Martin Short had a profound effect on any child of the '80s who constantly watched television shows like "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live" or films like "Three Amigos" and "Innerspace." So, perhaps it's not surprising that these four subjects were discussed with Short -- an actor who I've always wanted to interview -- at length.
(So at length, we had to divide this interview in half, so look for the discussion about Short's days on "SCTV" and "SNL" later this week.)
Short is promoting his voice work on the latest chapter of the "Madagascar" animated saga, this one titled "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." The 62-year-old actor joins the cast as Stefano, an Italian sea lion with an affinity for being shot out of a cannon during his circus performance. In part one, Short explains why a job doing voice work should never be compared to that of a coal miner, and he reflects back on how come films like "Three Amigos," "Innerspace" and "Clifford" are more popular today than when they were released in theaters.
Oh, well, The Huffington Post!
I know. It's very exciting.
And I know Arianna Huffington. How about that?
I do, too.
I've been on an airplane with her. I have slept in the same airplane with her.
I can't top that.
I'm not sure I like doing interviews about animated films. It looks so fun onscreen and a lot of the answers are, "Well, I was by myself in a cold, damp studio..."
Oh, completely. It's disappointing to know too much. You like to think that all of these actors are together in a room, playing with each other. Right?
I think that was the case on "Fantastic Mr. Fox." They were all in a house together.
Well, you know, it's interesting. I did another animated film -- well, I don't know what you call it, actually -- but it's Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie." Now, in that, there were many sessions where Catherine O'Hara and I were together.
When you're approached with a character like this, do you get carte blanche on what the voice will sound like? Like, "You're Martin Short, you can do anything that you want to do"?
Half and half. Often, that's the case. But, in this case, Jeffrey Katzenberg told me it's an Italian character. "Stefano!" He was always Italian.
So if you told them, "I haven't done Ed Grimley in a while, he's going to sound like that," they'd have a problem.
Then they'd phone Dana Carvey. As they should.
But once the accent is in place, you can then do what you want?
Well, they kind of encourage you to do that. The thing about animation is that time is cheap -- it's not like making a live-action film where you've got this location for four hours and you've got to get it. "What do you mean she's late?" You know? If you're running 20 minutes late, it's fine. They've got the studio all day. And they're sitting they're saying, "OK, this is what we have. Do you want to try something else? Do you want to improvise?" Oh, we had this idea, "What if you do it drunk?" And it's fun; it's creative.
Do it drunk? Did any of those make the final cut?
No. And I don't know why -- they're my personal favorites.
So, the way you describe this, it sounds like a no-brainer in terms of accepting a role in an animated film.
A Chilean coal miner has a rough day. If you're an actor in an animation film, it's not so tough. But, it's fun. You know, anything is fun if you're working with the right people. And the same concept, working with the wrong people, is a drag. What's great about coming into where there are already two films -- you know the two films work. They're creatively successful, and there wouldn't be a third film unless they were monetarily successful, too.
Is it frustrating to be in something that is creatively successful and not financially successful? For example, people didn't really appreciate "Three Amigos" until long after it came out.
Well, that's comedy. That's comedy, though. You know, I made a film, "Clifford," when it came out, people were going, "Huh? He's 40 playing 10?" Then, in seven years, people would get high and watch it in college. And, now, what is it? Twenty years later? Literally, every time I go to an airport, people come up and talk about Ed Grimley or Clifford.
People do love "Clifford" these days.
But, you're right. It's interesting, when we did "Three Amigos," you know, that was written by Steve Martin, Randy Newman and Lorne Michaels...
When an "SNL" sketch is set in Lorne's office on "SNL," you can see the "Three Amigos" poster in the background.
Yep. Well, I remember we did the "Today" show, the three of us. And Bryant Gumbel said, "Now, what would you say if people look at this film and say it's a silly movie?" And Steve Martin said, "Well, it depends how you use the word 'silly.' If you say, 'It's a silly movie,' that's not so good. But if you say 'It's a silly movie,' that's kind of great." But that type of movie hadn't really been made. And then there would be many films in which the premise is, "It's just a goof. It's silly." It's gimmick is its madness -- there's a singing bush. There's ChapStick bits. That's the movie. It's not about anything more than a conceptual comedic approach to things.
When you're filming, do you realize that? With those examples that you just mentioned, are you like, "Fifteen years from now, people are going to love this?"
No, no. But, most of the things I've done, I've never really been concerned about the admiration of strangers. You play to your friends, you know? When I did "SCTV," we weren't concerned about what they thought of us in Des Moines. We were concerned whether that group who knew all of the references would like it.
In college, my roommate and myself had a habit of quoting one of your movie lines in excess: "The sauce!"
[Laughs] Wait a second... what's that from?
Oh, "Innerspace"! When I was doing "Fame Becomes Me" a couple of years ago here, I would leave the stage door and go into my car. And the people behind the barricades, they would call out things like, "The sauce!" And I'd go, "Thank you!" And I'd get in the car and go, "The sauce? What is the sauce?" Then about four in the morning, I'd be sleeping, "Ah! 'The sauce.' 'Innerspace,' yeah."
Last year, I interviewed Dennis Quaid and he said that it doesn't matter where he is in the world, people will still come up to him and say, "Innerspace!"
Does that happen to you, too?
It's a lot of them, yeah. You know what it is? It's ... Well, I don't know what it is about certain things. I understand "SCTV," because "SCTV" was on late and people felt they owned it. It was their show. That's what Conan O'Brien always says -- he felt that only he and his brothers got it. I guess "Innerspace," there are certain films people feel ... I cannot tell you how many times people have come up and done me quotes from "Arrested Development," this character I played. "Bridge mix," or, "the nuts!" or whatever else.
My theory on "Innerspace" is that when I was a child, it was played on a constant loop on HBO.
I think that was it. And it was a good movie.
It is a good movie.
And a young Meg Ryan. I mean, any age Meg Ryan. But, I think, it was her third film.
And you and Dennis Quaid weren't really on camera much together.
I had never met Dennis before I made that film, but he was always on the set. Joe Dante, the director, had him in a booth and he had a monitor. It was a drag, in a way. Although Dennis loved that he didn't have to shave and go through makeup. He would just do the lines off of just watching me shoot live.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has seen Innerspace over 20 times. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.
PHOTOS: Summer Movie Preview 2012
Release Date: May 4 Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson Why You're Excited: Because it's The Avengers! Following five movies of set-up ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2," "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor" and "Captain America: First Avenger"), Marvel combines its superheroes into one blockbuster. Early word on "The Avengers" has been strong, and the film is already an international hit. You should probably get your tickets now, if you haven't already. [Photo: Disney]
Release Date: May 11 Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter Why You're Excited: "Dark Shadows" looks like director Tim Burton's first actual "Tim Burton Movie" (and not, y'know, "Alice In Wonderland") in quite some time. The Gothic horror-comedy (based on the cult television series of the same name) stars Depp as an undead vampire living in the 1970s. Funny! Dark! Weird! Just what audiences want from their summer entertainment? [Photo: Warner Bros.]
Release Date: May 16 Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, John C. Reilly, Anna Faris, Megan Fox Why You're Excited: Cohen tries to rebound from the "Bruno" disaster with "The Dictator," a bit of scripted comedy that finds the merry prankster playing a deposed North African tyrant. The comedy is the first big laugher of the summer, but online reactions to the trailer -- and Cohen's pervasive self-promotion -- have been mixed. This feels like Cohen's make-or-break moment, for better or worse. [Photo: Paramount]
Release Date: May 18 Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Liam Neeson, Rihanna Why You're Excited: With Michael Bay sitting on the sidelines this summer, Peter Berg steps into the blockbuster action arena to take his place with "Battleship." This thing looks like wall-to-wall madness, with space aliens arriving on Earth with eyes on destroying humanity by using a board game advanced weaponry. Only Tim Riggins and RiRi can save us! (Battleship pun goes here.) [Photo: Universal]
Release Date: May 25 Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermaine Clement, Bill Hader Why You're Excited: Will Smith makes this look good, even if the last film in the "Men In Black" series came out ten years ago. "Men In Black 3" had a tumultuous production -- the $200-plus million film didn't have a finished script when it started filming -- but considering Smith's star power, here's guessing that won't matter to the bottom line. Or your enjoyment? After all, the trailer is kinda great. [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: May 25 Cast: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jared Gillman, Kara Hayward Why You're Excited: While it's not "The Avengers," director Wes Anderson has assembled a pretty impressive cast of stars for "Moonrise Kingdom," his first live-action film since 2007's "The Darjeeling Limited." It's a new Wes Anderson movie, so, duh: of course you're excited. [Photo: Focus]
Release Date: June 1 Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth Why You're Excited: This isn't your spring's Snow White movie. Unlike "Mirror Mirror," "Snow White and the Huntsman" is an action blockbuster that envisions Snow White as a warrior. Having Bella Swan and Thor in the same movie is great, but the draw here could be Theron, doing over-the-top villainy as the evil queen. [Photo: Universal]
Release Date: June 8 Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall Green, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba Why You're Excited: Ridley Scott's first science-fiction film in three decades is one of the most anticipated blockbusters of the sumer -- something the ubiquitous marketing campaign won't let you soon forget. "Prometheus" -- which appears to mix scares and sci-fi action in equal measure -- is not a prequel to "Alien," but is of the same universe. All of which means, it's pretty much a prequel to "Alien." [Photo: Fox]
Release Date: June 8 Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen Why You're Excited: The first two "Madagascar" films have pleased family audiences to the tune of over $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Considering the third entry is opening against "Prometheus" and its potential R-rating, expect a similar windfall to follow [Photo: Paramount]
Release Date: June 15 Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman Why You're Excited: The best jukebox musical ever comes to the big-screen with the help of an all-star cast, an awesome soundtrack and "Hairspray" director Adam Shankman. This year's "Mammia Mia"? For the accountants at Warner Bros., here's hoping. [Photo: Warner Bros.]
Release Date: June 15 Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester, Vanilla Ice Why You're Excited: Everyone rightly piles on Adam Sandler for his lack of trying (see: "Jack and Jill," "Just Go With It"), so let's look to "That's My Boy" as progress. It's an R-rated comedy that stars Sandler as a ne'er-do-well dad trying to get back into his son's life. The trailer is riotous (not kidding), so maybe this will be the first Adam Sandler movie you've liked since "Funny People"? "50 First Dates"? When was the last time you liked an Adam Sandler movie? [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: June 22 Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson Why You're Excited: The newest Pixar feature is the first to focus on a female protagonist. And she shoots arrows! So, if you liked "The Hunger Games," this one is for you. Just remember: it's Pixar, so bring the Kleenex. [Photo: Disney]
Release Date: June 29 Cast: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Bruce Willis, Adrianne Palicki, Channing Tatum Why You're Excited: Because judging from the trailer, this sequel-cum-reboot of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" actually has a sense of humor about itself. That's good! Also good: The Rock and Bruce Willis cracking wise and blasting massive machine guns. [Photo: Paramount]
Release Date: June 29 Cast: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Olivia Munn, Cody Horn Why You're Excited: Channing Tatum plays a male stripper who's secret desire is to make furniture. Steven Soderbergh directs. The trailer featured extensive use of "We Found Love." Yes, this is your favorite movie of the summer. [Photo: Warner Bros.]
Release Date: June 22 Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Greta Gerwig, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Woody Allen Why You're Excited: Last summer, Woody Allen released his most successful film yet with "Midnight In Paris." Can "To Rome With Love" be even bigger? Well, the cast is certainly bigger, thanks -- in part -- to the fact that Allen himself makes an appearance, the first time he's done so since "Scoop" in 2006. Couple him with Baldwin, Cruz and a youngster like Eisenberg, and "Rome" could be like "Marvel's The Avengers" for the parental set. [Photo: Sony Classics]
Release Date: July 3 Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary Why You're Excited: Though "Spider-Man 3" came out in 2007, Sony decided to reboot your friendly neighborhood webslinger with a fresh feel: Indie director Marc Webb ("500 Days Of Summer") and Andrew Garfield replace Sami Raimi and Tobey Maguire, and the trailers have a bit more snark than the earnest earlier Spidey films. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, Peter Parker's lady love, is a genius bit of casting, if only because Emma Stone makes everything better. [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: July 4 Cast: Katy Perry Why You're Excited: Do you ever feel like a plastic bag? If so, see Katy Perry's concert documentary (in 3D) over the Fourth of July. Baby, you're a firework, etc. [Photo: Paramount]
Release Date: July 6 Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman Why You're Excited: Director Oliver Stone brings Don Winslow's violent bit of pulp fiction to the big screen with an all-star cast of people you mostly like. About a pair of SoCal drug dealers (Kitsch and Johnson) who try to save the woman they both love (Lively) from the hands of a powerful cartel, "Savages" could be the action choice of the summer. We hope Stone changed the book's mediocre ending, though. [Photo: Universal]
Release Date: July 13 Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane Why You're Excited: For his first feature film, "Family Guy" impresario Seth MacFarlane didn't bring "Family Guy" to the screen. Instead he wrote and directed "Ted," an R-rated comedy about a man (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane). Ever want to see a teddy bear rip a bong hit? Here's your movie. [Photo: Universal]
Release Date: July 20 Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt Why You're Excited: If you aren't excited to see Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, you're probably dead. [Photo: Warner Bros.]
Release Date: July 27 Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill Why You're Excited: Despite being surrounded by controversy in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, "The Watch" feels like a hit lying in wait. After all, it features an all-star cast and is about space aliens. With a friendly release date, don't be surprised if this is a sleeper summer hit. [Photo: Fox]
Release Date: July 25 Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas Why You're Excited: The last time Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris released a movie over the summer, it was "Little Miss Sunshine," an indie hit that earned a Best Picture nomination. No pressure on their follow-up, though! Starring "Sunshine's" Paul Dano, "Ruby Sparks" is a quirky dramedy about an author who writes a female character that comes to life (Zoe Kazan, Dano's real life girlfriend). Quirky! [Photo: Fox Searchlight]
Release Date: Aug. 3 Cast: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Joan Allen, Albert Finney Why You're Excited: Since you probably won't have gotten your fill watching Jeremy Renner play a mindless assassin in "Marvel's The Avengers," he's picking up the "Bourne" franchise from Matt Damon. The twist? He's not playing Jason Bourne, but Aaron Cross, a new brain-washed killer. If Renner isn't a big A-list star by the time Labor Day rolls around, something really went wrong. [Photo: Universal]
Release Date: Aug. 3 Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, John Cho Why You're Excited: No Arnold, no Mars, no problem? That's the hope for director Len Wiseman, who has remade the 1990 Schwarzenegger classic ("classic") with Colin Farrell in the lead role. Because putting Farrell in a remake of a cult movie ("Fright Night") worked so well last summer... [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: Aug. 10 Cast: Meryl Streep, Steve Carell, Tommy Lee Jones Why You're Excited: If it's August, it's time for a sleeper Meryl Streep comedy. Like "Julie & Julia," "Mamma Mia!" and "The Devil Wears Prada" before it, "Hope Springs" hopes (ding!) to capitalize on summer's perpetually ignored adult audience. Steve Carell tapped into that group last year with "Crazy, Stupid, Love," so obviously he's the perfect co-star. [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: Aug. 10 Cast: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis Why You're Excited: Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis were so funny together at the dour 2012 Academy Awards that the chance to see them pair up onscreen feels too good to pass up. "The Campaign" comes out in a crowded early August corridor, but it's timely subject matter -- political elections -- could allow it to have some substantial box-office legs. Jay Roach ("Game Change") directs. [Photo: Warner Bros.]
Release Date: Aug. 17 Cast: Whitney Houston, Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke Why You're Excited: "Sparkle" features the last ever film appearance by Whitney Houston. The curiosity factor alone will get you into the theater for this one, a remake of the 1976 film about a girl group fraying under the pressures of fame. [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: Aug. 17 Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Randy Couture, Jason Statham, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth Why You're Excited: See "the cast." [Photo: Lionsgate]
Release Date: Aug. 24 Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez Why You're Excited: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a bike messenger who gets wrapped up in a dirty cop's shady dealings. Considering the dirty cop is played by Michael Shannon, expect much scenery-chewing. [Photo: Sony]
Release Date: Aug. 31 Cast: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce Why You're Excited: Previously titled "The Wettest County," "Lawless" is a red-blooded Prohibition-era drama from director John Hillcoat ("The Proposition"). With a beefy cast of budding A-listers (Hardy, off "The Dark Knight Rises," in particular), expect this to be the thinking person's choice for Labor Day viewing. It's either "Lawless" or some two-bit horror movie, y'all! [Photo: TWC]