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Steve Martin And Martin Short Celebrate Friendship, Diverse Talents

Courtesy photo

Steve Martin and Martin Short will perform at Hartman Arena on Wednesday, May 8. The stop is part of the duo's "Now You See Them, Soon You Won't" tour.

The pair first worked together on the 1986 film Three Amigos with Chevy Chase and appeared together in Father of the Bride (1991) and Father of the Bride II (1995). Their most recent effort is the concert film An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest Of Your Life.

The pair's current tour features both comedy and song. They are joined by musician Jeff Babko and opening act Chatham County Line.

Martin and Short recently spoke with KMUW.

Interview Highlights

When did this idea that the two of you would go out on the road together and perform these shows first present itself?

Steve Martin: It was…

Martin Short: Well, we…

SM: Go ahead, Marty.

MS: No, I answer this all the time, you answer it!

SM: It was a very slow process. It was very incremental. First, we were asked to interview each other at a comedy convention. That went well. We thought, "Let's do that again. We had a good time." We tried to make it more professional then. But we realized that the audience, the regular paying audience, wasn't interested in us talking about our comedy careers. We each had individual shows. I had a music/comedy show that I did with a bluegrasss band. Marty had a one-man show he was doing that was great. So we started combining elements. Eventually we started really working on the show. It's been a slow, slow process of incremental development.

Whew! Glad I got that out.

MS: [Laughs.] Boy! You can sure read a prompter.

SM: Yeah, man.

[Laughs.] The first thing you worked on together was the film Three Amigos. I wonder whether the chemistry was immediate. Did you have a sense of that right away?

MS: It wasn't about chemistry or anything. We did this film. They hired me. It was too late to get rid of me. Keep in mind that I was the cheap amigo. It was Chevy, Steve and "Oh, dammit! Carrot Top said no," so they had to keep looking. Then you do the film and throughout the film we became great friends. We just laughed all the time. When you make a movie, you make a decision: "Do I keep seeing this person after these three months? Or is that it?" We clearly wanted to keep hanging out. And we did. Thirty-five years later.

Music is a part of your show in addition to comedy, and I wonder whether music was a first love for either of you.

MS: I think, for me, it was absolutely a first love. I used to listen to singers and try to figure out how they rounded their notes, obsessively. Comedy was very natural in my family, so I didn't even think of that as something you work on.

SM: For me, I just wanted to be in show business, and I didn't care how. Obviously. [Laughs.]

MS: [Laughs.]

SM: I started out as a magician because there was no show business where I was, in Orange County, California, in the '60s. Learning magic tricks was the quickest way to have something you could do on stage. Eventually, I realized, "Oh, they like it when the tricks don't work." That led me to comedy. I loved comedy so much. I knew I wanted to do something funny.

MS: Someday you will.

SM: Yep, one day.

This is a question specifically for Steve: What was it about the banjo that made you go: "Ah-ha! I have to play that"?

SM: I find the banjo very evocative, meaning it's emotional. Not only is it emotional when it's played fast because it's thrilling but it has a … it's often played in a minor key or a modal key. I'm part Irish and these songs go back across the sea to Ireland. I don't know if it's something in my blood. I don't quite believe that stuff. I just find it very moving.

So, Martin, growing up in Canada, was there a lot of banjo music up there for you to listen to?

MS: [Coughs.] No. The only time you heard banjo music [was if] you were watching a '70s film and a prisoner had escaped from an Alabama prison and we're now looking at the dogs going through the swamps trying to chase him down. That was the first time I heard it and up until I worked with Steve that was the last time I heard it.

SM: You're the fastest guy with the earplugs that I've ever seen.

MS: [Laughs.] Thank you!

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.