eventually nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special. (We lost to a Tony Bennett concert special. I wonder how many jokes were made about
hair?) Most important, the show introduced me to many new young fans.
What I learned most of all from “The Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner” is that people have some very definite ideas and feelings about this William Shatner character. He’s larger than life, he’s omnipresent, he’s a narcissist, his acting and hair and singing talents are questionable at best, he’s a shill, he’s a comedy, he’s a tragedy, his scrotum sags with age, he speaks . . . very . . . strange . . . ly.
How do I handle all that?
RULE: If You’re Gonna Be William Shatner, You’ll Need a Lot of Scrotum.
RULE: To Be Shatner, You Must Know Shatner
T he jokes at the roast were great, but a tad misinformed. If you’re going to joke about William Shatner you should at least know some very basic facts about William Shatner.
1. I was born on March 22, 1931. And if you were able to quickly Itranslate that number into the correct Star Date, I would like you to put this book down and go get yourself some sunshine.
2. I was born in Montreal in a neighborhood called Cote Saint-Luc. It’s pronounced “Coat Saint Luck.” (It’s not, but like most French speakers, we love any opportunity to correct your pronunciation with our own splendid and sexy French tones.)
3. My grandfather, Wolf, changed the family name to Shatner from Schattner. “Wolf” was a creation of his, too, because it sounded much cooler than his birth name, Sheldon.
4. I started acting when I was six, and have never gotten a paycheck for anything other than performing.
5. In college, I appeared in many dramas and musicals. My comedy work was limited to my academic record.
6. My first film was a 1951 Canadian film noir titled
The Butler’s Night Off
. I’ve never seen it.
7. I won the Tyrone Guthrie Award at Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the 1950s. I recently misplaced it up the backside of one of my roasters.
8. In 1954, I played the character of Ranger Bob on the Canadian version of
The Howdy Doody Show
9. One of my earliest television roles was playing Billy Budd in a live staging of the classic, opposite Basil Rathbone. Rathbone was forever associated with playing Sherlock Holmes. Can you imagine that? Being forever linked with an iconic character?
10. Throughout the 1950s, I acted in a variety of live television plays. Live TV was the norm back then, and there was no risk of a Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show moment.
11. My first big studio movie was 1958’s
The Brothers Karamazov,
which also featured Yul Brynner, Claire Bloom, and Lee J. Cobb.
12. I once got into a fistfight on stage during the Broadway run of
The World of Susie Wong
with Australian actor Ron Randell. For fifty years now, he’s ignored my challenges for a rematch! Coward! [EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Randell died in 2005.]
13. Since then, I’ve never, ever punched another actor. (Do birthday punches for Candice Bergen count? She seemed to think so!)
14. I starred in two classic
episodes, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Nick of Time,” both written by Richard Matheson. I also acted in
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The Outer Limits
. Before reality programs, TV networks seemed preoccupied with “quality.”
15. I turned down the title role in
because I didn’t want to get bogged down with a series. Also, I faint at the sight of fake blood.
16. Eventually, I came around to the idea of doing television, and after the network nixed the first
pilot featuring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike, I was hired to star in the second pilot as Captain Kirk. But enough with the obscure trivia, moving on . . .
17. Just kidding.
never really caught on with audiences, ran for three seasons, and was canceled. I wish I had taken notes at the time, because you people sure do have a lot of questions about it.
18. In the 1970s, I really began to get into horses. I could talk about horses all day. I raise Saddlebreds, a uniquely American breed of horse that emerged in Kentucky around two hundred years ago and is used mainly by rich plantation owners. They are known as “five-gaited horses,” meaning that in addition to the walk, trot, and canter, they also do the ambling gaits known as the slow gait and the rack. Seeing one of
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