'Awards Chatter' Podcast — Andrea Martin ('Great News' & 'Difficult People')

Andrea Martin Horizontal - H 2014
Don Dixon

Andrea Martin Horizontal - H 2014

"I'm so happy, in the last few years of my life, that I've allowed myself to take challenges that I might not have — not 'might not have,' definitely didn't — when I was younger," says actress/comedienne Andrea Martin as we sit down at New York's Empire Hotel to record an episode of The Hollywood Reporter's 'Awards Chatter' podcast. The 70-year-old, who has two Emmys and two Tonys to her name and recently was hailed by New York magazine as the "funniest woman alive," is working as hard as ever these days, playing key supporting roles in two acclaimed TV comedy series — NBC's Great News and Hulu's Difficult People — which are executive produced by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, respectively. "There's a good thing about getting older," Martin says. "You realize you have less years left, so you say, 'Literally, what am I waiting for? It's now or never.'"

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Martin was born in America — Maine, specifically — but has been closely associated with Canada for most of her professional life. That's because two weeks after graduating from Emerson College, she auditioned for and landed the part of Lucy in a touring production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; began dating a Canadian member of the company; and soon thereafter relocated to Toronto. It was there that she made her name in the early seventies — in Ivan Reitman movies ("I'd never improvised before"), a production of the theatrical blockbuster Godspell ("Auditioning for Godspell was like auditioning for American Idol is today") and ultimately the city's Second City sketch comedy company (alongside the likes of Gilda Radner, Martin Short, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Victor Garber, Harold Ramis and Paul Shaffer). In 1975, Saturday Night Live went on the air; a year later, Second City countered it with a sketch comedy TV show of its show, SCTV, on which Martin was a standout for years. Amazingly, she admits, "I've never been comfortable improvising, although I've done it all my life."

After SCTV ended, Martin became the mother of two boys and has remained a steadily working and reliably good contributor on screens big and small in projects as varied as Club Paradise, Wag the Dog, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But her greatest passion has been working in the theater, generally, and on Broadway, specifically — she made her Great White Way debut 25 years ago, at the age of 45, and since has received six Tony nominations, winning two awards (for 1992's My Favorite Year and 2013's Pippin). "There's nothing like Broadway, there's nothing like the community," she says. "It's where I feel the most at home. And I have to tell you, even after all these years, when I go into a rehearsal room, nothing can compare with that."

Nothing, that is, except knowing that her decades of work truly has meant something to people — and helped to inspire a generation of women to pursue a life in comedy. "We had no sense of anybody watching it," she says of SCTV, which was shot in a basement in Edmonton and aired in the middle of the night (not live). But people were watching, including Fey, who has said that her most prized wedding gift was a set of SCTV videos. "I knew if I stuck around long enough, I'd have a fan," Martin cracks. She was heartbroken when, due to a conflicting theater commitment, she was unable to accept Fey's invitation to play Fey's mother on 30 Rock — but overjoyed when another opportunity to work with the younger comedienne came along in the form of Great News. On the show, the 10-episode first season of which debuted on the Peacock Network in April and a 13-episode second season of which already has been ordered, Martin plays Carol, a woman who gets an internship at the news station where her daughter is a producer. Needless to say, hilarity ensues — so much so that Martin is being buzzed about in industry circles as a serious Emmy contender. "I think people genuinely like it," she acknowledges. "I think it's funny — there's really funny jokes in it. And, like anything, it's gonna grow." She adds, "I have high hopes for it."