Making a long story Short's

When Martin Short was a young man, he set out on a career in show business, but first he had to convince a tough critic — himself.

So, he gave himself one-year contracts. If, at the same time the following year, he'd made a living, he'd renew it.

This continued through his 20s, until, at a certain point, he realized, "Oh, I guess I'm stuck — I've got to do this."

"I think it's fine at age 50 to look in the mirror and say, 'Maybe if you tried being an actor, you'd have liked that,'" Short remarked. "Then you can say, 'You did try being an actor, remember? No one hired you.'"

Short's successful search for passion and joy has spanned over three decades and earned him 19 Emmy Award nominations. Starting out on "Saturday Night Live," he went on to act in "Three Amigos," "Father of the Bride" and "Mars Attacks!", working alongside the likes of Steve Martin, Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase.

Now, he's coming to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for "An Evening with Martin Short" on Thursday.

The venue's president, Terry Dwyer, recalled meeting him in 1993 while working at the La Jolla Playhouse, which, that year, won the Tony Award for Best American Regional Theater. He was standing backstage with Des McAnuff, the artistic director, when Short — a Canadian like McAnuff — approached them.

"Martin's a really fun, really lively, entertaining guy," said Dwyer, who has been trying for almost 10 years to host the actor. "He's very genuine, and the audience will see that. He's a great comic who assumes his characters completely and has an impeccable sense of comedic timing."

Some roles on tap for Short's Costa Mesa premiere include songwriter Irving Cohen; Franck, a wedding planner; Ed Grimley, a popular culture fiend with a cowlick; and Jiminy Glick, an overweight junk food lover who uses ginkgo biloba to buttress his memory. Along with songs, dance routines and improv, the approximately 90-minute show will feature movie clips, multimedia effects and viewer participation.

"My analogy is, it's as if I was hosting 'Saturday Night Live' and was the host and entire cast," said Short, who writes his own material. "I think the audience already knows me, so they want to see that I'm in a good mood. Do I want to be there? Am I having fun? I want them to walk away and say, 'I feel I had a hang with Martin Short.'"

When onstage three or four times a month, he prioritizes staying relaxed and limber as compared to focusing on precision and perfection. That way, he finds, he can sidestep doubts and last-minute nerves and instead present a "party with Marty."

Growing up, Short, a fan of Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis, hosted a make-believe TV show on NBC every other Tuesday — leaving time for a pretend film career. Deeming it "all kinds of crazy," he admitted, though, that his dream of performing seemed unrealistic because he lived in Hamilton, Ontario, not Manhattan. It was due to this reasoning that he decided to study medicine and then switched to social work at McMaster University. Upon graduating and moving to Toronto, he landed a part in "Godspell," which eventually led to a part on the parody show "SCTV Network."

"Being successful [in show business] is tied to three things — one's endurance, one's luck and one's talent," Short said. "It's very tricky; you have to have all three. You can be wildly talented, but if no one gives you a vehicle to show your talent, then no one's going to know you."

Familiar with the audition circuit, Short is aware that young actors tend to berate themselves when roles slip through their fingers. He advised against taking things personally because it could simply be that the producers needed someone taller for the part. Versatility is a highly valued asset, he reflected, adding that it's also important to keep working while attempting to get one's feet wet, regardless of the pay.

Changing gears from joking about earning "lots of money" due to his craft, Short revealed that he will star in a TV series called "Mulaney," due to air on Fox in early 2014. He's also in the process of writing a yet-untitled memoir that he hopes will go beyond "silly showbiz stories" and instead discuss how to live within a happy framework.

Widely known for his on-screen irreverence, Short said his humor and lightheartedness are not a façade for when cameras are rolling — you only have to ask his family and friends.

"It's kind of a continuation of what you see on television, but not as frantic — hopefully," he quipped.

If You Go

What: "An Evening with Martin Short"

Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 21

Cost: Tickets start at $39


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