Martin Short sees his act as a freewheeling party with him as a special guest star, joined by Ed Grimsley, Jiminy Glick and Irving Cohen and a "cast" of his own offbeat characters.
"It's a party with Marty," says Short, who appears 9 p.m. Friday, April 5, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. "If you were having a party at your house, and you had a piano player there and happened to have a mic, I would jump on the piano and do 100 minutes.
"Characters will show up. Songs will be done. People will be brought up from the audience. It's a combination of set and improvised pieces, and a lot of characters show up. It's like me hosting 'Saturday Night Live,' if I were the host and all the cast."
For the versatile Short, whose career has spanned TV, movies and Broadway, his live shows offer a way to regularly re-connect with his audience.
"I don't like to tour shows, but I like to every couple of months do a concert," he says. "It keeps me always loose and in front of an audience. Audiences at a certain point in your career aren't so interested in if every joke works, but if that guy seems loose. Did you feel like a connection were made? That's more powerful than, 'Was Joke A better than Joke C? To keep that frame of mind, you have to not let a lot of grass grow between shows."
Still, Short doesn't want to rely on the appeal of the characters to get laughs; there has to be something fresh for them to do.
"The characters are the ages they are," Short says. "It's really about do you have something new to say. (Talk-show host character) Jiminy Glick is really easy because he's improvising an interview with a brand-new person. He's just a guy who exists, whether it's Merv Griffin, Jay Leno or any of those guys."
Having done everything from TV sketch shows, such as "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live," and his own "Primetime Glick," to movie roles in "Three Amigos," "Father of the Bride" and "Prince of Egypt," to a Tony-winning turn in the musical, "Little Me," Short loves to send up show biz types.
"In the old days of 'SCTC,' you'd satirize a lounge singer cheese ball," he says. "You can't do that anymore because there's no frame of reference. What remains in show business, which is even funnier to me, is morons with power. You flip around TV and see someone with a show, and that person not only has a staff, but has people who are scared to screw up his lunch order. That's the most fascinating to me."
At this point in his long career, the biggest priority for Short is to keep things fresh. Among his recent credits are a season-long arc on the FX drama series, "Damages," and one season as a judge on "Canada's Got Talent." He didn't mind at all when the latter show didn't make it to a second season.
"I wouldn't have done it a second year," Short says. "I don't like to do extended things. It is that interesting place you find yourself in a career. You don't have to worry about rent anymore. You have an even greater pressure –– why wouldn't I be bored at this point? When you've done so much and done it for over 40 years –– why wouldn't I quit?
"What I don't necessarily want to is something similar. At the end of the year or when you reflect on your year, you can say that was an eclectic range of things you've done this year. That's more rewarding."
Comedy icons inspire Martin Short
Actor-comedian Martin Short, pictured below as Jiminy Glick, thought he was on his way to becoming a song-and-dance man when he got his professional start in a Toronto production of "Godspell" about 40 years ago.
The production is famous for having helped launch the careers of Paul Shaffer, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin and Victor Garber.
"I had so much fun, I wanted to continue doing that," Short recalls.
But Short's ability to get the laugh led him away from traditional theater roles and into sketch comedy via "SCTV," for which he received an Emmy, and "Saturday Night Live."
He later won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for the revival of "Little Me" and co-starred in the musical version of "The Goodbye Girl," but doesn't have any plans for a return to the theater anytime soon.
"Whenever I finish (a theater production), I think I'm not going to do that again," Short says. "If I do it again, I would be in an ensemble play, saying, 'Come in, Inspector, sit down, I think my wife ...
"The shows I tend to be in are insane, with me running around. When you don't have an understudy, you live with the pressure, 'What if I cancel a show?' You don't ever want to cancel a show, it's a nightmare."