Very few people can do what Martin Short does and not have the audience look away in embarrassment.
He is the master of the show biz smarm, opening his one-man show with clips from some of his most famous bits (men’s synchronized swimming team, we will never forget you), striding onto the stage with a piano player, singing “all I ask is that you love me,” changing costumes, dropping Steve Martin’s name a lot (his sometimes does this one man show with Martin) reprising his character from “Father of the Bride” and generally doing the sort of showbizzy variety show that absolutely should not work in 2016.
There are two reasons that it did Thursday night at the Paramount Theatre as part of the Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival. 1) Short is very old school showbiz himself, more of a song-and-dance man than a stand-up comedian, as much an actor as an improviser. His “show biz” self is a character as much Ed Grimley.
2) Speaking of Ed Grimly, Short remains a really weird guy. The weirdness cuts the smarm, in a way. He has been a comedic force for most of his life yet stil retains an outsider streak by dint of being a very odd dude.
There was some political stuff (mocking various Presidential candidates as wedding planner Franck Enggelhoffer, he of the deeply weird accent), he invited three folks from the audience to come up for a tribute to the “Three Amigos” (and wow, those three guys could not do the dance AT ALL.)
The strongest material came at the end, when Short assumed his Jiminy Glick persona (complete with costume) to give an unctuous, hilariously insulting and generally hilarious interview with Asleep at the Wheel leader Ray Benson. Short was perfectly clueless and mean, Benson took it brilliantly and it capped off an evening that should not have worked nearly as well as it did.