- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hollywood never figured out what to do with Martin Short.

The “SCTV” star enjoyed a modest comic leading man career in the late 1980s but soon fell out of favor as an A-list asset.

The 55-year-old Canadian import never let that stop him, plugging away on television, Broadway and the occasional film role which fit his knack for madcap mimicry.

He gets the last laugh in the independent feature “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood,” a spinoff from his Comedy Central series featuring a bloated interviewer whose questions range from inane to inept.

The film, which opened last weekend, follows Jiminy as he brings his dysfunctional family to the Toronto Film Festival, where he gets enmeshed in a murder mystery.

One could read plenty into the new film, especially how Jiminy simultaneously reveres and is revolted by Hollywood’s power players. But don’t look for bitterness from Mr. Short, who is more interested in the next guffaw than any type of score settling.

“I’m a Canadian and we’re like the British. We play three mediums at all times,” says Mr. Short, who plays Jiminy Glick in a convincing fat suit. If performed properly, he contends “a five-minute sketch is as valid as a movie.”

When he describes Hollywood as “purely motivated by the box office,” it’s impossible to discern an ounce of outrage, only acceptance.

That grace has helped Mr. Short steal a number of moments on screens big and small, most recently as an aging tycoon on “Arrested Development.”

His work in 1989’s underrated “The Big Picture” as an oily agent trying to woo a new client will go down as a classic.

Mr. Short could have gone the feature film route with any number of his memorable characters, particularly Ed Grimley, the nebbish extraordinaire featured both on “SCTV” and during his remarkable one-year stint on “Saturday Night Live.”

He says the director of “Beetlejuice” beat him to the punch.

“I felt Tim Burton had done such a brilliant job with the Pee-wee Herman movie by creating a world for that character,” he says. “That’s the only way I saw that working.”

He discovered Jiminy’s world during a throwaway segment on the Comedy Central series dubbed “Jiminy’s Home Movies.”

Jan Hooks, who plays Jiminy’s wife both on the series and in the film, improvised the character as an alcoholic train wreck who brings out Jiminy’s paternal side.

That dimension convinced Mr. Short that the Glicks could flesh out a 90-minute feature.

The rest remained a question mark, since while Mr. Short wrote a rough outline of the story with fellow “SCTV” alum Paul Flaherty and brother Michael Short, the film’s dialogue was improvised on the spot.

“Sometimes I’m surprised at what comes out,” Mr. Short says. “One time [on the TV show] I shushed Edie Falco and said, ‘Just because I asked you a question doesn’t mean I need the answer,” he says. “You go with the moment.”

He credits film improv pioneers Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy of “Waiting for Guffman” fame for paving the way for “Glick.”

The new film only had 20 days to shoot and a microscopic budget by Hollywood standards — well under $10 million — but Mr. Short reveled in the challenge.

“There’s a risk to improvising a film in 20 days, but sometimes it’s joyful,” he says.

“Glick” is drawing wildly mixed notices, which is nothing new for Mr. Short.

“Slapstick was an art form in the ‘20s and the basest form in the ‘50s. It’s the same material,” he says to describe just how subjective comedy can be.

He recalls getting hammered for his 1994 feature “Clifford,” only to get a steady stream of compliments from fans since its release.

Mr. Short got a taste for just how wide a swath he’s cut in comedy while starring in Broadway’s “Little Me” a few years ago.

Every night he would leave the theater and fans would call out lines from their favorite routines.

“It might be from ‘Father of the Bride,’ ‘Three Amigos’ or ‘Clifford,’ or it could be some odd character on ‘SCTV.’” he says. “I’d spend the whole ride home trying to think what it was.”

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