Don’t worry if performer Andrea Martin suddenly forgets her lines. Martin — a veteran of Broadway, movies, TV and comedic improv — knows exactly what to do.
Martin’s big break came with her appearances on “SCTV,” a Canadian comedy show in the 1970s and ’80s. She now is working on several TV series, including the Tina Fey-produced “Great News,” which will premiere on NBC at 9 p.m. April 25 after “The Voice.”
Martin, 70, is bringing her comedy to South Florida on, how appropriate, April Fool’s Day. She’ll appear with Sirius/XM On Broadway host Seth Rudetsky at the Parker Playhouse. We talked to Martin about lessons she learned in her career and through her improv experience.
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Q: When you perform, do you draw from lessons learned earlier in your career?
A: The experience that I’ve had on stage stays with me, and the comfort that I feel with other actors stays with me. But every show I do, I learn something new. In the last few years, I’ve even learned more than I did when I was starting out, and that’s because I’ve had many opportunities in different forms than I had when I was younger, which was all theater.
Q: How does your improv experience from performing at Second City Theater help you now?
A: That’s vital. That was a real game-changer for me, because I realized for the first time, that I was funny and comedy was kind of organic. I didn’t know that, actually, until Second City. Just honing those skills really allowed me to feel safe in everything I do. I know when push comes to shove, I can just stop and improvise, and I’ve used that many times. Like when I’ve forgotten lines. Especially in television and film. It’s a little harder in theater because it’s so rehearsed.
Q: What role was the toughest for you?
A: I know that people would probably think Berthe in “Pippin” would be the hardest because I was on a trapeze 10 feet above the ground with no net, but that wasn’t really as tough as doing Serafina Delle Rose in “The Rose Tattoo” because it was such a departure from me. It was Tennessee Williams. I had to be a very sensual, authentic Italian woman. It’s a drama with a lot of passion and angst and tragedy. That was a real challenge. I worked on it for many years. I loved it, and I feel really accomplished having done it.
Q: What is your best audience like?
A: One that just comes open with no judgment, and just wants to have a collaborative good time. I count on them and they count on me, and it feels like a night at home in my living room with a piano.
Q: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
A: I get to the theater an hour and a half before anything I do, and I go over my lines and warm up. I take off any makeup and just start fresh. It’s a real zen-like experience preparing for a show. It’s like I take off Andrea and I put on whatever character I’m doing. It’s a little different with this show because I really am me doing it, but I always go over my lines and warm up and usually have a French roast and a biscotti next to me.
Q: Which actor or actress haven’t you worked with and would like to?
A: I’d like to work with Meryl Streep. I’d like to work with Judy Dench. I’d like to work with Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon, and a lot of people.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in traveling to perform?
A: I don’t really travel all over because it’s too exhausting. I’m shooting a television show right now in New York, and coming to Fort Lauderdale to perform is very rare these days because I’ve been doing a lot of television. I’m really looking forward to it because I just have to perform there, and I can give it my all. I don’t have to worry about having to save my voice or energy for another show. I don’t really like traveling, so I’m excited that it’s just this show that I’m doing and I can just stay there for one night and really give it my all.
Q: Are you going to take some vacation time while you’re in Florida?
A: I can’t. I have to shoot on Monday in New York. I have to shoot “Difficult People,” which I do for Hulu.
Q: Do you have a favorite role that you played?
A: My favorite role is the role of Berthe in “Pippin.” I identified with her because she is feisty, energetic, earthy, and determined to live her life to the fullest, even in the third chapter of her life. She challenges herself, and I challenged myself by being on the trapeze in the show.
Q: Do you have a preference between acting for film and performing in live theater?
A: I like live theater the best. I love the camaraderie and the company of actors that I see every day. It becomes a family.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming show in Fort Lauderdale with Seth Rudetsky. What can people expect?
A: They can expect a goddamn great time. They can expect some laughter, unpredictability, and improvisation. Characters I’ve done on SCTV, songs I’ve sung on Broadway, and stories they might be interested in with people I’ve worked with. They can just come knowing they’re in good hands with two people who love performing and love the connection with the audience.