Just saw you on something called “Hollywood Game Night,” I told Martin Short.
Celebrities play games like “Timeline,” which involves putting things in the correct order while sipping what look to be very strong cocktails. People have slurred, practically slid off the couch.
How much do you people drink while America watches?
“None,” Short told me the other day. “You know what it gets down to? Sean Hayes (of “Will & Grace” fame and the “Hollywood Game Night” producer) has always had these fabulous parties at his house. So he’s duplicated it on television. But while we’re there, everyone drinks water or ginger ale and pretends.”
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Short, still boyish at 63, has spent a career pretending and is bringing his one-man show to the Paramount Theatre on Thursday at 8 p.m.
On the phone from a stop in Michigan, Short described the show as something like hosting “Saturday Night Live,” backed by all the characters he has carried around in his 5-foot-7-inch frame for decades.
You know them. The nerdy Ed Grimley, with his high-waisted pants and pointy hair. Albino lounge singer Jackie Rogers Jr. The fleshy, cringe-inducing talk-show host Jiminy Glick, who has made even Steven Spielberg squirm.
“It’s a very loose show,” Short said of his stage act. “Sections that are more structured, sections that aren’t. It varies from night to night.”
Indeed, he’s been doing these characters long enough to just let them take over, depending on the audience and how the night unfolds.
“The audience doesn’t care how letter-perfect you are,” he said. “They know you. They want you to be happy and in a good mood so that they can have a hang with you.”
Short has been doing this show only a few times a month — and may take a break for a while. He’s been asked to do two plays in New York (“I can’t talk about the plays”).
In recent months, he has appeared on “Saturday Night Live” (both as host and a cameo) and on The John Mulaney Show. And he just finished the role of “Dr. Blaynoyd” in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel “Inherent Vice,” to be released next year.
Lest he have any free time, Short is also working on a book.
“I like to do a wide variety of things,” he said. No kidding.
Short is seemingly everywhere — in a gushing profile in Vanity Fair, in a chair beside Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel. He’s never left the stage or screen since he first stepped on.
Short grew up in Canada, the youngest of five kids, “the unexpected fifth.”
“People were always happy to see me, and I didn’t walk until I was 11. I was always carried around.”
Short produced an imaginary show in his attic, complete with applause — he triple-looped the closing applause from his parents’ “Sinatra At the Sands” LP.
“The show was on every other Tuesday at 8 p.m.,” he said, matter-of-factly.
And yet, he never wanted to be an actor.
He went to school for pre-med, but didn’t like science, so he switched to social work.
At the end of four years, he auditioned for “Godspell” and got the part.
Also in the cast: Future SCTV castmates Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin; and future SNL star Gilda Radner.
“I told myself, ‘Try it, so you can look in the mirror and say I tried it.’ ”
He’s never really stopped working, never struggled to make ends meet like most actors.
“I was never really poor,” he said. “I grew up in an upper middle-class world and then I was at university, and then I took a year off to try acting and never stopped. I never thought, ‘Gee, someday I’d like to own a car.’ ”
Not that he would admit that to anyone at the time, he said.
“Even if you had money, you would pretend to not have money.”
Short recalled once going home with then-girlfriend Gilda Radner, whose family owned the Park Shelton Hotel in Detroit.
“She told me, ‘Hey, don’t tell anyone,’ because it was not hip.”
He later married a fellow actor Nancy Dolman. They had three children — now all grown — before she died from ovarian cancer in 2010. Short lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif. and has a home on Lake Rosseau in Ontario.
It’s a nice place to go to get away from L.A., he said, where Jiminy Glick was created and still exists, in some measure, in real life.
“He’s an idiot with power,” Short said. “The world is full of them! I heard someone say that Kim Kardashian was this generation’s Elizabeth Taylor. And I said, ‘Oh, come now. Elizabeth Taylor has won an Oscar or two.’
“If Kim Kardashian is this generation’s Elizabeth Taylor, well, she should be working harder.”
Nicole Brodeur: firstname.lastname@example.org.