Josh Kinal writes…

The audience displayed their preparation for fun on Thursday night at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. There to see the talented Tony Award® winning character comedian Martin Short, they passed around Minties and interacted playfully like a group of friends despite being strangers moments earlier.

A self-warming crowd is the sort of thing a performer must dream of.

The grand piano on the stage implied an impending large-scale cabaret show like the kind Jerry Lewis is known to perform. So when the house-lights dimmed and the introductory video opened with a shot of Short impersonating Lewis, it brought into question if what was about to happen was parody or a natural progression of a once innovative comedian entering his twilight years.

Short doled out old-school, Catskills-style one liners in introduction with some local references to Australian politicians thrown in. Then he asked three audience members up on the stage to wear sparkly sombreros and perform the Three Amigos salute while he sang the theme song to the film. It felt like a clumsy attempt at connecting with the audience.

Videos of sketches he performed for Saturday Night Live and other television shows aided Short’s costume changes. In the first third of the evening there was the danger that the funniest things the audience would see would be from 30 years ago.

But Martin Short has always been a great character comedian and when he performed all the parts in a make believe talk show with guests Katherine Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, the evidence of his success was present.

His talent is great but the crowd was only just witness to his Elizabeth Taylor impersonation on screen where he had the benefit of make-up and wardrobe. A couple of cat-calls in a wig just did not have the same punch, and his famous Katherine Hepburn impersonation seemed to lose focus mid way.

Later he entered the stage as his character, Franck Eggelhoffer, from Father of the Bride. Again, this was preceded by a video segment from the film in which he had the excellent Steve Martin to play off his lunacy. On stage the character lost his accent and engaged in an odd game of “fashion yes or no” that was more bemusing than amusing.

The highlight was a segment with arguably Martin Short’s most famous character, Jiminy Glick: he’s an interviewer of celebrities, probably best described to Australian audiences as what would happen if John-Michael Howson (from the old Ray Martin Show days) had eaten Norman Gunston.

Glick’s onstage antics, his doughnut scoffing and his non-sequiturs, were hilarious. His guest was 3AW weekend presenter, Darren James but it almost doesn’t matter who his guest is because they are always going to be just the other person on stage who is not Jiminy Glick. The character is a scene stealer and show-stopper.

The closing number was an auto-cue prompted song about Australian actors who made it big in the USA. It underwhelmed and only served to remind the audience of the evening they spent with Martin Short before Jiminy Glick came out and made them feel so much better.

Martin Short is in Australia as part of the Just for Laughs Festival in Sydney.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_YcGFfJAkY[/youtube]