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

Orlay to host North Creek tours

Attendees will learn about local salmon varieties in addition to the area’s watershed.

Rain gardens: Nature’s sponge

A seminar will teach you how to create this natural way to control runoff in your yard

Rep. Suzan DelBene talks with local parents about what they think of the Summer Meals program that aims to help hungry children. Kailan Manandic/staff Photo
Rep. Suzan DelBene helps feed Kingsgate kids

DelBene handed out free lunches at the Kingsgate Library Summer Meals program.

Sharon Rickets dresses as a 1920’s suffragette to honor the women who fought for the right to vote. Courtesy of the Bothell Historical Museum
Bothell museum celebrates local women at 19th Amendment event

The event will provide several games for kids and a voter registration table for attendees.

Northshore Wall of Honor to recognize new inductees

Northshore Wall of Honor inductees to be recognized Aug. 16.

Parker Lang. Photo courtesy of Vicki Moore
Bothell’s Parker Lang saved nearly 30 lives after losing his own

Vicki Moore reflects on the positive impacts her son made through his organ and tissue donations.

Kenmore hosts Play Day

Play Day set for Aug. 11.

‘Hometown Hero’ fights cancer with community support

Bothell firefighter, volunteer and “rad dad” Kirk Robinson is battling metastatic melanoma.

Bothell student attends annual Kumon student conference

Local student invited to Kumon’s exclusive annual Kumon Student Conference in Calgary, Canada

UW Bothell Pub Night Talk hosts local history author

R. Gregory Nokes set to present new book at UW Bothell Pub Night Talk

Measles, it’s never too late to get vaccinated

The summer is a great time to get outdoors and have fun; don’t let measles ruin your plans.

Numerous locals attend the inaugural Anderson Summer School Brewfest that was hosted by McMenamins last year. Kat Nyberg/McMenamins Photo and Video
McMenamins to host second annual brewfest in Bothell

The McMenamins Anderson Summer School Brewfest will feature new and returning breweries.