The man’s voice at the other end of the line had a magical sing-songyness to it. Like, did that man just say my name? Or was that a lyric to Hello, Dolly!?
“This is Martin Short.”
And you know what? It totally was. There was no mistaking it. My mom had called me out of bed early-ish on a Saturday morning because Ned Nederlander– Ed Grimley– Franck, for crying out loud– was on the phone. For me.
“I heard you didn’t get into your high school play.”
Way to rub it in, Marty.
I’d blown my first audition for my first high school play. Do you know how many parts there are in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town? TWENTY-EIGHT. Now go ahead and times that number by two, because it was DOUBLE CAST. You know, so everyone gets a chance.
That’s fifty-six parts for fifty-six freshmen and sophomores– who weren’t me. Emily Webb. Myrtle Webb. Woman in Auditorium. I mean, I wasn’t even good enough to be Another Woman in Auditorium.
Why was Martin Short calling me to talk it through?
I didn’t grow up “connected.” I don’t have show biz parents. But I did have a dad with a very sad 14-year-old daughter. He also had the smarts to know that their family’s all-time favorite actor was in town doing The Goodbye Girl… and mailed him a letter, care of the Shubert Theatre.
There was a one in a million chance he’d actually get that letter and a one on a zillion chance he’d actually pick up the phone. Some guys are one in a zillion.
That winter day in ‘92, I received an A-list pep talk:
“Listen, parts will come, and parts will go. So you didn’t get in this time. Who cares? Just don’t give up, because that’s what matters.”
I learned a very important lesson that day: Martin Short is not my comedy hero.
My dad is.
And here’s what my one-in-a-zillion pops taught me:
It doesn’t matter who you are. There is ALWAYS a way.
When The Way doesn’t magically appear, find its address and MAIL IT A LETTER.
Do nice things for others, because it will MAKE THEIR HEART SOAR.
If you ask for great things to happen, THEY WILL.
Dream big. DREAM OF FRANCK.
Me & My Dad, the Chimney Sweep?
I suppose these are the kind of lessons that apply in a lot of situations, but they’re certainly great reminders for any of us hoping to be Professionally Funny… or just be Professionally Human.
Same thing, I guess. Right?
I’ve read that you’re anti-Twitter, and chances are my dad won’t be mailing you this article. So if you happen to read this, Mr. Short, and you remember making that phone call twenty-one years ago, here’s what’s happened since:
I did take your advice and stuck it out. I got some parts. Mostly, I didn’t get the parts. Turns out, I’m a terrible actress! Oops. But check it out– I didn’t give up, and something cooler happened. I’m now part of the Second City family, just like you. Crazytown, right?
And about that whole “hero” thing? Don’t freak out.
You’re #2 on my list, promise.
Liz Kozak (Editor-in-Chief) is the proud daughter of Gerry & Noreen Lekas. She was an ensemble member in her high school’s production of Meet Me in St. Louis, where she performed “The Trolley Song” completely on roller blades. She hopes to never be in a high school play ever again.