I recently read I Must Say: My Life As A Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting:
“What I discovered, through Ed, was that I simply needed to commit: to not worry about jokes. The reaction seemed to get the biggest lagush, not the action. I didn’t need to be a stand-up comedian delivering punch lines. If I just sincerely devoted myself to Ed’s panic with every fiber of my being, the audience would commit to him.” (5)
“Something terrible can happen to you, and yet, the day after this something terrible, the sun still rises, and life goes on. And therefore, so must you.” (49)
“What we all learned at Second City was to trust the concept that our comedy wasn’t about jokes. Rather, it was about situations and characters – the peculiar moments that we encounter in life, the peculiar people that we meet, and how we (and they) react to these moments and meetings.” (142)
“Don’t telegraph, don’t oversell – that was how you created an absurd yet three-dimensional character.” (143)
“The working pace at SCTV was so civilized. We’d take six weeks to write and then six weeks to shoot, followed by another cycle of six weeks writing and six weeks shooting. The writing breaks were crucial, for they allowed inchoate ideas to develop, mature, ripen, and, on occasion, ferment into total, utter originality, all without the SNL-style pressure of “Whaddaya got for this week/” (159)
“I wasn’t above poking fun at Jerry Lewis, but I brought affection and a sense of tribute to my Lewis bits too… Yes, you had to show the warts, but you also had to prove why the subject was worthy of your attention.” (163)
“The way I see it, you spend the first fifteen years of your life as a sponge, soaking up influences and experiences, and the remainder of your life recycling, regurgitating, and reprocessing those first fifteen years.” (163)
“After each take, we’d all crowd around the monitor and watch the playback, and everyone would discuss how to recalibrate the scene for the next take: “Okay, maybe a little less from John, a little more form Andrea, and a lot less from Marty.” (174)
“Manic energy, I learned as the season went on, was the key to success on SNL, and a big differentiator from SCTV: the need for insane, unexpected, can’t look away energy.” (179)
“You can be incredibly talented comedically, but on the unforgiving stage of Saturday Night Live, if you don’t bring that immediate energy, you just won’t connect with the audience.” (179)
“In Hollywood, you’re hottest at the point when you’re all about anticipation: when everyone in the business knows you have product pending, but none of it is out yet. You’re busy, in demand, hectically jumping from one job to the next, energized by a sustained industry murmur.” (193)
“I have this philosophy around people I don’t know but am excited to meet that I call “immediate intimacy”: I do an impersonation of someone who is relaxed, loose, and not at all intimidated, in the hope that this impersonation will ultimately become reality.” (196)
“Critical favor, talent, and tenacity are only part of the formula for a hit. You also need luck and good timing.” (206)
“Damage’s creators, Daniel Zelman and the brothers Todd and Glenn Kessler, liked using comic actors in serious roles, trusting them to be looser and more inventive with dialogue.” (284)
“When you start your career, you worry about how you’re going to pay the rent. But when that’s covered, you feel an even greater pressure: How do you stay interested? For me, the answer has always lain in the theater. Live performance – in its potential for danger, fun, and anarchy – is what sustains me.” (311)
“A sermon by Oxford theologian Henry Scott Holland has evolved over time into a funeral prayer:
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.” (316)
Liked the quotes? Buy the book here.