Martin Short bounds onstage with all the exuberance of an over-caffeinated Gen-Y who’s momentarily forgotten that it’s not cool to bound enthusiastically (or, indeed, to bound at all). That, or he’s decided that starting his first ever Australian tour with a kangaroo impersonation is the way to go. He then launches into song – a sort of lyrical demand for worship, singing all I ask is that you love me. Upon finishing the song he declares “if you need stroking, do a one man show”. This sweeping narcissism forms the basis of Martin Short – Live and certainly gives Short a vehicle for some very funny self-deprecating humour and a clever way of letting an Australian audience (who is likely unfamiliar with the full body of his work) the chance to get the full picture of his long and illustrious career in the US.
Short made his big screen debut with fellow Saturday Night Live alumni Steve Martin in The Three Amigos. He’s also played comedic roles in Inner Space, Three Fugitives, Clifford, Mars Attacks, Jungle 2 Jungle and The Big Picture. Probably his most memorable role, particularly with Australian audiences, is that of Franck, the verbose and affected wedding planner in the Father of the Bride movies.
Short has written, produced, and starred in three highly acclaimed comedy specials for (US) television. His TV work also includes his Emmy-nominated role in the NBC mini-series Merlin. Short is also a veteran of the theatre in Canada and on Broadway, and won the 1999 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his work in Little Me.
Martin Short - Live is a collection of songs, live skits from his career, film and TV clips projected on several large screens, a Jiminy Glick interview, and a few jokes thrown in for good measure, including some with a distinctly antipodean flavour that were clearly appreciated by the audience: “Kevin Rudd looks so damn boyish - at first I thought it was KD Lang.”
Short is funny, there’s no doubt there. I have first-hand proof of how much the audience at The Palms appreciated him, for I, dear reader, was sitting in front of Parrot Man!. Parrot Man! (yes, the exclamation point is an essential part of his nomenclature) was clearly under the impression that if he simply repeated all of Short’s punch lines, Short’s brilliance would somehow attach itself to Parrot Man!, and the friends seated beside him would end up thinking that he had come up with these jokes himself. If Parrot Man! decided, as he occasionally did, that he didn’t have time to repeat Short’s often rapid-fire repartee then he would simply state (loudly) “That’s a funny one!” or, “That’s a classic!” or even, “Heard that one before!” And reader, I have to tell you, I thought I would find this interminably annoying, but I didn’t! [God help us all, I’m adopting Parrot Man’s! annoying punctuation!] It, inexplicably, added to the experience. Parrot Man!’s joy was just so damn genuine and wholesome.
Despite the fact that I don’t find sexist humour terribly funny or original (a song like Autumn Makes Me Want to Cheat on My Wife barely roused a smile, while Parrot Man! hyperventilated behind me), there’s no doubting Short’s seasoned and slick delivery. The self-deprecating humour also went part-way to diluting some of the more hackneyed moments, like his I’m a Degenerate Has-Been in Crisis song. Of course, it also helps that Short has a wonderful voice and is a talented singer.
The stuff that had me dabbing at tears and shaking my head incredulously were his impersonations. Short is talented, oh-so-talented in this department. In one skit he plays Jackie Rogers Junior (a sort of white Sammy Davis Junior), Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Katherine Hepburn all at once. It really is remarkable stuff. He does the best Katherine Hepburn impersonation you’re ever likely to see.
The other highlight was the Jiminy Glick interview with surprise guest, Rove. I’ve always been a big fan of Jiminy, and whether the audience at The Palms was familiar with him or not clearly didn’t matter, because the interview went down a treat. Rove was an extremely generous interviewee and certainly held his own while sitting next to the unpredictable and irreverent Glick, who asked him questions like “So, Rove, where were you when the Queen killed Diana?”. Short has been doing Glick for so long that the characterisation is flawless; always in character but never predictable.
Perhaps the greatest testament to Short’s own willingness to be self-deprecating was the brief taste of his off-off Broadway ‘hit’ Stepbrother to Jesus, for which he donned an unflatteringly body-hugging nude suit replete with anatomical bits drawn on in texta. And, dear reader, you can’t imagine what Parrot Man! had to say about that; the astuteness of it was astonishing: “Look at the penis!”
Short’s energy and sure and velvety voice belie his 59 years, and judging by the audience reception and the slickness of his material, he’s going to be making audiences laugh for a long time yet. Besides, it seems he has no other option; he joked that an alternate title for the show was: “If I’d saved I wouldn’t be here”.
MARTIN SHORT - LIVE
2009 Tour Dates
Wed 27th – Sat 30th May
The [email protected] Crown, Melbourne
Bookings - Ticketek (P): 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au
Mon 1st & Tue 2nd June
State Theatre, Sydney
Bookings – Ticketmaster (P): 136 100 or www.ticketmaster.com.au
Wed 3rd June
Lyric Theatre, Brisbane
Bookings: QTIX (P): 136 246 or www.qtix.com.au