Steve Martin and Martin Short: Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t
Featuring Della Mae with Alison Brown and Jeff Babko
The Palladium // Thursday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Mark Seliger and courtesy of Netflix
Steve Martin and Martin Short’s celebrated comedy show, “Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t,” redefines the form in unexpected and profound ways, from two of the funniest, most influential and acclaimed talents of the past century. Martin and Short will be joined on stage by Della Mae, banjo innovator Alison Brown and keyboardist Jeff Babko from the Jimmy Kimmel Live house band.
Steve Martin is one of the best-known talents in entertainment. His work has earned him an Academy Award, five Grammy awards, an Emmy, the Mark Twain Award and the Kennedy Center Honors. He is also a Grammy Award-winning, boundary-pushing bluegrass banjoist and composer, Tony-nominated playwright and bestselling author.
Martin Short, a celebrated comedian and actor, has won fans and accolades in television, film and theater since his breakout season on “Saturday Night Live” over 30 years ago. An accomplished stage actor, Short has received a Tony, a Theatre World Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award and is a two-time primetime Emmy winner. Short’s New York Times bestselling memoir, “I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend,” was published in 2014. In 2017, he received a Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award from the governor-general of Canada.
The Big Interview
As gracious as they are hilarious, Martin and Short accepted an exclusive interview with Carmel Monthly and shared some in-depth behind-the-scenes thoughts about their careers, their professionalism and especially their 30-plus-year friendship—a unique friendship between two iconic entertainers that has lifted each of these men up in times of great success, carried them through times of great loss and has sustained the decades with laughter.
The interview began by pointing out that these men have been performing for half a century—a fact that both Martin and Short are sincerely proud of.
Going back to the beginning of your careers, at what point did you know that you wanted to be performers/entertainers?
Steve: For me, I was in college and was thinking about becoming a philosophy professor. But in my mind, I knew that if I didn’t give show business a try, I would have a regret my whole life. And that’s when I decided to go into show business. I really wanted to do it and had to try.
Martin: For me, I had always fantasized about being in show business and would have imaginary television shows in my attic bedroom and would have imaginary deals with NBC and all that stuff. But I thought I had to be realistic because I was in Hamilton, Ontario [Canada], and so I went into medicine, and after two years of that I was like, “Nah, I’m going to try show biz.” So, I graduated college and gave myself a year to try it [show business].
Steve, we spoke with a blood relative of yours who works with one of The Center’s resident companies, whose maiden name is Mary Jeanelle Martin. She shared with us a story about her mother and your mother having written a book of genealogy for your branch of the Martin family. She said that every blood-related Martin has a half page in that book except for you. You have a FULL page. Are you aware of this book?
Steve: I remember that [book] and, well, first of all I am very grateful to Jack Martin [and family] for doing that. Otherwise, we would not have all that [family] history. Jack was working on that [book] at the time of my highest popularity. [Pause and laughs softly] He might have been influenced by all that, but there is a lot of information in that book. I love it.
Fast-forwarding to the fateful encounter on the set of “The Three Amigos,” that is where your friendship began and really developed, was it not?
Martin: Absolutely, yes.
Steve: Certainly, yes. We ended up doing five movies together for one thing. And usually, as Marty says, you do a movie for three months and then you never see those people again. But he and I went out of our way to see each other but also to work together. And when those opportunities came up, we seized them.
When you think about those moments working on set, working long hours and all the things that come with working on a movie, what was it about each other that made you think, “I kind of like this guy?”
Martin: Why do any friendships form? Obviously, the big attraction for us was the comedy and we made each other laugh but had Steve not been a truly decent and kind man, I would’ve said, ‘Yeah, laughs are fun, but the movie’s over and that’s enough of that.” I think it [friendship] goes deep into layers, and it’s just knowing when you have a friend not worth losing.
Steve: Marty was very funny in a surprising way. I always like to try to hang out with funny people and then they turn out to be interesting in addition to all that, it just makes it [the friendship] better. He is very wise.
Martin: Thank you.
What makes Martin wise in your opinion?
Steve: He has a lot of insight into people and also, he manages his own life really well, and sometimes I haven’t.
Martin [laughingly]: Give me three examples of where you haven’t.
[Martin and Steve laugh]
Steve: Well, certainly romances that have been bad. You know, that sort of thing.
Martin: You get rid of people quickly, and I get rid of people over a few years.
Obviously, you feed off each other well and play up each other’s strengths. So, when you’re doing these shows and you’ve written a script, do you ever look at each other and say I want to change this up or I think you should do this before you go out on stage or do you stick to the script?
Steve: We do both of those things. We like to stick to the script, but we also like to be inspired by things, so we often will make comments like, “Hey, here’s a suggestion for that bit” or Marty will suggest something and we either take it or leave it.
What is it about the other that when you perform together really adds to the performance?
Steve: Marty is a real live wire and physically moves quite a bit. And he has all the daring comedy bits that play against my kind of, I don’t know if it’s stoicism, but let’s put it this way: I have no costume changes in the show, and Marty has three.
If memory recalls, there was an interview back a number of years ago, and one of you was on a late-night talk show and the subject of colonoscopies came up. As the story goes, the two of you and Tom Hanks got together the night before your scheduled colonoscopies at Steve’s house for a sort of colonoscopy cleanse/support party. Was that for real and what did that look like? Not look like but you know, how did that go down?
Steve: Yeah … you don’t want to know what that looks like.
Steve: We’ve done it twice, and you know, a colonoscopy had a sort of bad reputation for being difficult. You had to be sedated and this and that, but now the colonoscopy [procedure] is so easy and it’s so improved that we don’t really need to fortify each other by having four guys come over to play poker and drink laxatives all night.
Who was there for those “cleanse parties”?
Marty: On both occasions it was Tom hanks and our friend Walter Parks, who’s a big-time Hollywood producer.
One can only imagine the conversations that went on those nights.
Steve: Oh, we laughed pretty hard. But [telling that story] is our way of telling people to get colonoscopies because people aren’t always getting them at the age they should be.
You guys made colonoscopies relatable and humanized what is otherwise an experience we don’t want to sign up for unless we absolutely have to. Did you guys actually go to the clinic together the next day?
Martin: Yes, we went to a clinic, and from there we went to a bar and had margaritas.
Martin, you’ve been on this side of the table playing the character of celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick. What inspired you to create that character and what did you take from those experiences as Glick?
Martin: I wanted to create a character who could go as an entertainment reporter and create a character where I could be totally unrecognizable. What was great about doing that character was that I could say anything I wanted because he [Glick] was a moron.
Martin: So, it didn’t matter what I said [as Glick]. I once said to Mel Brooks [as Glick], “What’s your big beef with the Nazis?” I wouldn’t say that as myself.
Well, you wouldn’t say it and keep your job!
Martin: Exactly or keep your citizenship.
Who did you enjoy interviewing the most?
Martin: I can’t even, there’s so many…
Steve interrupts: I’m on the phone, Marty! I’m on the phone.
Martin: It wasn’t Steve, but I interviewed Steve more than once!
Looking at your friendship of 30-plus-years, imagine what if you had never met. What would be missing from your lives today, personally and professionally?
Steve: Well, there would be a big hole.
Martin: Yeah, the same with me. I’d miss this great friend and this great comradery and this great kind of wise fella who I laugh with on the phone and enjoy endlessly and have never had an issue with in all these years. That’s very unique.
Steve: It’s hard to answer because we’ve had so many good times. Good times, sad times. You can’t imagine [being without] it because it [30 years plus] is a lot of time.
Martin [chuckling]: It really is.
What is it you would like for people to know about this particular show and what can they expect aside from a celebration of decades of comedy, joy and realism that you’ve both given us? Thank you for that, by the way.
Steve: We’re really looking forward to it [the show at The Palladium]. Our goal is to make the audience laugh as hard as they’ve ever laughed in a professional situation. That is always our first goal. We hope that that audience says, “Wow, that was really funny and worth the ticket price.”
Martin: I think that Steve and I share many similarities, but one is a deep desire to make every show we do as good as it can be. We’ve never not taken [a show] seriously, and I think that it would be difficult to work with somebody who didn’t take it as seriously as we both do.
For tickets, visit thecenterpresents.org.