Andrea Martin is known for being funny. Very funny. Less known is her intriguing Broadway record. She’s been nominated five times — more than any other actress — for a Tony for best supporting actress in a musical. (She won twice, for “My Favorite Year” in 1993, and for her showstopping acrobatics in “Pippin” in 2013.)
This season she’s back on Broadway in “Noises Off,” a revival of the Michael Frayn farce, full of running around and slamming doors, about a woebegone troupe of actors performing a running-around, slamming-doors farce of their own. Martin plays a dotty actress playing an equally quirky housekeeper, Mrs. Clackett. The play, co-starring Campbell Scott and Megan Hilty, runs at the American Airlines Theatre through March 13.
When not onstage, Martin is shooting the Hulu comedy series “Difficult People,” and will soon be seen in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” Her autobiography, “Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts,” came out in 2014.
What’s your craziest theater mishap?
Oh . . . so many. Years ago, Marty Short and I were performing in Toronto in an Elaine May play called “Not Enough Rope,” a dark comedy. But this is dinner theater, so during dinner they played Muzak, y’know [she sings], “Raindrops. keep fallin’ on my head.” The play starts, but they forget to turn off the Muzak. Now in the opening, the woman I play is trying to hang herself . . . and the music goes on, “raindrops keep fallin’ ” and we start to laugh. We just stopped, both of us, and said, all right, we obviously have to stop the play and turn the Muzak off. Then I was doing “Candide,” standing backstage, and over the monitors I heard a great silence, and I thought, “Oh no, who’s missed their cue?” And it was me! I forgot my microphone was on, so you heard me exclaim . . . well, a word you don’t have to print . . . then, “I can’t believe I missed this cue!” and then I ran onstage. [She laughs.] Yeah.
Have you always been funny? Were you one of the funniest girls in junior high?
Well . . . when I started out in Portland, Maine, I was interested in acting. I did summer stock. It wasn’t till I auditioned for Second City in Toronto, in my late 20s, that I realized I was funny. Years of sketch comedy followed.
It intrigues me — why certain people make us laugh. Athletic ability is different — if someone’s the right body type, if certain muscles are developed, you can see why they’re a good athlete. But humor is intangible.
It is intriguing, isn’t it? What makes you wanna laugh at one person and not another? I don’t know. I go about comedy like I’d go about “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” I’d never be cast in that, probably, but I attack roles as an actor would, in a serious way. Who is she? What’s her motivation? I take it seriously. I even start acting like my characters in real life — lately, I’ve become forgetful, very Mrs. Clackett-y. I guess I’m just organically funny, and that’s why you laugh, but I’m not trying to be funny.
Ever wished you weren’t?
Funny? No. It’s a wonderful thing to be born with. The way I get through difficult times— — and God knows there’ve been difficult times in my life — I look toward the light, toward the humor in things. I can’t do it all the time, but . . .
I wondered if maybe you’ve missed out on roles because producers just see you as the funny chick.
I used to blame other people for that, but now I think it’s probably just me. Maybe I didn’t get parts because I didn’t feel I had enough gravitas. But the more confident I get — the more I set goals and say this is what I want— the more I’m able to achieve.
By the way, congrats. I hear you’re a grandmother.
Yessss! My first grandchild, Chloe. I haven’t met her yet. She was just born in California and they’re not supposed to fly for the first two months. I guess that’s the rule now. Of course, I flew with my son three weeks after he was born to do the Johnny Carson show. So I guess things have chaaaanged.(She chuckles.) . . . But our show’s been extended past that two-month mark, so my son said they’d like to come then, see the show and bring Chloe. We’ll fly back to L.A. together. So it’ll be perfect. Everybody says you don’t feel like a grandmother till you actually touch the baby. I’m sure I’ll be terribly intrusive and want to hang out way too much. But I haven’t held her in my arms yet. We’ve Skyped . . . but it’s not the same. I can’t wait.