Opinions are a thing of both beauty and horror, depending on whatever circumstances inspire them. In the case of what I’m about to discuss, the inspiration for some heated discussion on the internet is the comedic talent of one Martin Short. Most people recognize him from his recent role on Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, but the Canadian comic is a powerhouse who's spanned the world of TV, movies and entertainment in general. And yet, someone had the unmitigated gall to pose the question of whether or not he’s “the most annoying actor on Earth.”
With all due respect, I would say that the answer to this question is no, and that question misses the point of Mr. Short’s career-long schtick. I’m not even the only person to think this fondly of who some consider one of the most crucial SNL castings, as the internet has been voicing its support of his works with great fervor. Again, with respect, I’d like to provide my own opinion on why calling Martin Short “annoying” is like calling Steven Spielberg “a director.”
Wait, Who Called Martin Short Annoying?
Before we get too far in the weeds, let’s set the scene, shall we? This whole rigmarole stems from an opinion piece on Slate, aptly titled “Why We Keep Putting Up With Martin Short.” Now granted, original characters like Ed Grimley or Jiminy Glick aren’t for everyone, nor are sketches like Short’s larger than life impressions of Jerry Lewis on SCTV and SNL. But the cornerstone of this essay is the following argument against the man’s work:
I find Martin Short’s whole schtick exhausting, sweaty, and desperately unfunny. Throughout his evolution from sketch-comedy standout to uneasy movie star to twice-failed talk-show host to enthusiastic song-and-dance man, I’ve wrinkled my nose. Every time he dresses up in a silly outfit or says something outrageous or mugs for the audience, I want to shout at the screen: Why are you being like this?
Admittedly, the internet has called this a “hit piece,” and I wouldn’t totally agree with that assessment. Further along in this writeup, the author does balance out their opinion with kind words on the man himself. So it’s not like they’re saying that Martin Short is the Devil or anything.
At the same time, the argument above is a pretty strong rebuttal of what’s made the man famous. This, in turn, has prompted fans to jump into the world of social media, defending this star of such projects as Innerspace, Clifford and Treasure Planet, among others.
How The Internet Has Reacted To The Martin Short Debacle
If you needed any sign of just how beloved Martin Short is, you only need to check out Twitter. At the time of this writing, his name was trending with this article, as well as tons of reactions to its contents. Here’s just a sampling of what people had to say, which is capped off by an amazingly sweet message from Hulu celebrating its Only Murders in the Building star:
“Popping on to say that Martin Short has been one of my heroes since I was about 7 years old. If all he did was SCTV, that would be enough. As would Clifford. Or Innerspace. No one has to like everything or everyone, but he's a hall of famer.” - @dan_brooks
“Not to be dramatic but if you hate Martin Short, you hate joy itself.” - @moorehn
“I'm sorry, fuck whomever wrote that headline. I love Martin Short, I don't "put up with him." - @TheHorrorGuru
“yesterday i texted a friend complaining that the stakes of writing a bad essay are too high, everyone should calm down about them and give writers more space to be wrong etc. well i fuckin take it back” - @BrandyLJensen
“Martin Short, confirmed funny guy.” - @hulu
Even more commenters threw up clips of Martin Short’s work throughout the years as cases against why someone would think he’s “annoying.” And, of course, Short’s infamous roast of Jimmy Fallon has been making the rounds as well. So why is such a take possible on such a seeming figure of universal love and affection? How did the continuum of the internet, which is as normally fractured as all get out, rally around this man?
Well, I think I know why. In my honest opinion, it’s all because the position of this Anti-Martin opinion has missed the point of the Short Schtick. Which leads to our grand finale: dissecting that very phenomenon and why it works.
The Point Of Martin Short’s Schtick, As I See It
Here are my credentials as a Martin Short fan in a nutshell. I was an avid watcher of the Saturday Morning show The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, Innerspace happens to be a movie I hold near and dear to my heart, and the further I dig into the history of SCTV, the more I love his Jerry Lewis impression. Even as a professional entertainment journalist who’s interviewed celebrities in close proximity, Martin’s Jiminy Glick still gets me with his searingly awkward interviews.
What’s the common thread that connects all those things and a good majority of Short’s career? It’s intentional, weaponized annoyance for the sake of comedy. Being annoying isn’t a side effect of Martin Short comedy, it’s the absolute point, it’s his bread and butter, and it’s his stock in trade. Even when shooting The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Tim Allen (via an archival featurette on YouTube) coined a special name for their teaming of comedic energies: “Pushy and Desperate.”
Throughout his career Mr. Short has taken on characters that let him push the boundaries of energy given to a performance, while also testing the limits of his scene partner’s psyche. Consider the following sketch from SCTV as a case of what Martin Short knows best:
In “Jerry Lewis Live on the Champs Elysees,” Martin Short sends up another personality known to do exactly what his comedy is based around. Fully throwing himself into the character, Lewis’ comedy and real life cantankerousness are both on display, and both halves make for some serious laughs. Of course, that depends on your tolerance for such a character, which is a statement that applies to any comedic style.
Perhaps the most enduring example of Martin Short’s schtick at work, and how it can be grossly misunderstood, is a film that’s either infamous or under-appreciated, depending how you look at it. As the titular character of 1994’s Clifford, a 10-year old boy who continually tests the patience of all around him, Short found himself at the center of a movie that was originally seen as a dud. But over time, the opinion of the film has shifted more towards the positive.
Everyone has opinions, and comedy is definitely a subjective beast that inspires takes of all sorts. How those opinions are measured, at least in cases like this, is public reaction. Judging how fans of Martin Short have reacted to this essay, it would appear that this hot take is the Clifford of its time.
That’s not meant to be an insult though, as there’s probably a minority in the world that shares this dissenting argument. In the spirit of that comparison, I'd invite anyone who feels that way to really take a closer look at how they engage with Martin Short's humor. It might even be a good idea to use access to a Hulu subscription and test the waters with Only Murders in the Building.
I know Martin Short doesn't need my defense, as the man's a legend no matter what. But defend him I will, because as a weird kid myself, I like to stick with my kind. After all, how could the "most annoying actor on Earth" possibly have this many people in his corner; especially when Jimmy Fallon is sitting right there.