Our cover stars Steve Martin and Martin Short are coming to Old National Centre this weekend with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Read our interview with the Martins and the Rangers, plus a meditation on Steve's banjo playing by Punch Brother Noam Pikelny.
Aug 27, 2011
I was standing near the bar in the lobby of the Palladium when I saw my old broadcasting colleague, the guy who'd been the other half of the now-defunct "Wank and O'Brien" show in Indy. Dave O'Brien spotted me while he was ordering a beer.
"So when did you guys rehearse?"
I shook my head. "I've never met the guy. I'm going in cold."
O'Brien went pale.
I should've, too, upon reflection — I was about to do an improv scene with Martin Short, veteran of two of the most influential comedy shows on North American Television, SCTV and Saturday Night Live, with nary a single second of prep.
A few days before Martin Short's Saturday night show in August of 2011, I'd gotten a call from Lou Harry, arts editor at the IBJ. He'd told me the folks at the Palladium had given Short's people his info — Short's one-man revue that was currently touring needed a foil for the "Jiminy Glick" segment of the program, a local "celebrity" Glick could interview.
Short's Glick character is a loud, arrogant, brash and utterly clueless TV host who specializes in one-on-one chats with the Rich and the Famous. For the bit, Short dons a fat suit and spends the bulk of his interviews either talking about himself as Jiminy or asking the subject questions that range from utterly ignorant to completely surreal and irrelevant. It's a cringe-comedy trope that was hinted at by the animated Space Ghost talk show and subsequently lifted and twisted (brilliantly, I'd add) by Zach Galifinakis for his Between Two Ferns series.
Lou had turned down the gig with debatable claim that he wasn't "celebrity" enough in Indy, and passed my info to Short's people. At the time, I was the "afternoon personality" hosting the drive-time news on WIBC. Dubious claims of fame aside, I jumped. Martin freaking Short? Are you kidding me?
Short's people wanted a quickie bio from me, a few graphs that outlined my life and career. That was it.
On the night of the show, I was instructed to wait until Martin rolled a video — an Ed Grimley sketch from SNL Short used as fill during one of his rapid-fire costume changes — and when the tape started, I was to make my way backstage.
In the meantime, I sat in the crowd at the Palladium. My wife looked at me.
"Aren't you nervous?"
I shrugged. It was Short's show, right? "A little, I guess," I said.
She looked at me suspiciously. "I'm nervous as hell."
I stood in the wings, just off stage right. "Jiminy" sat in one of a pair of easy chairs stage left; a table between the chairs was piled with donuts.
Glick introduced me and I crossed the platform. (Dear Palladium: By the way, that's a really wide goddamn stage.) Glick welcomed me, made a crack about my looks — if Mitch Miller and Howie Mandel had a kid ...
Jiminy glanced at his notes. "I see you graduated from Syracuse University. Given your current employment, how disappointed are your parents?"
Jiminy offered me a donut. I obliged. Next question: "I see you're a radio personality. What's the difference between that and a DJ?"
"Seventeen-fifty an hour," I said.
Laughs. I was getting laughs.
Jiminy leaned in. He got perpetually closer, asking more and more strange and personal questions, dismissing my answers with the occasional "No one really cares" retort and running on about Jiminy's personal life and biases. Jiminy perched himself on the arm of his chair, doing his level best to invade as much of my personal space as he could. He leaned ever closer. Further. Further —
And then Jiminy Glick fell on top of me.
We hit the floor. I rolled Glick off of me. I stood. I offered him a donut. He smacked it away and grabbed my hand. I pulled backward. Glick was bent at the knees at an impossible angle, barely being held off the ground by my right arm pulling on his. I leaned backward, overplaying the weight I was actually supporting.
That's when the sound really hit me.
We were killing. Killing.
A thought flashed through my head, a series of sentences stacked upon one another that compounded the slow-motion, car-wreck sensation I was having:
You are doing physical comedy with Martin Short.
You are doing physical comedy with Martin Short and it's working.
Never forget this moment.
Short wrapped the sketch, intimating some kind of later rendezvous between us and pulling me offstage arm-in-arm with Glick. When we hit the wings, the stage manager pumped my hand as Short bolted for his backstage assistant. He was sweating, and struggling to pull off the monstrous outfit before the video transition wrapped.
"Ed!" he called as I stepped toward the door.
I turned. "Thanks! By the way — I saw in your bio you have a son named Oliver who plays hockey. I do, too."
I couldn't believe it. Small talk.
"Isn't it great?" I nodded and smiled, stammering a thank you. Was he referencing the show or parenthood?
It didn't matter, really.
Yeah, Jiminy, it was great.