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Martin Short On The Differences Between 'SNL' & 'SCTV'

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Martin Short
Martin Short

Earlier, Martin Short spoke about his voice work in this weekend's new animated film, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" -- as well as reflecting on past film roles in favorites like "Three Amigos," "InnerSpace" and "Clifford." Here, in part two, Short discusses his time on the Canadian sketch comedy show "Second City Television," as well as his one season on "Saturday Night Live."

"SCTV," a Toronto based sketch comedy show that aired off and on from 1976 to 1984, spawned the likes of comedy legends John Candy, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty and, of course Martin Short. Then, in the fall of 1984, the already established Short joined other "all stars" Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer for the last season of Dick Ebersol's run as the producer of "SNL."

Here, Short talks about his days on "SCTV" and his former fellow cast member, Rick Moranis (the two were only on the show together for part of one season), who has retired from acting and the differences between the two sketch comedy formats -- why something would work on "SCTV" and wouldn't work on "SNL." Short also reveals that Lorne Michaels' (who returned to "SNL" in the fall of 1985) planned to bring him back for a second season.

Earlier you mentioned that on "SCTV" you were playing to your friends, not an audience. Like, if John Candy is over in the corner laughing or not?
Yeah! That's more of a concern than someone who's going to say, "I don't get it." We don't care for that person. But! Often, that person saying, "I don't get it," represents the bulk of America. So, "SCTV" is the perfect example of something that played passionately to the States -- about 18 percent of the population. It doesn't keep you on the air, but it does keep you passionate within the souls of that 18 percent. But, I don't think there's any agenda. I mean, I look at shows like "Seinfeld" and I think they're miracles. Because they play to their own original, hip audience. But, at the same time, playing right across America.

It took three years for that to happen.
I understand...

But it still happened.
It still happened. And, sometimes, you do these things and you think they're very accessible and they really aren't. I did "Primetime Glick" and one of the recurring features was marionettes acting out Hollywood scandals. To me, that's average fare. But I don't know if it will necessarily play within the Tea Party.

Speaking of "SCTV," do you still talk to Rick Moranis?
No, I haven't seen him in years.

You know what it is? We don't have John Candy any longer, but we could still have Rick Moranis. I know a lot of people are thrilled that yourself and Eugene Levy and other former "SCTV" cast members are still doing a lot of projects. But I know a lot of people miss Rick Moranis.
Oh, I think they do. Rick was and is a genius. Rick invented the MTV VJ. Gerry Todd, this character he did, was a video DJ. There had been no such thing. The joke was that there would be such a thing.

And he was right.
He was not only right, he was way ahead of right.

That one season that you were on "SNL," I have to guess that was a completely different vibe than what you were doing at "SCTV," even though you were doing some of the same characters.
Well, a huge difference was that on "SCTV" you would write for six weeks. Then you would shoot for six weeks and edit. Then, you take a couple of weeks off. Then you write for six weeks. So, if you didn't have an idea for a couple of weeks when you started writing, it was OK because you could make up for it in the next four weeks. "Saturday Night Live," if you were a writer/performer -- like I was on the show -- it could be Monday and it would be like, "I don't have any ideas." The host comes in and you fake your way through that meeting. Now it's Monday night and you can't think of anything. And you wake up and you have that feeling in your stomach on Tuesday, "What am I going to write?" Because you had to slide the script underneath the door by 6 a.m., so the typist could type it for the read-through at 11 a.m. or 1p.m., or whatever it was. The point was that it was final exams, every week. So, that was a big difference. That and the realization that there were certain types of pieces that you just couldn't do.

That you could have done on "SCTV"?
Well, I remember I wrote this piece, "Look Who Married Harry." And the premise was that Lucille Ball was coming back for one more series. And she's playing Bess Truman. And Mary Gross is Eleanor Roosevelt and it's, "Look Who Married Harry Truman" -- that's the name of the series. And it's Lucy and I and we're wallpapering the Oval Office. And it would have been shot just like a promo on "SCTV" -- it was a vintage "SCTV" piece. On "Saturday Night Live," people just didn't ... it just didn't set in and it was cut at dress. It needed the reality of the format that pre-taping something could give you. In other words: It was shot live and it didn't work. Live is more, kind of, energy and jokes and exuberance and live performance. And "SCTV" was often a film piece: "Scenes From an Idiot's Marriage," Jerry Lewis and Ingmar Bergman -- you couldn't do that live on "Saturday Night Live."

The show changed drastically that next season. Dick Ebersol left, Lorne Michaels returned and people like Robert Downey Jr. were cast members. Did you ever consider returning for a second season?
Well, I only had a one year contract. Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest , Harry Shearer and myself all had one year contracts.

And there was no thought to signing another one?
Absolutely not. I went to Lorne's apartment -- the season is finished -- and he was going to give me the script to "Three Amigos." And he kept talking about what I was thinking about him going back. And we talked about that: "Now, if we went back together..." And I kept saying, "No, I don't want to go back. I mean, how can I go back if I make this movie?" And he's like, "Well, things can be worked out." I just knew in my head. I had a new baby, which I had not seen all year. I just knew. I had done three years of "SCTV," so that was four years of this. I just knew that I didn't want to do that. I thought one year was a great experience.

Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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