By Linda Gilden
Torry Martin has been a lifelong learner, but school wasn’t his favorite place. He used his creativity to avoid work.
Torry’s third grade class had a weekly spelling test. On one of those days Torry didn’t want to take the test.
“I can’t take the spelling test,” he informed his teacher.
“Yes, ma’am. I have an inoperable brain tumor. Too much thinking could cause my brain to explode.”
“Now, Torry . . .”
“My parents would be very unhappy if that happened again. The last time they had to repaint the living room.”
Early Interest in Comedy
When you first meet Torry Martin, you realize comedy is a good profession for him. With his long red hair and beard and infectious smile, he is sure to keep you laughing. Visit his office full of comic books and superheroes and you’ll see more evidence of Torry’s love for humor.
“My grandpa gave me my first comic book,” Torry said. “That’s where I learned the art of story without the boredom of too many words! Comic books are dialogue heavy with lots of pictures but few words. Who doesn’t want to read a story about a newspaperman who turns into a superhero? As a teenager without a lot of friends, I could put myself into the characters and escape.”
Though surrounded by humor, it doesn’t take long to discover that Torry Martin takes life very seriously.
After his third grade teacher encouraged him, Torry acted throughout his school years. At graduation, he lacked one class. “I had to go to night school to take psychology. To make sure I showed up for class, my mom enrolled in the same course. No way could I skip class with her beside me!”
With psychology done and diploma in hand, Torry headed to Los Angeles to a Christian college. Despite the glamour of rubbing shoulders with people like Robin Williams, Walter Matthau, Michael J. Fox, and Whoopi Goldberg, Hollywood left him feeling empty and uncomfortable.
After a few years, Torry went to Alaska with his good friend Rob who was studying for the ministry. The duo found a cabin in Bear Valley that was in such disrepair they lived rent-free in exchange for fixing it up.
Once in Alaska, Torry acted in local commercials and hosted the Fox Kids Club. He also enrolled in a Precept Ministries Bible class at a local church. Studying the Bible was life-changing.
Torry and Rob began attending that church. “Pastor Jack Aiken took time to get to know us. Most churches we visited saw two hippies who couldn’t possibly be worth getting to know. I was working as a camp host at the time and making moose-dropping jewelry. Those were my jobs.”
Pastor Jack became Torry’s mentor. Because the Bear Valley cabin was far from the church, Torry and Rob ate Sunday lunch with the Aiken family so they could attend evening services. Those Sunday afternoon visits produced lots of laughs as Torry shared stories of cabin life.
“Pastor Jack heard of a national competition to discover Christian performers. Although highly unusual, he took up an offering in our church to send me to the competition. He wanted me to use my talent for the Lord and encouraged me to add spiritual application to my funny stories.”
So this shy, talented young Christian arrived in Colorado Springs in his overalls to take the competition by storm. And that he did. Torry won the grand prize, which put him on stage for the final night’s performance.
Torry was still hesitant to step into the Christian entertainment field. “I was content in my little cabin, way off in the woods, studying my Bible. I didn’t need anything else. I still didn’t feel good enough to be in the spotlight for God.”
Martha Bolton, competition judge and staff writer for Bob Hope, encouraged Torry. The next year he entered in the writing category, and it was a clean sweep as he won all awards in his division.
Torry created a character named Wooton Basset for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey. The popular character is a lovable, big, robust guy with red hair and a beard. Hmm . . the description seems a little familiar, wouldn’t you say?
Writing for Odyssey helped Torry grow as a writer through his association with Marshal Younger and Paul McCusker. Once when Torry was considering a mainstream movie, he talked with Marshal about it.
“It was a great movie with strong actors. This could have been a big stepping stone for me. But when the producers said, ‘We are going to have to put some language in here,’ I had my concerns.”
Marshal said, “Torry, if you can’t write something without sexual innuendo or bad language, you are not a true artist. A true artist would be able to make that story so entertaining that the audience would never know they were missing sex and language.”
“He was absolutely right.”
Marshal went on to tell him, “Make the decision to set your standard high. Decide what you will and won’t write. Know what roles you will accept and what type characters you will play.”
“Once I made that decision,” Torry said, “it was easy to say no to things that didn’t fit within my boundaries. Know your standards so you won’t have to compromise for success. If you ever make that compromise, you will regret it later. Marshal helped shape my integrity and my character.”
Though he has achieved tremendous success, Torry has never forgotten his Los Angeles experience where the glamour and buzz left him feeling empty and exhausted. He lives far enough away from that atmosphere where he works to enjoy life.
“When I leave my job and walk back into my home on several hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, I walk back into the life I love. It is God-centered. Rob and I don’t talk about the entertainment industry. That’s another world away. We talk about things that make a difference for eternity.”
Accountability Is Key
Torry continued, “We take ourselves too seriously, but we don’t take God seriously enough, and that needs some fixin’. We serve a righteous God who loves us, and part of loving someone is helping him or her out of sin. I’m not sure the church has enough accountability.”
Accountability is something Torry Martin is very aware of. “Personally,” he said, “I need accountability. That’s why I live with my best friend, Rob. We hold each other accountable to uphold God’s standards.”
In the midst of his busy life, what does Torry Martin do to recharge and refresh?
“This may sound kinda weird,” he said, “but I like to read aloud. It relaxes me. Rob and I often read aloud for our devotion time, Bible study, and other reading. Reading aloud involves more senses. I retain much more when I hear the words and see them. Reading aloud fosters conversation too.”
“When I am acting or speaking, I realize the focus is on me. It takes a lot of energy to be in the spotlight. But when I get home, away from all that, I am just me again, and that’s refreshing.”
So what’s ahead for Torry Martin? There are lots of projects in the works—writing, speaking, and films (torrymartin.com). Recently he was cast in a new movie directed by Dallas Jenkins. He’s also creating a new Japanese character for Focus on the Family named Tori Mori.
If you talk to Torry, the overriding theme of your conversation will be positive, exciting, and will always come back to God’s provision. “Don’t give up—look up!” he said.
Many people have encouraged Torry. “It’s all about looking out for each other. Surround yourself with people who care more about your eternity than your career. I am thankful I have that.
“If it hadn’t been for the encouragement of Pastor Aiken who believed in me, Marshal Younger’s wisdom and friendship, and so many others, I would probably still be living in a crooked little cabin in Alaska making moose-dropping jewelry!”
Linda Gilden is a South Carolina freelance writer who believes that laughter is, indeed, good for you.