After Slate dropped an essay titled “Why We Keep Putting Up With Martin Short” on Friday, September 8, criticizing Short, 73, for being “devastatingly unfunny,” fans quickly took to social media to fiercely defend the comedian against the story’s harsh words.
The op-ed’s author, Dan Kois, labeled Short’s comedy as an “eager-to-please flamboyance” that proves he would do “anything for a laugh.” The critic deemed all of Short’s “over-the-top” characters — which have existed across the span of his more than four-decade career — “unbelievably annoying,” calling his “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,” Kois wrote. “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?”
Upon the publication of Kois’ essay, Short’s name immediately trended across social media platforms. Fans began taking a stand against his critiques by sharing clips of Short’s days on Saturday Night Live, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm and more.
Another said: “If you dislike Martin Short, I’m going to assume you also dislike kittens, chocolate ice cream, sunshine, butterflies and fluffy bunnies.” A third quipped: “You’re entitled to your open opinion. Unless you think Martin Short isn’t funny.”
Beyond denouncing Short’s earlier works — including 1994’s Clifford, in which he labeled Short’s performance as “grating,” “upsetting,” and “fully committed” — Kois also found fault in Short’s latest role as Oliver Putnam on Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, in which he stars opposite Selena Gomez and longtime comedy partner Steve Martin.
Short’s portrayal of the failed Broadway director has nabbed him two Emmy nominations since the show premiered in 2021. While Kois admitted that Short’s season 3 performance — which premiered last month — plays as more “quasi-naturalist” due to Oliver’s heart attack, he claimed that “you can always see the mischievous glint in his eye.”
Fans disagreed. “Genuinely weird to write a hit piece on Martin Short when the most recent episode of Only Murders in the Building has him giving one of the best romantic dramedy performances anyone’s ever done since his costar [Steve Martin] also dated and smoked with Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated,” one person argued. Another added: “Martin Short is truly one of the only comedians who not only has remained funny as he’s gotten older (which is already super rare) but somehow has only gotten funnier.”
On the personal front, Kois confessed that “despite this exhibitionist stage presence, it seems that in real life [Short is] mostly a calm, well-adjusted guy — friend to many, loving husband and father,” and someone he would find to be a “lovely gent” if the twosome shared a meal. That didn’t, however, stop fans and celebrities alike from gushing over Short’s personable and kind demeanor.
Others remembered a 2012 interview where Short didn’t correct Today Show host Kathie Lee Gifford after she failed to remember his wife, Nancy Dolman, had died a year prior. When Gifford, 70, asked if Short was “still in love” with Dolman, he simply replied: “Madly in love.”
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During a commercial break, Gifford learned of her gaffe and apologized on-air. “Martin just told me as he was leaving, he said, ‘Kathie, you probably didn’t know,’ but his beautiful, precious wife Nancy did pass away a year and a half ago … I feel so badly,” the remorseful Gifford told viewers.
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Days later, Short spoke to E! News about the awkward exchange — and made it clear he doesn’t hold it against Gifford.
“I think that it’s live television and people make mistakes and there’s no ill will intended,” Short said. “And I think it’s nice to aspire to be that way.”