Just a couple Martins. Photo by Anna Webber

Just a couple Martins. Photo by Anna Webber

My Favorite Martins

Steve Martin and Martin Short discuss bringing their two-man comedy extravaganza back to Seattle.

No one can land a joke that cuts you down at the knees like a close friend. Anyone can craft a roast-style joke based on broad traits, but it takes someone who really cares enough to know your pathology to drop the comedic guillotine with precision. So it should come as no surprise that after over three decades of friendship, Martin Short and Steve Martin absolutely revel in destroying one another with prickly punchlines.

May saw the release of the Netflix comedy special An Evening You’ll Forget for the Rest of Your Life, which captures the two-man stage show Short and Martin have been running in recent years (including multiple Seattle visits). Short’s ever-manic energy and Martin’s stoic aloofness pair perfectly in a performance that mixes rapid banter, storytelling, character work, pop culture riffs, and music (with accompaniment by Martin’s bluegrass cronies Steep Canyon Rangers and pianist Jeff Babko). But it’s hard to top the moments when they trade verbal blows in rounds of insulting joke sparring (or as they refer to the backhanded turns of phrase, “Hollywood compliments”). It’s almost like pro wrestling—we know the punches are planned, but when executed by experts they’re still a spectacle to behold.

We had a chance to chat with the comic legends before the duo returns to Seattle for another utterly “forgettable” night of hilarity this Saturday, July 7, at the Paramount Theatre.

Now that a version of your show exists on Netflix, what do you do to keep it fresh as you continue to perform as a duo?

Steve Martin: Well, the Netflix special is pretty much up to date. But since the Netflix special, we’ve incorporated probably 30 minutes or more of new material. And sometimes people want to see things again, so we’re trying to make those judgement calls.

What’s your process when coming up with new material? Do you meet up? Improvise onstage?

SM: All of that. We meet up in person. We communicate by … we’ll call it “Skype,” even though we don’t use Skype—we use that little Echo Show, and it’s very good for that. We can see each other and just talk like normal people. And then we come up with things during the show or just prior to the show that we put in or keep.

As individuals who’ve been hugely successful as solo performers, what’s the most exhilarating part about performing as a duo?

Martin Short: I think it’s the ease and relaxation. I often think that audiences—particularly if they’ve known entertainers for a while—it’s not about if every joke was a killer as much as do they look like they’re truly having fun; that they’re at ease and I’m seeing them in a particularly comfortable night. I think when two people who have ease working with each other bring that to the stage, that can be very rewarding for the audience.

That genuine feeling that if I was hanging out with these two guys, they’d still be riffing with each other like this.

MS: Exactly.

SM: Well, I think that’s one way to say it, but if we did that the whole show they’d go, “OK, enough now.” [Laughs]

Who are your favorite comedy duos?

SM: Certainly for me, Laurel and Hardy are the unbeatable team.

MS: I loved Abbott and Costello. And of course, I love Nichols and May.

SM: Oh, and Nichols and May, of course. And I’d say Nichols and May are the exact opposite of Laurel and Hardy, but that was an incredible teaming.

What aspect of your comedy partner makes you the most jealous?

SM: I don’t really think that, I just appreciate Marty when he’s onstage. I’m not jealous of his singing, but I admire his singing voice, which I don’t have. Because if I had it…

MS: Oh no, don’t go there with yourself…

SM: No, I’ll tell you. Here’s why I don’t want it. If I had Marty’s singing voice, I would be perfect.

MS: [Laughs] I’m in constant amazement at Steve’s immense range of talent. It’s shocking, it’s shocking. Not just as a writer, but then you move into music, then you move into juggling, then you move into comedy. And that’s his gift. Everyone who knows him is in amazement.

Do you have a favorite aspect of Seattle when you come to do shows here?

SM: You have a beautiful art museum. I love it. They’re rich with 19th-century American paintings that I like. And I like just kind of walking around the city.

Do you have favorite cutting insult jokes or “Hollywood compliments” for each other?

SM: My favorite one to do is when I say, “What’s great about touring around with Marty Short? No paparazzi.” [Laughs]

MS: And I like attacking Steve’s paleness.

Do you ever come up with any that seem too mean to do onstage?

SM: We rarely bump up against too mean.

MS: There are certain things you stay naturally clear from. I would never go near Steve’s obsession with communism, for example. [Laughs]

SM: We think more about that when we’re doing jokes about other people or outsiders. We’ll often say, “That’s too mean, that’s too mean.” But it rarely comes up with each other. We go, “That’s really mean. That’s good!”

Is there any end point in sight for your two-man show, or does the flexibility allow it to be perpetually ongoing?

SM: We don’t have a plan to quit, but these things do have a natural life, it seems. It’s not in our head to stop at all.

MS: But I think we’ll know.

SM: Like right now it feel like a great time to stop. Right now. Getting that feeling right now. I wasn’t expecting to have it.

MS: [Laughs]

More in Life

From left: students Riley Retinger, Abby Smith, Mimmi Hubbard and Sadie Rabinowitz. Photo by Calah Webb
‘It’s one of my favorite places to be’: School of Rock Issaquah gears up for January shows

In January, students will be paying homage to the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Chris Cornell and others.

Embrace the struggle for a complete picture | Health column

A monthly column about mindfulness and general wellbeing.

KCLS continuing to build connections in 2020

A monthly column about library happenings.

The Snoqualmie Lunar New Year Celebration will be held at the YMCA Community Center on Jan. 25. File photo
Snoqualmie Lunar New Year Celebration set for Jan. 25

The celebration will be held at the Snoqualmie YMCA Community Center.

Seahawks legend Alonzo Mitz signs Herb Altmann’s 12’s flag at Sno-Valley Senior Center on Dec. 13. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
Seattle Seahawks Legends visit Sno-Valley Senior Center

The 12 Days of Goodness made a stop in Carnation on Dec. 13.

Eat this not that this holiday season | Health

A monthly health column from a local naturopathic health care provider.

Santa waves to the crowd as Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson leads the crowd in an acapella version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” during the annual Winter Lights on Dec. 7. Corey Morris/staff photo
Santa Claus came to town

Photos from the 2019 Winter Lights celebration in Snoqualmie.

Photo by Nityia Photography
Three simple rules for the holiday

A monthly column about mindfulness.

Jacob Pass and Anita Young at Twede’s Cafe with Buddy the Elf during a North Bend Downtown Foundation photo campaign promoting downtown businesses. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
North Bend holiday happenings

Celebrate downtown with Buddy the Elf.

Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, next door to the American Legion Post 79, which houses the Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services Resource Center. There will be a free community meal at the church on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, at 3 p.m. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
Community Thanksgiving meal at Snoqualmie Methodist Church

The church will host Thanksgiving dinner with Snoqualmie Valley Shelter Services.

Erin Wakefield
Recognizing the value of veterans

A monthly column from Waste Management.

The Island’s third Pumpkin Walk is set for Oct. 27 at Luther Burbank Park. Photo courtesy of Amanda Colburn
Eastside Halloween roundup

Family-friendly seasonal events throughout the Eastside.