Contributed by Don Thrasher
Reprinted from Dayton.com
The stage of Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Saturday, May 28 is far removed from the set of the 1986 comedy film, “Three Amigos!” However, the one similarity is they’re both sites showcasing the combined comedic magic of Steve Martin and Martin Short.
The longtime friends, who also appeared together in “Father of the Bride” in 1991 and its 1995 sequel, have been on a very different journey since launching the live musical variety show, “A Very Stupid Conversation,” in 2016. The superstar duo is currently on the tour, “You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Today” with Jeff Babko and Alison Brown & Fair Weather.
The success of these stage performances led to other opportunities. In 2018, Martin and Short released the Netflix special, “An Evening You Will Never Forget For the Rest of Your Life.” In the summer of 2021, they starred alongside Selena Gomez in the hit Hulu original series, “Only Murders in the Building.” Season two premieres June 28.
Martin and Short recently submitted to a Zoom interview. This is an edited version of that Q&A.
Q: You are a bankable two-man comedy team with a touring show, a Netflix special and a successful television program. What classic comedy duo do you identify with most?
Short: I would say, Ferrante & Teicher. They were pianists.
Martin: Usually, in the old time comedy teams there was a smart one and a dumb one. I don’t think of Martin as that dumb.
Short: Thank you.
Martin: You’re welcome. No, it’s just two friends more than anything else who decided to do a show together and we worked it out. We do our share of insulting each other …
Short: So do friends in a carpool.
Martin: That’s what I mean, it just came from our normal life.
Short: It’s a different trajectory here too. We made an initial film together and then we made a couple of films after that but most of our careers have been separate. This just started a few years ago.
Q: How has the show changed?
Short: It’s always changing. It’s always evolving. We’re always coming up with new ideas for jokes. I’d say this show is 50 percent different than the Netflix special.
Martin: The structure remains the same.
Q: How is the rhythm different with a partner rather than working solo?
Martin: It’s very different with a partner. We actually do our own solo spots within the show. Marty has his superbly-honed 15 to 17 minutes and I have 11 well-honed 15 minutes.
Short: Well, well, well oiled.
Q: Will you be filming any live shows this year?
Martin: We’re just doing this live where it lives in the audiences memory only.
Short: It’s what Broadway is. You do eight shows a week, no one films it and every show is different. What’s interesting is most people in comedy started out on stage. That was their first experience and if that went well, they got to be in television or the movies. Each one has its own individual strengths and excitement. Certainly us doing a one-off show for thousands of people, when it ends and you feel like you’ve done terrifically, it’s a different kind of happy.
Q: Did “Only Murders in the Building” come about because of these live shows?
Martin: I actually had the idea and I met with the producers and almost as an afterthought, told them about this idea for a show I had. As it was coming out of my mouth, I could tell this was not a bad idea. It wasn’t for me at all, it was just for three actors. Then they said, ‘Would you like to be in it?’ I said, “Well, I’ll do it if Marty does it.” He said yes and so it turned into this thing that, in a strange way, actually changed our lives.
Q: How was it different being together on a television set rather than a movie set?
Short: You know, it doesn’t feel that different. If you’re on a film it can go for two or three months and you’re on the set most days and you’re remembering your lines. Then, when you do something like this, you think it’s going to be different but then there’s a crew of 150 or whatever and it feels like you’re doing a movie.
Martin: You know, it’s 12 weeks or more just like a movie but the difference is, because there are three of us, we don’t work every day. Sometimes it’s the other person’s time to work and then sometimes we all work together so you do get a day off. We’re getting a little bit older and cherish our time off. We just keep the set happy, which we like. Difficult people find themselves not hired back.
Q: What was the most surprising thing about taking on a series like this at this point in your careers?
Martin: The biggest surprise was it was a big hit. That’s rare, you know. Even if you’ve had a successful career, it’s hard to have a hit no matter what. This kind of impressed us.
Short: The reality is we love doing it. We’re also very proud of what the episodes look like when they’re finished. They’re well-written, well-executed and well-edited. People respond positively to the show and we feel great about it. We both plan to do it as long as we can.
Martin: Part of the pleasure of it is it’s so well done. We have first rate cinematography. It’s like a movie. In the old days, when they did a show on video, it looked like a show on video. Now, you can do a show on video and it looks like a show on film. Kind of the biggest dramatic change is the labor of lighting is so much less. It used to be we’d go on the set and we’d rehearse and then we’d sit in our trailer for two hours while they lit it. Now, we start to walk away and they say, ‘We’re ready,’ and it’s lit with the natural, ambient light.
Q: Anything you two haven’t done together that you’d like to tackle, a true-crime podcast or another film project?
Martin: We’ve had enough of each other.
Martin: No, we actually don’t but we end up doing stuff anyway, like promoting the show together or flying somewhere to be interviewed. We’re a commercially-built enterprise. People ask us if our workload has increased since we’ve been doing the TV show. Well, the answer is, we get way more offers to do things for free.
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at [email protected].
Don Thrasher, a native of Gadsden, Alabama, has been a weekly contributor for the Dayton Daily News since 2003. He covers national and international music, performance and art. Don is a versatile writer, who has interviewed ballet dancers, professional athletes, authors, comedians, filmmakers, rodeo clowns and other disparate figures.