Monday, April 2, 2012

Martin Short Goes Home --To Hamilton

Martin Short, Hamilton and me --we three go way, way back.
I'e just figured I was on the bus from Toronto to Hamilton the same time Marty Short was on another bus from Hamilton to Toronto.
We were both trying to find our fortunes.
These days Short is working as much as he wants and for the big bucks.
Me, I'm still churning out TV columns after surviving three papers --The Globe and Mail, The Spectator and the Toronto Star-- all as TV critic.
I was traveling to Hamilton that fateful day in 1970 to see a city I'd never even visited and become the 24-year old TV critic of The Spectator.
Short was on the bus to Toronto and one of his first professional gigs as a member of the famed Second City troupe.
Because he departed Hamilton so quickly after graduating in social work from McMaster University, Short missed all those great local CHCH TV series that I was forced to cover.
I was in the audience for every season of Ein Prosit. Had to be. THese were local stories.
I interviewed Vincent Price on the set of Hilarious House Of Frankenstein. Price was rooming with the producer because his salary was so low.
I first met Bill Shatner in between tapings of Party Game. Guess Captain Kirk needed the dough.
And I watched aghast from the wings as Ethel Merman took a pratfall and fell off the stage during a taping of (he Palace at Hamilton Place.
Let's see Short top those credits.
Another Hamilton connection: I'll never forget the day Brian Linehan chased me down at Citytv and sobbed Martin's impersonation of a certain Brock Linehan was humiliating.
"Brian!" I said. "He's saluting you. People have to know you and your work before they can understand the parody."
"Oh, I see," said a suddenly perky Linehan as he happily trotted off.
I think Short owes me one for that, don't you?
Now Short is making amends to the Steel City that made him what he is today in a CBC-TV reunion special titled I, Martin Short, Goes Home.
Funny title. But vaguely familiar to me. Am I the only one out there who remembers a 1994 U.S. special titled I, Martin Short, Goes Hollywood?
In the hour outing Short takes us back to the Hamilton street where he lived and the helpless piano teacher played with aplomb by Eugene Levy as a direct descendant of a Martin Short character I think you'll remember.
He visits another neighbor in tow with a chap who resembles Joe Flaherty in heavy makeup
At Westdale Collegiate where Short attended high school there's a hilarious sketch about an attempt to play football with far bigger guys.
Short does venture downtown for a tense confrontation with gang members from Toronto.
Then there's the big show performance at Hamilton Place attended by Princess Anne (Robin Duke) and it's all for a hero from his childhood played by Fred Willard.
In short it's Short everywhere --his best comes as he effortlessly impersonates Leonard Cohen as a shuffling old man who attacks guest star Justin Bieber (played by a look alike).
Of course the Hamilton Short and I knew has already long disappeared. Stelco is shut down. The five huge downtown cinemas with their combined total of 10,000 seats have been razed except for the Century which is now a condo.
The three huge department stores --Robinsons, The Right House and Earons, ceased to function decades ago.
Hamilton just isn't Hamilton anymore. Even The Spectator, Canada's most profitable paper, is a pale shadow of its former self.
I'm glad Short does not dwell on these unsettling statistics.
He does demonstrate that his gift for sketch comedy remains undiminished.
I always thought if he'd done his great series The Martin Short Show (1994) in Canada as originally proposed and not in L.A. for NBC he would have lasted more than three episodes.
And he's already appearing as a judge on CTV's Canada's Got Talent. So who knows?
Is Short part of a reverse brain drain or what?
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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