Marty Short, all five feet seven of him, gives good talk show. As Shaffer explained after the Late Show taping, "A guy like David Letterman is so happy when Marty's on, because he knows he can relax. He knows that Marty will take care of it—that he's going to give you a couple of segments of socko."
Short does this with regularity—not only for Letterman but also for Fallon, Conan, Kimmel, and Ellen. There used to be more like him: a whole talk-show ecosystem of Dinos, Sammys, Grouchos, Milties, and Toties who bounded onto soundstages in Midtown and Burbank and justdelivered, entertaining for entertainment's sake, unhampered by sulky-actor social ineptitude or a studio-mandated obligation to plug something. (Though Short threw in some plugging onLetterman, too, dutifully devoting a sliver of time to his voice work for Tim Burton'sFrankenweenie.)
Nowadays, however, there's really no one else out there like Marty. And while his shtick undoubtedly comes with an overlay of winking commentary on the tired conventions of show business—witness his evocation of the old-time vocal group the Mills Brothers in the Short Brothers bit, or his customary shouted greeting to Letterman's studio audience every time he visits, "Thanks for remembering!"—Short is genuine in his desire to entertain: an authentic trouper beneath the pretend inauthenticity.
Above all, Short is very funny. He can be funny in the neo-vaudevillian way of his talk-show appearances and Broadway performances (in such productions as his 2006 revue, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, and the 1998 revival of Neil Simon's Little Me, for which he won a Tony), and he can be funny in the profoundly odd, sui generis Martin Short way he was on SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and Primetime Glick, where he went deep into deranged character—whether as Grimley, or the albino lounge singer Jackie Rogers Jr., or the clammy corporate-shill attorney Nathan Thurm, or the goitered, vapid celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick—with full commitment and nary a knowing wink to the crowd.