I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to Martin Short. Sure, he’s popped up in a few movies I’ve enjoyed (Three Amigos is a classic) as well as the absolutely hilarious SCTV, but it wasn’t until his new show, Only Murders In The Building, that I realized how much I enjoyed seeing him on screen. I was looking for a new audiobook and his 2014 memoir, I MUST SAY, popped up in my recommendations page on Audible. It came with a lot of great reviews, so I figured, why not?
I’m glad I took a chance on this one as it is excellent. The audiobook performance is so good, I can’t imagine recommending any one read the physical book over listening to it. If there is a passage or a chapter detailing the creation of one of his popular SCTV or SNL character, Short performs as the character and gets into the little nuances of how he came to craft their odd voices and expressions. Many of Short’s characters happen to also be singers, so you get to hear him perform full songs that were just printed lyrics in the book (this is especially great when Short talks of his annual Christmas party).
Martin has led an interesting life and his love of performing began at a young age. Growing up, his favorite artist was Frank Sinatra, which he admits is a very odd choice for a kid in the 50s. Years later, when he was able to actually meet Frank, the story made me laugh out loud in the middle of the grocery store. As the book moves on, Short goes through his years performing in live theatre before getting his break with Second City. His tumultuous relationship with former girlfriend Gilda Radner is explored before he would ultimately meet the love of his life, Nancy Dolman.
I loved reading about his relationships with Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, and Tom Hanks, among others. There were so many great anecdotes that either had me full out laughing or carrying a wide grin on my face. His hit-and-miss relationship with Hollywood brought about many great stories about success and a few hilarious ones about failures (1994s Clifford is a baffling one).
The heart and soul of the book however surrounds Martin and Nancy’s thirty year marriage. She was by his side during some of the most frantic years of his life and he often leaned on her for advice when he struggled to keep his thoughts straight. Short recounts, in emotionally devastating detail, Nancy’s courageous battle with cancer – one she would ultimately lose in 2010. Martin writes so beautifully of his departed wife and there were more than a few moments where my eyes watered up as she fought hard against such overwhelming odds.
I MUST SAY is one of the better celebrity memoirs I’ve read in quite some time. It’s full of wonderful personal triumphs, and professional highs and lows met with humility and self-deprecating humor. Martin Short has lived a fascinating life in the public space and with his success on Only Murders In The Building only continuing to grow, it shows he isn’t about to stop.