As fabled show-business friendships go, the 33-year bond between comedians-actors Steve Martin and Martin Short is something ... well, special. As Short puts it, "We’re like Donny and Marie, but without the sexual tension. We're closer than Putin and Trump."
The comedic collaborators will showcase their unique (and occasionally ribald) brands of humor and musical talents (Short sings, Martin plays banjo) June 29. That's when they'll unleash their show, "An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life," in Sacramento.
Martin, 72, and Short, 68, have toured "Evening" for seven years, playing to sold-out audiences around the country. It's a medley described as "musical sketches, stand-up, conversations about their iconic careers, their most memorable encounters, and their legendary lives in show-business and comedy." Let’s not leave out the constant back-and-forth of good-natured insults.
Appearing with them will be award-winning bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers and Jimmy Kimmel Live Band jazz pianist Jeff Babko.
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For a sneak preview, go to Netflix to see the show as it was filmed in February in Greenville, S.C. Spoiler alert: It's hilarious.
"Evening" grew out of the 2011 Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, when Martin and Short "interviewed" each other onstage.
The friends met in 1985 on the set of "Three Amigos" after executive producer Martin and co-writers Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman recruited him for the role of one of the "Amigos" (the third was Chevy Chase). At the time, Short was best-known for his sketch comedy on Second City Television.
Martin had moved from hosting and guesting on "Saturday Night Live" and touring his stand-up act to making movies, writing books and plays, and playing the banjo, something he's done since childhood. He and Short made two more films together, "Father of the Bride" (1991) and "Father of the Bride II" (1996).
I caught up with them on a conference call from New York City.
Q: What makes "An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life" so utterly unmemorable?
SM: Something I learned when I was doing a television special and a friend of mine was the producer. I was upset over something and he said, "Steve, remember, no one's watching."
Q: Martin, you've described "Evening" as "a children's show for adults." The show seems to be the perfect culmination of both your professional lives.
MS: I agree.
SM: Me, too. It's kind of a synthesis of everything I've done. I don't know about Marty, but strangely I feel I'm doing what I do best.
Q: How close is the Netflix show to what Sacramento audiences will see?
MS: Certainly we've done variations. This one will be somewhat the same because we can’t change an entire show overnight, but we will have 30 minutes of new material.
Q: The show mixes humor, music, singing, banter, reminiscence and a bizarre "ventriloquist" act. You have a bluegrass band and a pianist. It's almost like a variety show.
MS: Variety has never left television. "American Idol" is a variety show, and "Saturday Night Live," of course. Almost all the talk shows are variety shows. But "variety show" has kind of an old-fashioned sound to it. The term is so associated with another era, like Johnny Carson and Carol Burnett. I feel our show is kind of new.
SM: I don't think of our show as a variety show in the old-fashioned sense, either. We didn't set out to make a variety show. We just do what we do, and it turned out to have variety in it.
MS: In both our cases, we do a variety of different things.
SM: I think we finally sorted that out.
Q: Are your audiences pretty consistent, or do they change depending on the city?
SM: My observation is that the audience response varies not because of the locale, but because of the type of theater we're in. If we're in a beautiful 3,000-seat theater, the response is very consistent across the country in that type of venue. It's more restrained. If you're outdoors with 6,000 people, the response is louder and looser.
MS: It's because the theatrical elements are so different. Outdoors, they're in a more casual setting, drinking a little more, and the sun hasn't totally set yet.
SM: Maybe that's a new title for our show: "Come Watch the Sun Set on These Two Legendary Performers."
Q: After decades of making movies and TV shows, isn't the most gratifying piece still watching people in the audience double over in laughter?
MS: It's fantastic.
SM: Live performance has always been a little bit stressful for me. I've always been nervous. I want to do a good job and give the audience its money's worth. But with this show, I feel so confident in its reception of what we're delivering that I really have almost no nerves at all.
Q: I watched the Netflix special and I've seen your appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on YouTube. You leave each other with such great openings.
MS: We're not clairvoyant, we just have a natural understanding of what each other's timing is.
Q: You've been friends and worked together for 33 years. What have you learned about each other?
SM: I've learned that Marty is a very relaxed person who deals with things immediately, doesn't let issues fester and knows who's over the line. I'm sure Marty has learned from me to be kind of paranoid, difficult to talk to and moody. Don't leave out moody.
Q: What do you find humbling in show business?
SM: The talent of younger comedians. I remember how hard it was to even think you were becoming good in comedy. But (people like) John Mulaney, Chris Rock and Amy Schumer are so good.
MS: I go to Broadway shows and even if the show doesn't work, the level of talent on the stage is awe-inspiring. I don't think most comedians really sees their own talent as equal to some of those talents on Broadway.
Q: I'm going to say three names, please give your reactions. Peter Sellers.
Together: A genius!
Q: Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Together: A genius!
Q: Dave Chappell.
SM: He's a genius too, and a good example of the superior stand-ups I was talking about.
Q: What's left on your bucket lists?
SM: I've got to get a bucket.
MS: I've never directed a stage show or a movie. But maybe it's a good idea that I haven't.
SM: Marty, I can't see you calling out, "People! People! Just tell the story!"
Q: Once and for all, who's funnier – Steve Martin or Martin Short?
MS: That's an easy one.
SM: Sure is. It's so easy, I don't even have to say it.
MS: It's so obvious. What's sad is you asked that question with Steve on the line, and how well you know the answer.
SM: When I'm on stage with Marty, sometimes we can see the audience. In 100 percent of the cases, they're always looking at him.
MS: That is completely not a true statement.
SM: I've told you this before.
MS: I know you’ve told me this before.
SM: Even when I'm talking, people are sitting there looking at you. When you're not onstage, the audience goes backstage to find you.
Q: Last question: What one question would you ask each other?
MS: It would be hard to know what to ask Steve without me knowing the answer already. But here's one: The level of Steve's creative accomplishments over his long career is something he doesn't dwell on. He keeps moving forward to the next thing. Why is that, Steve?
SM: I can't stand to look back because there's always something a little wrong with what I've done. I always want to make it perfect.
Q: Any last thoughts?
MS: We love you like family!
Q: That's what you say to your audiences at the end of the shows.
SM: And it's so true.
If you go
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life
Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J. Stern Walk, Sacramento
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 29
Info: www.ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000 or at the Golden 1 Center box office