One of Canada's funniest exports, Martin Short is the man behind some of comedy's zaniest characters - from oddball Ed Grimley and Hollywood agent Jiminy Glick to unintelligible wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer in Father Of The Bride.
Despite making a career out of laughter, Martin, who was born on March 16, 1950, in Hamilton, Ontario, had precious little to smile about during his early years. By the time he was 20, he had already lost three family members.
The eldest of his five siblings, David, died in a car accident in 1962 when Martin was just 12. Then when he was 17, his mother Olive, a child violin prodigy who became concert master for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, passed away from cancer. Two years later his father Charles followed. A Roman Catholic Irishman, he had stowed away to North America during the Irish War of Independence and worked for a steel company.
But rather than drag him into depression, the tragic events made Martin decide to live to the full. "I think that kind of loss can fuel how you lead your whole life," he told one interviewer. "I've chosen to treat my life more like a party than something to stress about."
The talented funnyman, who cites Stan Laurel, Harpo Marx, Jerry Lewis and Dick Van Dyke among his influences, did not set out to make a career in comedy initially. At McMaster University he started as a pre-med student, before switching to social work, but at the same time he was bitten by the acting bug and appeared in many college productions.
Martin made his professional debut in 1972 alongside Victor Garber, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy and Dave Thomas in a Toronto run of Godspell
. It was during that production that he met his future wife, comic actress Nancy Dolman - the understudy for Gilda Radner, who Martin had also dated. The pair struck up a relationship in 1974 and married in 1980. They have three children together: Katherine, who they welcomed in 1983; Oliver, who followed three years later; and Henry, born in 1989.
Until 1979 Martin worked solely in Canada, mainly in theatre, but after that he headed to New York and was cast in short-lived TV show The Associates
, before being hired on sitcom I'm A Big Girl Now
A few years earlier he had been persuaded by his Godspell
co-stars Eugene Levy and Dave Thomas to pursue comedy, joining them at the famous improv troupe The Second City in 1977.
His comedic talent first found a wider audience in the early Eighties when the troupe produced a show for TV called SCTV
(Second City Television
), which ran for several years. During that time Martin developed many of his now-famous characters, including talk-show host Brock Linehan, based on Canadian interviewer Brian Linehan; albino entertainer Jackie Rogers Jr; current events commentator Troy Soren; shady attorney Nathan Thurm; Wheel of Fortune
fan Ed Grimley, perhaps his best known creation; and Jiminy Glick.
These characters would prove even more popular when he introduced them to the 1984-1985 season of Saturday Night Live
, his addition to the show's line-up helping revive it after the departure of Eddie Murphy. An incredible mimic, Martin also drew attention for his uncanny impersonations on the programme, notably of Jerry Lewis and Katharine Hepburn.
stint led to a 1986 film role in Three Amigos!
, which he followed with more silver screen work on 1987's Innerspace
, 1989's Three Fugitives
, 1991's Father Of The Bride
and 1996's Mars Attacks!
. In 2004 he brought his Hollywood agent and man-about-town character Jiminy Glick to the big screen with Jiminy Glick In Lalawood
Martin continued to work in theatre during the Nineties, starring in the 1993 musical The Goodbye Girl
and in 1999 put in a Tony Award-winning performance as the lead in the musical revival of Little Me
. In 2006 he launched his satirical one-man show (with a full cast of six) called Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
, which closed in January 2007.
The Edmonton native, who was made a member of the Order of Canada in 1994, is based in California but has a home on a lake north of Toronto in Muskoka where he and his wife spend two to three months every year.