Steve Martin and Martin Short Discuss Working Together, Harvesting Canadian Comics and New Show 'Now You See Them, Soon You Won't'
Published Mar 26, 2019"I've been to Hamilton myself," Steve Martin says on a conference call with Martin Short, when asked about his Ontario connections. "I liked Hamilton. I knew that Marty was from there; you were born there, right Marty?"
"Born and raised," Short confirms.
"Yeah, so that diminished my enjoyment of it a bit," Martin adds.
The icons first met on the set of the 1986 cult comedy Three Amigos, which was Short's first starring role in a movie, and they've been close friends who crack each other up ever since. Their camaraderie is evident in their two-man stage show, which was captured for a hilarious 2018 Netflix special, An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life.
Martin, 73, and Short, 68, are back on the road with a new show called Now You See Them, Soon You Won't, a sly nod to their senior years. Their tour includes dates in Toronto on April 12 and 13 at the Sony Centre, and features music by Martin's frequent collaborators, the Steep Canyon Rangers, plus Jimmy Kimmel Live bandleader Jeff Babko.
"It was complete serendipity," Martin says, when asked where this collaboration with Short came from. "We were asked to interview each other for a comedy festival in Chicago. We had no act; we were just going to interview each other. And it went really well. We talked a lot about comedy and how we work and all that. And then we thought, 'That was fun, let's do it again.'
"So we booked it again for a regular audience and we realized that a regular audience doesn't care about our comedy methods, so we immediately started putting in material. It was almost like a challenge you never asked for, but then you find yourself doing it. And then we just went on from there to develop this show, which, it turns out we really enjoy."
In the Netflix special, Martin and Short do include a revealing conversation portion near the top of what is otherwise a variety show full of jokes, bits and music.
"Yeah, that's where that came from — from that very first show," Short explains. "The reason we did it again and again with those interviews was because they were so successful. It had a natural 'I wonder what it's like to have dinner with those two guys' feeling to it. But now it's a small portion of the show."
The musical aspects of the production can't be understated. Martin is a renowned banjo player and bluegrass aficionado, while Short is a gifted singer and musician in his own right, and so they bring these talents to their comedy, which some fans find surprising.
"I think it would be a very odd show to have Steve Martin not be musical," Short explains. "All the songs you hear in the show, he has written."
"Marty already had a one-man show and he did music in it," Martin adds. "So, I was essentially coming into his show and we worked out some bits. And then I thought, 'What if I brought the band I work with, the Steep Canyon Rangers?' That's when the show really started to be a 50/50 split of comedy and music that I could contribute more to."
As for the distinction between the show captured by Netflix and the plan for Now You See Them, Soon You Won't, Martin states the new show is similar structurally, but consists of close to 80 percent new and lesser-known material.
"In the Netflix show, we cut musical numbers and a tribute to Three Amigos — those things aren't even there. Essentially I think the audience will feel like they're seeing a different show."
That's likely a good thing because Martin believes that Canadian audiences are particularly discerning when it comes to comedy.
"I could be very wrong about this — and I'm willing to admit I'm stupid here — but Canadians are very proper looking," he theorizes. "They dress well, they're smart, they're unified. And comedy works really well coming out of the mouths of straight-looking people, because it's already bizarre. If somebody is looking bizarre and they say something bizarre that goes with the territory. I could be wrong about that; it's just a minor theory I have."
Short agrees. "Lorne Michaels always used to say, or still does say, that he thinks that Canada nurtures and is more supportive of generally odd behaviour and odd people," he says. "I used to think that was the craziest question in the world: 'Is there something in the water in Canada?' I was always asked that, especially in the 1980s.
"And then the people just kept coming — all of these artists, comedians, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Seth Rogen — and it continues. So then you say, 'There must be something in the water.' I never know what the answer is either."
"The truth is, I had been to Canada and Toronto many times way before I met Marty," Martin says. "But my perception of Canada changed after I realized how many great comedians had come from Canada. And also great performing artists like Joni Mitchell.
"I view it as this fertile field with all these talented people, growing out in a field and every once in a while they're harvested."
That Steve Martin thinks Canadians are grown and harvested in a field is rather creepy.
"It is kind of creepy, isn't it?" he admits. "You should see what I'm wearing."
See Steve Martin and Martin Short's Now You See Them, Soon You Won't at the Sony Centre in Toronto on April 12 and 13.