-2:00 a.m.

And, it sort of occurred to me that these guys are on that sort list of entertainers that pretty much everybody likes. I mean, nobody makes everyone laugh. But some performers have broad appeal that cuts across all lines and spans generations. I'd put these two on that list. At the very least, you can say nobody hates them. And since comedy is so subjective, that's a rare trait to have. 

But in thinking that, I underestimated modern clickbait journalism. Because Slate not only found someone who hates Martin Short, they commissioned an article from this person:

Source - I know that I’m not the only one who finds Ed Grimley—

[Note: That would be this character]


… who finds, indeed, nearly all of the over-the-top characters that Martin Short has played in his long career—unbelievably annoying. Short himself acknowledges that some people love him and some people have always hated him. “You’re never gonna win those people over,” he said in an oral history of perhaps his most divisive movie, 1994’s Clifford. The one thing he knows about the people who hate him, he added, laughing, is that “if I had dinner with them, I’d be bored. That’s the only thing I can say back to those bastards.”

 I am one of those bastards. I find Martin Short’s whole schtick exhausting, sweaty, and desperately unfunny. Throughout his evolution from sketch-comedy standout to uneasy movie star to twice-failed talk-show host to enthusiastic song-and-dance man, I’ve wrinkled my nose. Every time he dresses up in a silly outfit or says something outrageous or mugs for the audience, I want to shout at the screen. …

What makes Jiminy’s behavior tolerable, I think, 

[Note: That would be this character]

… is that all evidence suggests that Martin Short—despite the naked desperation for laughs, the love-me wailing onstage, the frequent bad taste in projects, the fact that he once started a network special with a hideous James Brown parody—is basically a nice, decent guy. Yes, he makes old-man pronouncements about Comedy These Days. Yes, he will not admit that Chevy Chase is a big jerk. But he devotes long chapters of his memoir to how much he loved his wife, to the extent that he tells a slightly uncomfortable story about doing Ed Grimley just for her, in tender moments. Nancy Dolman died in 2010 of ovarian cancer, and it’s impossible to read the sections of the memoir about her illness—or about the way his Hollywood friends stepped in to help—without feeling warmly for the guy.

Holy cats. So apart from the over-the-top, unbelievably annoying characters, the exhausting, sweaty, desperately unfunny schtick, naked desperation for laughs, love-me wailing onstage and frequent bad tastes in projects, how do you think his successful 50 year career is going? I mean, despite his dislike for modern comedy and unwillingness to say how much Chevy Chase sucks. 

At least he was nice to his terminally ill wife after 36 years of marriage! That's a positive, I guess. It certainly was when Kathie Lee didn't know she had died and he handled it with unbelievable stoicism and class:

Welp, like I said, nobody can make everyone laugh. And no one is entitled to a glowingly positive profile on a culture and politics website just because they've been wildly successful for half a century. It's just that if you're going to do an article an entertainer, you might want to find one of the 99% of capable writers who don't despise everything about his entertainment. But I guess that's too much to ask.

P.S. At the very least, you've got to give Short credit for his work on Arrested Development. This is a hill I'll die on.