Life and careerEdit
Martin, the oldest of three children, was born in Portland, Maine, of Armenian heritage, in 1947. Her father owned Martins, a grocery store. Soon after graduating from Emerson College, she won a role in a Canadian touring company of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown After frequent visits to Toronto, she relocated from New York City to Toronto in 1970 and immediately found steady theater work. In 1972 she played the character of Robin in a Toronto production of Godspell, with a cast that included future comedy stars Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, singer and actor Victor Garber, and musical director Paul Shaffer. Two of her first prominent film roles were in 1973's Cannibal Girls and then as the bookish sorority sister Phyllis in Black Christmas, another Canadian slasher film from 1974.
Two years later, she joined then-unknowns John Candy, Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Harold Ramis and Joe Flaherty on the Canadian sketch comedy television series, SCTV, which was set at fictional television station "Second City Television", or SCTV, in Melonville. Martin most notably portrayed leopard-print-wearing station manager Edith Prickley, whose dealings with the staff, including president/owner Guy Caballero, clueless newscaster Earl Camembert, and washed-up actor Johnny LaRue, helped to provide much of the show's humor. Her other memorable characterizations included repressed sexologist Dr. Cheryl Kinsey, insecure self-affirmation guru Libby Wolfson, pidgin-tongued janitress Pirini Scleroso, tone-deaf children's entertainer Mrs. Falbo, Texan curio pitchwoman Edna Boil, and impossibly tight-jeaned Melba, the Disco Queen. Her talent for impersonation was key in her humorous portrayals of such luminaries as Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Arlene Francis, Pauline Kael, Sally Field, Sophia Loren, Beverly Sills, Lynn Redgrave, Linda Lavin, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Connie Francis, Mother Teresa, Alice B. Toklas and Indira Gandhi.
Her 1970's stage work eventually included the Toronto branch of the improvisational comedy troupe The Second City, a group which produced almost the entire cast of SCTV. In 1992, she made her Broadway debut in the musical My Favorite Year, for which she won the Tony Award, Theatre World Award, and Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Additional Broadway credits include Candide (1997) and Oklahoma! (2002)—both of which brought her Tony nominations —and Fiddler on the Roof (2005). Martin left the cast on July 6, 2008, and was replaced by Beth Leavel.
Martin starred alongside Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon in the Broadway revival of Exit the King which played at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre from March 7 to June 14, 2009. She wrote and performed in the critically acclaimed one-woman show Nude, Nude, Totally Nude in Los Angeles and New York City, where she garnered a 1996 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One Person Show.
Her lengthy theater credits include the leads in The Rose Tattoo and Betty's Summer Vacation, both produced at The Huntington Theatre in Boston. Martin has played Wanda the Word Fairy in numerous short segments on Sesame Street She appeared in one episode from Season 5 (1988) titled "UNICEF". Star Trek fans may recognize her as one of two actresses to play Ishka, Quark's iconoclastic mother on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For her role, she was made up to appear as an older woman although in reality Martin is less than three years older than Armin Shimerman, who played Quark. She only played the role of Ishka once - finding the prosthetics involved to be uncomfortable Martin declined to return, and Cecily Adams was hired to play Ishka in all future appearances.
She has won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program in 1982 and 1983. She has done considerable voice work in such animated film and television productions such as Anastasia, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy, The Simpsons (as Apu's mother), Recess (TV series) as Lunchlady Harriet, the 1999 version of The Woody Woodpecker Show, Earthworm Jim, Kim Possible, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Brother Bear 2. She also appeared in the 1993 television adaptation of Gypsy starring Bette Midler.
Her many screen credits include Wag the Dog, All I Want for Christmas, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Stepping Out, The Producers, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in which she portrayed Aunt Voula, a role she reprised in the short-lived small-screen adaptation. In 2006, she played a major role in the remake of Black Christmas. In the episode titled Pupil, she played an emergency room patient on the Showtime series, Nurse Jackie, which was aired July 27, 2009.
She has two sons, Jack (born 1980 ish) and Joe (born 1983), with ex-husband Bob Dolman, a screenwriter. Through this marriage, she was the sister-in-law of Dolman's sister, actress Nancy, and her husband Martin Short.