DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Tony Winner Andrea Martin

By Andrew Gans
15 Jun 2012

Martin (right) with Evan Pappas in My Favorite Year.
photo by Joan Marcus

And, her comedic influences? "Well, you're not going to know this group, but The Nairobi Trio," Martin said. "They were three people dressed as monkeys on the 'Ernie Kovacs Show,' and they were so silly. I don't know if they were my comedic influences, but they certainly tickled my funny bone because of the silliness of it. I remember watching Ed Sullivan and Carol Burnett and variety shows, in particular. There's nothing that makes me laugh more than the Marquis Chimps on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' All those chimps dressed in ballet outfits on bicycles—I wish they'd bring that back. And, who can turn their nose up at a spinning plate? And then there was Topo Gigio, the little mouse—'Hello, Eddie!' You're not going to know any of this, but these are my influences!"

One of the greatest laughs this writer ever enjoyed at the theatre was watching Martin's double take as she slid down a chair in My Favorite Year. "I remember that take," she said, "and I remember because I'd never done a Broadway show before that. Those characters came right out of 'Your Show of Shows' and Sid Caesar. And, of course, I'd seen Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar when I was growing up, and I kind of remembered the vaudevillian aspect of it, but I don't think I'd ever done physical comedy like that or double-takes on stage before because I don't think there was a call for it. When I was playing Liat in South Pacific at Kennebunkport Playhouse, they didn't ask me to do a double-take!"

Looking back on all her Broadway outings, Martin said, "My Favorite Year is always going to have a place in my heart because that was the first Broadway show I ever did. But I loved every one of them, honestly, Andrew, I did—for so many different reasons. I mean, to be able to sing to Leonard Bernstein's music in Candide and work with the great Hal Prince; and then do the iconic role of Frau Blucher and work with Mel Brooks [on Young Frankenstein]; and be able to bring to life Golde, which was a non-comedic role, [in Fiddler on the Roof]; and Oklahoma!, oh my God—to work with Trevor Nunn and Patrick Wilson and Susan Stroman. Honestly, every show that I've done, I've wanted to do, and I have great memories from each one of them for different reasons. I really do."

Martin in Young Frankenstein.
Photo by Paul Kolnik

Martin also admitted that she was "slightly intimidated working with Mel Brooks…at first. And then, after we'd been running for a while, he just became a great pal. I had a great respect for him, but he also is so loose and encourages improvisation and loves comedy, so it was a great platform for us to collaborate."

Future projects include a web series, a result of performing on Playbill's first Broadway on the High Seas cruise. "The webseries is called 'Andrea Martin Abroad,' and it's on the Travel Channel up here in Canada. And, we're just figuring out where it's going to be in the States. It might be on Seth's new television network on the web called Seth TV, so look for it there! I'm actually writing a new song for the cabaret show about traveling—a little parody song about what a bad traveler I am. Although I'd like to think of myself as a great adventurer, when push comes to shove, I'd rather be home watching 'Tots & Tiaras.'" (Click here to read about Playbill's star-studded Broadway on the High Seas 2 Cruise, which sets sail in December. )

And, would Martin like to return to Broadway? "I'd love to come back to Broadway, for sure! But now I'm Off-Broadway. Is Studio 54 Off-Broadway?" When told the nightclub is actually below Broadway, Martin joked, "Fabulous! Well, I'm going to creep back. First I'm going to be in the basement, and then hopefully I'll be on the first floor."

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. Tickets and information are available at 54Below.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.