I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

I’ve been a fan of Martin’s comedy and movies since I was a kid. I watched “Three Amigos” and “Three Fugitives” countless times when I was young, think “Pure Luck” had some great moments, and who didn’t love “Innerspace”? And years later when I saw him on “How I Meth Your Mother”… it made me smile again. So I got this book, and expected some laughs and a good story. And boy – did it deliver!

What was a pleasant surprise though was some great life lessons. He described how he evaluates himself every week in nine categories. Great stuff! Check this out:

I decided to think of life in course-load terms, with the main objective being to maintain a credible GPA. I might be getting a D in career, I thought, but if I got good marks in some of the other subjects, I could bring my average up. After thinking long and hard, I drew up what I thought of as the course load of life, aka the Nine Categories.

CATEGORY 1: SELF The logical starting point. Without a highly functioning self, nothing else works. It can be anything from “Have you had your yearly physical?” to “What’s your current weight?” to “Any blood on the pillow this morning?” Everything else in life unravels if you’re not perpetuating your own survival. You have to take care of yourself, and when you do, try and lock the door so no one walks in on you.

CATEGORY 2: IMMEDIATE FAMILY The proverbial wife and kids. This category is about gauging how your family relationships can be made stronger. When was the last time you sincerely told your kids you loved them— even the chubby redheaded one you don’t really care for? The important thing with children is to ask them questions. Like, How was school? How are your friends? Am I fat? Do your friends think I’m funny? Should I fire the gardener? Is Mommy getting it on with the gardener? Why does Mommy seem so distant in bed? She’s getting it on with the gardener, isn’t she? You would tell me if she were, right? If you didn’t know me, how old would you say I look? Did I ask you how school was?

CATEGORY 3: ORIGINAL FAMILY How are you getting along with the people you grew up with: Mom, Dad, and your siblings? In my case, since I no longer have living parents, I like to phone up people who have played my parents in movies, such as Richard Kind (Clifford), just to let them know I still care.

CATEGORY 4: FRIENDS Are your friendships in a healthy place? Are you keeping in touch with everyone adequately? Are there any seething undercurrents of resentment that need to be put on the table and worked out? As a wise woman named Bette Midler once put it, “You’ve got to have good friends and good lighting.”

CATEGORY 5: MONEY Beatrice Kaufman, the wife of the playwright George S. Kaufman and a fellow member of the Algonquin Round Table, once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” I’m with Beatrice. I believe it was also Beatrice who said, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but at Exotic Thai Massage, it can buy some relief.” Or was that Donald Trump?

CATEGORY 6: CAREER As it says on my answering service, “I’ll take it.” In my business, there’s a traditional career path: TV, movies, Broadway, your own reality show, Chabad Telethon performer, the Palm Springs Follies, and writing your autobiography. So what grade do you give your working life? At this very moment I’d give mine a solid grade, although, cumulatively, I still feel that I’m two films short of making the Oscars-night memorial reel.

CATEGORY 7: CREATIVITY Beyond the amount-of-work aspect, is your work creatively fulfilling? Innate creativity is a wonderful blessing. But when I look at George W. Bush’s paintings, I wonder if a pill could be invented that causes something called painter’s block.

CATEGORY 8: DISCIPLINE Not just the simple imperative of self-preservation as addressed in Category 1, but having the self-control to actually implement your goals. In my underemployed-actor days, I used this category as motivation: I’m not working, but I’ll use this time to get into the best shape of my life. Or to read more, or write more, or do more of what I feel I should do so that this fallow period jobwise won’t be wasted time. Discipline is essential to life, whether you are administering or inflicting the spanking.

CATEGORY 9: LIFESTYLE Put aside all the usual yardsticks of success and well-being: Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, deals, yachts, beach houses, penis length. Are you actually enjoying life? Are you having any fun? And, God forbid, are you doing something to make the world a better place?

The Nine Categories have been a part of my life for more than thirty-five years now. Every Monday I assign myself a grade in each category, augmenting the grades with comments. I used to do this by hand, in a spiral-bound notebook, but now I do it on the computer. Some categories have subcategories. In Category 1, for example, I keep track of my weight using color-coded classifications based on the old Tom Ridge Homeland Security alert system. So let’s say my ideal weight is 142 pounds. (I’m not a tall man.) That means that the 142– 44 range would be blue (“Looking Fine”), 145– 47 would be yellow (“Guarded”), 148– 50 would be orange (“Elevated— subject must go on diet”), and 150 and up would be red (“Severe— subject no longer requires fat suit to play Jiminy Glick”).

Green (“Low”) would denote that I’m fasting for a role à la Jared Leto or Matthew McConaughey, or perhaps dying.

I also maintain week-at-a-glance files, the upcoming week detailed in red lettering, the week just past recorded in black: yet another way to review my activities in total and see how they will impact, or have impacted, my overall well-being. I’ll note, say, that I deserve an A in career for the week I’ve spent prepping for a Broadway show, but I’ll also see that I’ve failed to return Eugene Levy’s call, or that my children are no longer speaking to me, and I’ll think, hey, Marty, you’d better put that right.

So… what’s your grade in these nine categories?

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