Jiminy Glick is supposed to offend me. Glick is the bone-headed celebrity journalist Martin Short plays on Primetime Glick, which returns to Comedy Central for a second season this Saturday. Swallowed inside a fat suit, Short's oafish antics -- stuffing doughnuts in his mouth, choking on handfuls of gum drops, inexplicably contorting his bulbous body into chairs that inevitably topple over -- are supposed to make me cry out for fat pride and justice for big, beautiful people everywhere. The trouble is, I'm too busy laughing.
I'm a woman of substance (girth, size, fat ... take your pick). I heard large-size actresses on Entertainment Tonight decry the fat-suit craze that came and went in a couple of lowbrow movies and TV series (Big Momma's House, Shallow Hal, My Wife and Kids), tearfully explaining how Hollywood is hard on large women. I agree with that. Hollywood holds women to an impossible standard, one that strangely celebrates them when they look less like women and more like young boys -- no breasts, no waistline, bones sticking out like twigs. It's that or augmented bodies stretched, lifted, and tucked like a Barbie doll.
But back to Glick. Shouldn't he offend me? I had to wonder why he doesn't.
Let's start with why Primetime Glick is hilarious. As Glick, Short derails entertainment journalism by portraying a celebrity journalist who is not well coifed, well dressed, tall, thin, and handsome (I'm particularly fond of Glick's Hush Puppy shoes). I ask you, can you really tell the difference between reporters on Entertainment Tonight?
If the actor's nightmare is going onstage without knowing his lines, Glick is the journalist counterpart. Garishly unprepared, uncouth and with the attention span of a gnat, Glick is a far cry from Barbara Walters. You'll never see him leaning forward in his chair to compassionately leech the intimate details of a celebrity's heartbreak. No, Glick isn't interested in anyone's pain, or their story for that matter (to Janeane Garofalo: "There's so much I want to ask you but part of me is just not that interested"). Glick is as likely to launch into the details of his life (he's happily married to Dixie and the father of four strapping boys, Morgan, Mason, Matthew, and Modine) as he is to ask half-baked questions of his guests, that is, if he can get their names and credits right. In the premiere episode, he refers to Tom Hanks as Tom Hank. Glick: "I saw you in that film, 'Rescue me ... I'm alone in the sand, do something about it.' What's it called?" Hanks: "Cast Away."
The interviews are improvised, and the great fun of the show is seeing how well guests can keep up with Glick's antics and cockamamie questions. When someone is able to keep up with Glick -- Hanks does a frighteningly superb job in the first episode of the new season -- then the show hums. But it's also hilarious when a guest is reduced to giggles or outright exasperation.
A typical episode is divided into two major segments. The first features Glick in a nighttime talk-show format, complete with a band led by Adrien Van Voorhees (Michael McKean). The second is called "Out & About" with Glick and a guest in an intimate, one-on-one space away from the studio audience. In between are faux commercials and movie parodies. The wonderful Jan Hooks plays Dixie, who appears from time to time in "off-camera" scenes from Glick's personal life.
So, what's not to like? Interestingly, the recycled fat pranks are the weakest part of the show. In spite of the dumb fat jokes, I enjoy Glick literally throwing himself into his work. Fat people are often made self-conscious about taking up too much space. No, Glick takes up space and then some with the same glee that character actors and comedians like John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley did. I don't recall any criticism of Belushi, Candy, or Farley for throwing their weight around in their gags. Which brings me to an important question. If Glick were thin, would he still be funny? I say yes. Glick is not a bombastic lamebrain because he's fat. He's a bombastic lamebrain who happens to be fat.
But what if Glick were female? More importantly, what if Short was a fat woman? I think we know the answer there. And it's there, that I think the real criticism needs to return -- directed at the limitations for women in Hollywood, not at a gangly male comedian in a fat suit.
The second season of Primetime Glick premieres Saturday, Feb. 23, at 9pm with guests Tom Hanks and Ben Stiller. Future guests include Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, David Duchovny, Alec Baldwin, Ellen DeGeneres, Edie Falco, Rosie O'Donnell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Jay Mohr. Primetime Glick airs on Comedy Central with encores throughout the week. Check local listings for more information.