Visiting the late version of the Today Show to plug a film, actor/comedian Martin Short was not expecting to have to answer awkward questions about his wife, Nancy Dolman, who, after all, has been dead since she succumbed to ovarian cancer two years ago. Then again, he might have, since his host, the flighty Kathy Lee Gifford, could not reasonably be expected to uphold the basic standards of professional journalism, which include knowing whom you are interviewing and avoiding mortifying one’s guests. Sure enough, Gifford left her index cards to wax enthusiastic about her “good friend’s” marriage, as if she and the Shorts regularly hung out together. Kathy Lee said, “He and Nancy have one of the greatest marriages of anybody in show business. How many years now for you guys?” Short, who is a pro, managed to conceal his discomfort and pleasantly responded, “We … for 36 years.”
Gifford then went into full Kathy Lee mode, which resembles a boa constrictor squeezing a goat. “But you’re still, like, in love?” she asked. Short responded, “Madly, madly in love.”
After the show, someone told Gifford about her faux pas, and she began madly tweeting her apologies to the world. I’m glad she’s embarrassed; maybe she will stop being lazy and make sure she is prepared for live interviews so she doesn’t mistreat her future guests the way she did Martin Short.
He, however, demonstrated for the live TV audience exactly how the Golden Rule is supposed to work. Short had every reason to be upset, angry, and resentful. An immensely witty and intelligent man rightly admired for his improvisational ability, he had not one but two opportunities to make Gifford look like the fool she is, and get major laughs at her expense. Short has the skills to gut her like a fish, and instead treated her the way he would want to be treated if he ever made a similar gaffe in front of millions of viewers. Kindly. Gently. Generously. He covered for her. He knew he could have crafted an immortal TV moment that they would show on VH1 forever: “Next on our list of “TV’s Greatest Put-Downs,” watch Martin Short’s famous slam-dunk of Kathy Lee Gifford on the Today show!” He chose not to do it. Bravo.
Short is a good man, a nice guy, and an ethical human being. He did the right thing. I kind of wish he hadn’t, but Martin Short knows his Golden Rule.
Facts: SF Gate
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