Andrea Martin with her date at her high school prom
Andrea Martin stars as Aunt Voula in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
Growing up the daughter of John Papazian Martin, an Armenian grocer who worked his way up to own a successful chain of stores and restaurants, Martin recalls that while her father loved her dearly, he was also a perfectionist and thus always wanted her to do better, even though her gift for acting was evident early on. John knew that no one was handing out acceptance letters to Armenians and he also knew that his own parents had lived through terrible times in Van during the events of 1915. “My father saw a truck one day in Portland that said ‘Martin’ on the side of it, so he took the name. Then he took the truck,” Andrea often jokes. Undoubtedly, Martin picked up a thing or two about a strong work ethic from a man who would make employees try every possible merchandising variant and novelty in order to better himself and his business.
Andrea Martin’s parents Sybil Angel Manoogian and John Papazian Martin
Andrea’s mother Sybil Angel Manoogian also grew up in a family that had been displaced and lost everything during the Genocide — she was a gifted host and a devoted mother with a decided flair for entertaining guests and fashion. As one might imagine not many Armenians lived in Maine, but the few that did stuck together. Andrea recounts many of the ups and downs of growing up ethnic in Portland, Maine — as well as her subsequent rise to Broadway and Hollywood fame — in a hilarious and touching 2014 memoir “Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts.”
Andrea Martin’s mother Sybil Angel Manoogian
After attending Emerson College to study acting Martin immediately landed a role as Lucy in a touring production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” This led to a six-year run on Canada’s famed TV comedy show SCTV (Second City TV), where her colleagues included none other than Eugene Levy, John Candy and Martin Short. Anyone who’s seen her perform as the wonderfully oddball Edith Prickley delivering her trademark “paahaa” laugh or imitate Liza Minelli swallowing a fly, or her daring appearance as the first naked Star Trek Ferengi ever on TV, know just how sidesplittingly funny Martin can be. Since her SCTV days she has delivered one memorable performance after another. Martin’s enviable talent is making almost anything funny, no matter how tedious the original script: she is the type who could proverbially read the phone book and make it sound interesting.
Andrea Martin as Lucy in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
Back to her roots
For Andrea’s father and the rest of her family Armenia was a distant place, one to be avoided, a terrible past with no future. Growing up, Andrea knew very little about Armenia. It was while preparing for a one-woman show at the Joseph Papp Theater that Martin threw herself into researching Armenia and its history. When she announced in late 1991 that she planned to visit the fledgling Republic of Armenia, her father exclaimed: “Jesus Christ, Andrea! Why do you want to go there?” He still associated Armenia with the hardships his family experienced in 1915.
Andrea Martin and co-stars in “Noises Off!” directed by Jeremy Herrin
When not busy tackling multiple acting projects, Andrea serves as a spokeswoman for the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), an organization that helps rebuild villages in Armenia while serving that country’s youngest citizens by building schools and cultural centers as well as providing them with much needed health services. Andrea is proud to call herself Armenian and to support Armenian charities whenever she can: “Being involved with COAF,” she says, “Is the one way I feel I can give back to my proud heritage. And I love staying connected to other Armenians that way. One day, I will want to bring Chloe to Armenia. I hope that at that point, Armenia will once again be a flourishing country and a safe home for some of the most brilliant and talented artists in the world.”