Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Martin Short out for laughs

He offers unusual night at the Pops

By Nicole Hamilton nhamilton@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Martin Short was convincing in his performance Sunday evening with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra as a big-time comedian trying to get laughs from a big-time ultra-conservative audience 1/2ndash 3/4 and even from the orchestra members themselves.

        At times, he did. Including when he arrived onstage as his Saturday Night Live character Ed Grimley to tell the tale of Peter and The Wolf. Or when he ended a song holding a note (it was recorded) while he shook hands with the audience and took a sip of water.

        Other times, especially his monologue in the show's opening - his religious jokes (asking God to keep Michael Jackson out of the Cincinnati Archdiocese), sexual innuendo (he told the audience the last time he was in Cincinnati he saw Siegfried and Roy perform the Vagina Monologues), and jokes aimed at homosexuals - met with a mixture of nervous laughter, boos and silence.

        The comedian took the stage after the orchestra, led by guest conductor David Briskin, played two Broadway medleys that sounded like one long medley and launched into a version of Anthony Newley's “Once in a Lifetime” from Stop the World I Want to Get Off. Mr. Short has a pretty good singing voice, as revealed in this number and again in the show's closer, “My Best to You,” which was oddly serious and sincere. The Tony award winner was funny as the legendary songwriter Irving Cohen, coming out in a gray wig and cane. As Mr. Cohen, he reminisced about Irving Berlin, saying he lost the song “Alexander's Ragtime Band” to Mr. Berlinin a poker game.

        The best moments in the performance were provided by the innocent audience and orchestra members who were brought into his jokes with good-natured enthusiasm.

        Mr. Short revealed he was married before - when he was 16, to a 58-year-old who was in the audience Sunday night.

        He pretended to scan the hall for her until he found an elderly woman and brought her onstage to sing the title song from the musical She Loves Me. She went along with the joke, dancing like she could have stayed up there all night.

        As Ed Grimley, he (and the audience) suffered his way through a narration of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and The Wolf. He moved in and out of the nerdy character, getting lost in the story or stopping to let a female cellist's bow hit his derriere or to make out with a first violist by jumping on her lap and kissing her for about half a minute.

        He occasionally tried to joke with the bassists, who ignored him.

        “They don't like me over here,” Mr. Short said as he made his way into the bass section.

        The same may have been said for those who left during intermission - and some did. It appeared Mr. Short's brand of humor wasn't for everyone.

        Those who did stay gave Mr. Short a long, standing ovation.


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