TIME celebrities

Martin Short’s Big Fat Funny Autumn

Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City.
Actor Martin Short during the 52nd New York Film Festival on October 4, 2014 in New York City. Jim Spellman—WireImage

The dynamic comedian talks about his 'Mulaney' role, the joys of working with Paul Thomas Anderson and his famous last words

This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Martin Short is having a bit of a moment. His memoir, I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, is out in November, and he’s earning huge buzz for playing a drugged-out dentist in the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film, Inherent Vice. Right now, you can see him on Mulaney, the new Fox sitcom starring stand-up comic John Mulaney. Short plays Mulaney’s boss, Lou Cannon, a narcissistic TV game-show host who comes on to female guests and obsesses over how his eventual death will be covered on TV. “He’s a moron with power,” says Short, 64. “Those people are my specialty.”

It’s surprising that it’s taken you this long to become a regular on a sitcom.
Actually, my first job in America was a small role on a James L. Brooks sitcom called The Associates [in 1979]. It didn’t last a season. Then I was on another sitcom called I’m a Big Girl Now, which was about a think tank in Washington – but then, suddenly, by episode 12, we’d become a newspaper. No explanation whatsoever.

SCTV came soon after that, and SNL a little while later, so I found myself doing stuff that was either a late-night show or, eventually, the movies. At a certain point when you’re not struggling for rent money, you have the luxury of keeping yourself intrigued by something. The idea of being a regular on a series felt limiting; you know, you’re on a TV show every week, and that’s what you do. The eclectic nature of being able to do a sketch show and then a movie and then go out and do live shows with Steve Martin for a bit — that intrigued me.

However, Lorne Michaels, who I have a huge amount of respect for, called me up and said “You know, I know you’ve never really done something like this before, but John [Mulaney] is a great guy and I think you want to be part of this.” Once I met John, I got what he was saying. It made perfect sense. The voice of that show is very specific.

MORE: Fall TV Preview 2014: The Good, the Bad & the Gotham

How would you describe Lou Cannon?
Lou can’t comprehend why people wouldn’t be constantly thinking about what’s most important in life – which is Lou and his well-being.

I think you’ve just described 90% of people in show business.
Oh, absolutely.

Is the character based on anyone in particular?
President Harry Truman. [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know. Every character I’ve done has been based on one or two specific people, but then they’re colored by many, many other folks. It’s the same with Lou. He’s more of a type.

But you know, I do have famous friends who I’ve sat with over the years, and they’ll go on and on about themselves for so long that — since you tend to drift when these conversations take place — I wonder what they would think if they saw a transcription of this exchange. I think they’d be stunned. It’d be me going “Uh-huh” and then pages and pages of them droning on. [Pause] That’s my long-winded way of saying I’m not telling.

He’s essentially sort of a descendant of Jiminy Glick [the preening, clueless fake talk-show host Short played on Primetime Glick], who once said, ”You know, the problem with Charlie Rose as an interviewer is that he listens.” Lou would agree.

MORE: The Best Movies For Fall 2014

You originally came up with Glick when you were doing an actual talk show, right?
It was a syndicated talk show, and I wanted to create a celebrity interviewer who could go to junkets and looked nothing like me, so that people literally wouldn’t recognize it was me. Since my show was being broadcast at all sorts of different hours, including during the day, I thought, Well, I’d better take a look at daytime TV and see what it’s like. These were the pre-Ellen days, mind you; Rosie [O'Donnell] was on, and that was cool. But other than that, it was mostly people with large staffs and huge budgets who had no business being on TV whatsoever. To me, the notion that they’d be terrifying to the people who worked for them and that there would be some production assistant who’d be scared that they’d messed up someone’s tuna-fish sandwich order made me laugh. That’s where Glick came from.

You’ve got a busy fall: There’s your memoir, and you’ve got a small role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
If you ever have a chance to play a horny, swinging, coke-snorting dentist, you really have to take it. I was expecting Paul to be this brooding auteur, but he’s really a regular guy. He likes doing fast takes, and lots of them. I’d improvise something and he’d say, ”That’s great, Marty, do some more of those.” ”You sure it’s not too big, Paul?” ”Nah, nothing is too big!”

He keeps a very relaxed, cool vibe on his sets, which is something he and Mulaney have in common. You have some actors where they need the World War III of it all to be creatively juiced; unnecessary tension stifles my creative instincts. I just find that to be such pretentious bullshit. But those guys aren’t like that at all. They keep it loose. The best stuff happens that way.

MORE: The Best TV of 2014 So Far

SNL is coming up on its 40th anniversary. Do you have fond memories of your time on the show?
I was on during the Dick Ebersol years – or the George Steinbrenner years, as we called them, since that was when he brought in a bunch of players who were already well-known and gave us one-year contracts. You’ll get horror stories from some folks, but I was treated like a prince.

My situation, of course, was very different. Having just come out of doing SCTV for three years, there was a part of me that really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to jump back in to something like that. Dick called me up and said “We’d love to have to have you on the show for the next year, along with Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest.” I thought, well, they certainly aren’t going to do it, so I said “Hey, as soon as they agree, phone me, Dick!” I figured I was safe until they’d called a press conference announcing those guys had joined, so I jumped aboard at the last minute.

Since I knew I was only going to be there for a short time, I treated every show like a stand-alone TV special. I drove myself crazy, putting all this pressure on myself, so it was like final exams every week. That’s my only regret, that I didn’t enjoy it a bit more or be a little more open to the idea of staying for a few seasons and seeing what I could have done with it more.

Is there a surefire way to get a laugh?
You know, I had done some stage work in the Seventies and was a funny guy at parties but having to come up with it on demand? But as I watched a bunch of my friends go to Chicago when Second City opened up a sister company in 1973 — people like John Candy, Eugene Levy, Gilda [Radner], Danny [Aykroyd] — and thought, well maybe I could do that. It still took me four years to join them, of course.

But what I quickly leaned was that it was usually the reaction that got a laugh. The fact that you could have a drycleaner sketch and you could say “I cleaned your stain out, mister” — and if you said it right, you could get a laugh. When I first played Ed Grimley at Second City, I’d stick his hair straight up to try to make [scene partner and Danny's younger brother] Peter Aykroyd laugh. Then the audience laughed too. So, basically, a funny look is a surefire way to get a laugh. That, and falling down.

Lou’s ideal last words are “I did it for the laughs”. What would yours be?
Something more practical: ”Pass me a tissue,” maybe. ”Could you hold this for just a second?”

MORE: The 50 Funniest People Now

TIME Television

Jay Leno Deserves His Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Comedian Jim Norton during an interview with host Jay Leno on June 27, 2012.
Comedian Jim Norton during an interview with host Jay Leno on June 27, 2012. NBC/NBCU/Photo Bank/Getty Images

As a friend and mentor, Jay Leno helped me countless times

“I was with the same girl for three years and I started to have erection difficulties. We had different ideas as to what the problem was. She bought me Viagra — I bought her a treadmill.” This was the first joke I ever told on The Tonight Show. My second joke dealt with hating my man breasts and wanting to fall on a knife (not to be confused with the reference to shooting myself because I hated the rest of my torso two jokes later). This was September 9, 2004, and it marked the beginning of my 10-year relationship with Jay Leno and The Tonight Show.

Being a harsh, dirty comic, the last person on earth I ever expected to help my career was Jay Leno. I had always thought of performing on The Tonight Show as an unachievable goal, because I bought into the myth that only squeaky clean, family-friendly material would be welcome there. In the years that followed, I can’t remember one instance where I felt like I couldn’t do the material I wanted to do.

I arrived at the studio the day of that first appearance around 3:00pm for a 4:00pm taping. One of the producers brought me onto the set to show me where I’d be entering and walked me out on the masking tape X I was expected to stand on and do my set. I was grateful to be physically walking through the process: I was so nervous that if he hadn’t showed me, I probably would have walked straight off the stage and plowed into the audience.

As I was dutifully standing on the X and confirming (“Here, right? This X right here?”), I glanced over and saw Jay at his desk going over a piece with his executive producer. My nervousness (mortal terror) must have shown, because he stopped the rehearsal and walked over to introduce himself to me. He asked how I was doing and I blurted out, “Fine, just fine!” nodding my head like John Candy in Stripes.

I’m sure he could sense the impending disaster on hand, and immediately launched into calm-this-nervous-idiot-down mode. “You’ve got nothing to worry about,” he said. “The crowds are here to laugh and they’re gonna love you. There’s no pressure. If it goes great, you come back. If it doesn’t go great, you’ll have a cool story. And then you can come back and try it again anyway.”

Obviously I knew that if I was awful I wouldn’t be asked back, but I also understood what he was doing and it meant a lot to me. Jay was notorious for loving comics and treating us well, and his taking that minute to help me is something I never forgot. Unfortunately, that type of altruism isn’t as common as you’d think. There are some hosts who are legendary for the immeasurable apathy they manage to show every comedian with whom they come in contact.

The better I got to know him, the more I began to use him as a sounding board whenever I was stuck at a crossroads in my career. I spent the majority of our dressing room chats picking his brain for solutions. He was such a great person for me to talk to because of his level-headedness and ability to think before reacting. When things go wrong, my first instinct is to strap on a bomb belt and run through the front door screaming. Jay’s advice was always smart and well thought-out, and he saved me on more than one occasion from making a total ass out of myself.

He stressed to me to never make it all about the money — that if you do the right thing, the money will eventually come. He also tried to drill into my head not to feed into the negativity in the business. He meant it. In all the talks we had, even when the country was preparing itself for civil war over the Conan O’Brien situation, he never once came from a place of bitterness or cynicism.

I have so many great memories of Jay and The Tonight Show, but that first moment together is still my favorite. He did so much not only for me, but for countless other comedians. I don’t know one comic who did the show and wasn’t blown away by how Jay treated them.

Congratulations, Jay, on receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. You were one of the most respected headliners in the country and then went on to dominate late night television for almost 20 years. You deserve it. And thank you for taking such good care of me for so long. I will never be able to repay the debt.

TIME celebrities

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Star Nicholas Brendon Arrested

Ada County Sheriff's Office

The actor was charged with two misdemeanors and showed "signs of intoxication"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon showed signs of intoxication when he was arrested in Boise, Idaho on Friday following a hotel disturbance, police announced.

The actor, best known for his role as Xander Harris on the Joss Whedon TV show that ran from 1997 to 2003, was charged with resisting or obstructing officers and malicious injury to property while in town to attend Tree City Comic Con, CNN reports.

Brendon had damaged a decorative dish, according to the staff at hotel, who said they wanted to press charges.

“When officers arrived, they found the suspect who showed signs of intoxication and repeatedly refused officers commands to stay seated while officers tried to speak with witnesses,” the police statement said about the actor, who has entered rehab before for alcohol dependence. “When the suspect continued to try and walk away, officers took him into custody for resisting and obstructing.”

On Saturday a Twitter account associated with the actor said Brendon was “doing well” and thanked fans for their “love, support and positive vibes.”

TIME celebrities

See 34 Actors Who Dressed Up In Fabulous Drag

These movie stars took gender performance to a cinematic new level. See if you can recognize the actresses and actors below after they’ve traded in their street clothes for wigs and new wardrobes.

Dexter star Michael C. Hall is dressing up in drag as he takes the stage on Broadway as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Take a look at other actors throughout the years who’ve dressed in drag for their roles.

TIME celebrities

Justin Bieber Gets Boxing Lessons from Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather wrote on Twitter that he had a "good time"

Justin Bieber is getting boxing tips from world champion fighter Floyd Mayweather.

The 20-year-old singer posted a shirtless video to his Instagram account, in which he tosses practice punches in Mayweather’s direction and ducks the boxer’s slow returns.

No word on why Bieber is training to fight or why a world champion boxer would give lessons to a pop star, but given the celebrities’ numerous posts to social media, they both seemed to enjoy it. Mayweather wrote on Twitter that he had a “good time.”

TIME celebrities

A Body Believed to Be That of Actress Misty Upham Has Been Found

Actress Misty Upham Photo Shoot - Los Angeles, CA
Actress Misty Upham from "August: Osage County" poses at a private photo shoot on March 1, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Brian To—WireImage

The actress had told her father she was suicidal

Local police said late Thursday night that a body found in a wooded area outside Seattle was believed to that of missing actress Misty Upham.

The 32-year-old August: Osage County actress had been reported missing by her father on Oct. 6. A day earlier, she had told her father she was suicidal, local television station KIRO reports.

Police in Auburn, a suburb near Seattle, said in statement that a person in a search party organized by Upham’s family had found the body at around 1 p.m. on Thursday.

“Because a purse containing identification of Misty Upham was at the scene, the body is presumed to be that of Upham,” the police said.

A spokesperson for the family told Variety that the body has since been positively identified.

Police said there was no initial evidence of foul play, but the body had been turned over to the local medical examiner’s officer for a determination of the cause of death.

It took almost five hours and a 10-person crew to recover the body from “150 feet down a steep embankment near the river heavily covered in brush,” police said.

Upham also had roles in Frozen River and Django Unchained.

TIME celebrities

John Grisham Apologizes for Child-Porn Remarks

John Grisham speaks during a television interview in New York in 2012.
John Grisham speaks during a television interview in New York in 2012. Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

"I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all"

Best-selling author John Grisham has apologized for remarks he made criticizing harsh punishments for people convicted of watching child pornography.

“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography—online or otherwise—should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Grisham said in a statement on his website Thursday. “My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable.”

Grisham previously told the paper that there were men in prison who “probably had too much to drink” and “got online one night” and stumbled onto child pornography. He said a similar situation happened to a “good buddy from law school.”

“I have no sympathy for real paedophiles,” he told The Telegraph. “God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that’s what they’re getting.”

TIME celebrities

New York Fan Wants J.Lo Street in the Bronx

Jennifer Lopez Visits Extra
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03: Singer/actress Jennifer Lopez arrives to a taping of "Extra" at The Grove on March 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Extra) Alberto E. Rodriguez—2011 Getty Images

A New York fan is calling on "every J.Lover in the world" to support his effort

Just over 1,300 people agree that singer, dancer and actress Jennifer Lopez should have a street named after her–where else but the Bronx.

Bronx resident Edgardo Luis Rivera launched a Change.org petition calling for one of the blocks in Jenny-From-the-Block’s old borough to be named in her honor.

Rivera has called on “every J.Lover and fan in the world” to get the district and city councils to consider naming a street after the “Luh You Papi” singer. The New York Daily News reports that Rivera wants part of Blackrock Ave., close to J.Lo’s home growing up, to adopt Lopez’s name.

Rivera announced recently that actress Kristin Chenoweth is among the 1,300 “Jennifer Lopez Way” supporters, but no word yet from the city. According to the Daily News, the city council has been reluctant to name streets after still-living people, though exceptions have been made in the past.

TIME justice

John Grisham Says Sentences Often Too Harsh for Child-Porn Watchers

John Grisham speaks during a television interview in New York in 2012.
John Grisham speaks during a television interview in New York in 2012. Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

“These are people who haven’t hurt anybody. They deserve some type of punishment, whatever, but 10 years in prison?”

Best-selling author John Grisham blasted the harsh punishment that people who watch child pornography face upon conviction, saying the prison system has “gone nuts.”

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age — 60-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody,” Grisham said in a recent interview. Grisham said there are men in prison who “got online one night” who “probably had too much to drink” and ended up on child-pornography websites, a crime he said a friend had committed.

The writer of legal thrillers The Pelican Brief, The Firm and A Time to Kill took the controversial stance in a recent interview with Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, in which he spoke at length about issues he believes face the American criminal-justice system today. During the interview, Grisham shared the story of a friend from law school who served time in prison for downloading child pornography.

“These are people who haven’t hurt anybody. They deserve some type of punishment, whatever, but 10 years in prison?” Grisham queried.

There is wide consensus in the U.S. that the distribution and possession of child pornography is a federal offense that should be punished, but there is controversy surrounding the one-size-fits-all approach to punishment, particularly at a time when sexting and online porn are so prevalent. Over the past 15 years, according to the advocacy organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the length of federal sentences for child pornography have increased 500%.

In 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission began reviewing the sentencing policy surrounding child pornography, given the complexity of the issue in the Internet age. “Because of changes in the use of Internet-based technologies, the existing penalty structure is in need of revision. Child-pornography offenders engage in a variety of behaviors reflecting different degrees of culpability and sexual dangerousness that are not currently accounted for in the guidelines,” the commission’s chair Judge Patti Saris said in 2013.

Grisham stopped short of defending all convicted sex offenders, adding that he has “no sympathy” for pedophiles. “God, please lock those people up,” he said. “But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, but that’s what they get.”

[Telegraph]

Read next: John Grisham Apologizes for Child Porn Remarks

TIME celebrities

Erykah Badu Makes $3.60 Singing in Times Square

Just enough for a hot dog!

It has been a while since Erykah Badu released a new album, so in an effort to make a couple of dollars the R&B singer hit the streets of New York to… panhandle.

In a iPhone video released Wednesday by Badu, who has become a bit of a social media maven with her quirky vines and tweets, the soulful artist stands in the middle of Time Square, holding out a hat and singing to passersby. Throughout the video, Badu goes largely unnoticed, though she’s able to collect a couple of dollars ($3.60 to be exact) as a result of her efforts.

Badu even quips that with “some initiative, you can make money.” To finish things off, the ever-political songstress reminds viewers that, “in reality, life is a lot harder than this.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser