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Q&A: Martin Short, the new judge of Canada’s Got Talent, isn’t afraid to sound the gong

Martin ShortLately, you’ve had some chewy roles on Damages and Weeds. What made you want to be a judge on Canada’s Got Talent?
The show reminds me of my childhood. I used to watch Ed Sullivan, which was all jugglers, acrobats, singers and comedians. That was the heyday of television. Then, all of a sudden, there was just one show for the next 18 years—CSI—so I stopped watching TV. Eventually, I caught an episode of American Idol and thought, “Hey, this is kind of good.”

The Got Talent franchise can be harsher than American Idol: the judges sound a buzzer and light up a giant red X when they don’t like what they see onstage. Are you worried you’ll look like a jerk?
No, not really. It’s like asking a tennis referee if he feels bad calling a John McEnroe shot out. Well, no—those are the rules of tennis. But here it’s all meant in good fun. There’s sort of an unspoken rule that you don’t buzz little kids or 90-year-olds.

Even if they’re atrociously bad?
This isn’t about humiliating people or making a nine-year-old cry. It’s just a ­talent show. However, there was a singer the other night—this guy who had absolutely no talent—and I buzzed him, and he was really pissed off. He walked off the stage and wouldn’t talk to our host, Dina Pugliese. When that happens, I think back to all the performers I’ve known who have worked so hard to get better and have been so self-deprecating. This guy was so bad, and he thought he was so great. I don’t care so much about those people.

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