"What I wasn't drawn toward was the early days of the standup's life, which is going to Yuk Yuk's and all the clubs and having ten minutes to win over a drunken audience. I never did that and I'm glad I didn't. It doesn't sound appealing."
– Martin Short
"Yeah, yeah, it's not one of my favourite recollections of my life. But you had to do it in order to do what you end up doing."
– Steve Martin
Guy MacPherson: Hello, gentlemen.
Steve Martin: Hello.
Martin Short: Hello.
GM: How are you?
MS: Very good.
SM: We're fine. We're doing very well.
GM: Excellent. And where are you? You're both about to catch the same flight?
MS: I'm in Los Angeles, California.
SM: And I'm in Los Angeles, California, but we're not in the same house. We decided to not live together anymore.
MS: I know.
GM: It didn't work out, eh?
MS: Yeah. Steve wouldn't meet my demands. It just got down to that.
SM: Yeah. And I was tired of picking up after him.
MS: Meanwhile, I'm spending three hours making linguini and he shows up two hours late. You know?
GM: I was watching your special. I've since forgotten everything, as the title predicted. Before that, I was thinking for sure you guys would have met on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, because you both did it so often. But no, you met on the set of Three Amigos you say.
SM: That's true.
GM: But never on The Tonight Show together?
SM: I don't think we did that.
MS: No, they rarely booked two comedy types the same night.
SM: And you know, when you do The Tonight Show, you're really just worried about yourself.
MS: Yeah. If Steve had been on the show with me, I wouldn't have been aware.
GM: So maybe you did meet on The Tonight Show and you didn't even know it!
SM: There's nothing but time. A movie moves so slowly that you have time to hang out and talk and joke around.
GM: Right. But you knew of each other so you knew probably that you'd get along.
MS: No, you don't actually know that.
SM: No, I didn't assume that. I thought what Marty was doing was very complex and sophisticated and doing characters, and I thought what I was doing was basically appearing stupid. So I thought, 'He probably doesn't like what I do.'
GM: Whose idea was it for this show you're currently doing? I have a guess.
SM: It was mutual.
GM: Oh was it?
SM: Yeah. I mean, how could it not be?: 'We're doing a show whether you like it or not!'
GM: No, you would both have to agree but somebody's got to come up with the original idea.
MS: I think it was mutual, actually.
SM: Yeah. It was kinda like, we did it once; let's do it again.
MS: We did it as a one-off, and that one-off became let's do it again. We both shared that.
GM: Where was the one-off?
MS: In Chicago at the last night of the Just For Laughs festival many years ago, six years ago or something.
GM: It really is great. I cover comedy and there are so many specials on Netflix that I don't even watch them all anymore, but I laughed throughout yours. It was really good.
SM: Ah, thank you.
GM: Did you sit together and write it? How did that work?
SM: I had material when I would travel with the Steep Canyon Rangers and Marty had his own one-man show, which he still does to this day. So we just started integrating. And then we started creating material for us and that's proven to be some of the best material, actually. No offense, Marty.
GM: And thankfully neither of you has that crazy old-man Letterman beard. So that's nice, too.
MS: I had the beard but then Dave grew it.
SM: I had a beard and then Dave took mine.
GM: This show that you're bringing to Vancouver – two nights, which is great – if we have seen the Netflix version, will we still want to come out and see you live?
MS: Oh, absolutely. First of all, there's a lot of new material. I would say there's 35 minutes different from the Netflix show. And secondly, the Netflix show is 70 minutes but our actual show is two hours. And thirdly, like I always say when I was a kid and I would listen to whether it was Steve or Lily Tomlin, you were hoping and praying that they did that bit that they'd done on the album.
SM: That probably doesn't apply to us.
GM: That photo you show of you, Martin, at the beach with your parents, that could be a young Jiminy Glick, too.
MS: (laughs) It really could. That's a terrifying moment.
GM: Steve, I know you started out doing magic. Are you still a fan of magic? Do you do tricks just for your friends or at home?
SM: No. Every once in a while I'll learn a trick and do it but now it's like once every five years. You know, the hands aren't as quick as they used to be, except when I play the banjo. I can play the banjo as fast as I used to. But, you know, it's like a party trick. That's it. I did think of actually, Marty, doing something in the show.
GM: That's what I was thinking.
SM: Not Flydini, but something else. Some other kind of magic.
MS: Yeah, maybe during intermission.
GM: Maybe you could cut Marty in half.
SM: You know, I did have a bit that I actually turned into an animated little film called Morto the Magician. It's about a magician who comes out and accidentally kills all his assistants.
GM: Think about adding a magic element. You already have ventriloquism.
SM: Yeah, that's true.
MS: Yes, we do.
GM: Martin, I noticed you were wearing your Order of Canada lapel pin. Is that right?
MS: That's correct.
GM: My dad had one of those so I recognized it.
MS: Oh, very nice.
GM: And you have to wear it, right?
MS: You have to wear it, absolutely.
GM: Steve isn't recognized by his country.
MS: No, no, no.
SM: Yeah, I wish there was something I could get that I'd have to wear!
GM: You guys travel like Newhart and Rickles used to. Who's who?
SM: You know, that's an interesting comparison because they used to travel all the time. They'd go on vacations together. But I don't know that they did shows together.
GM: No, I don't think they ever did.
MS: They would do shows occasionally.
SM: Would they?
SM: But they're not as similar. You can imagine Don Rickles just pummelling Bob Newhart all the time.
GM: Steve, in the show you talk about opening for Ann-Margret. I know as a standup you used to open for other singers or bands. Who was the most memorable headliner you opened for back then?
SM: Oh... I opened for Linda Ronstadt, I opened for the Carpenters, I opened for Sonny & Cher, Ann-Margret, and then some lesser known bands. But I was always an opening act, obviously when you first start, in folk music clubs. Utah Phillips, I opened for him. But nobody knows who he is right now.
GM: Martin, did you ever think about doing standup? You were always just into sketch and improv. Seeing you in your one-man show, you clearly could have been doing standup all these years, but did you ever consider it?
MS: What I wasn't drawn toward was the early days of the standup's life, which is going to Yuk Yuk's and all the clubs and having ten minutes to win over a drunken audience. I never did that and I'm glad I didn't. It doesn't sound appealing.
SM: Yeah, yeah, it's not one of my favourite recollections of my life. But you had to do it in order to do what you end up doing.
GM: That's right. But you didn't know that's what you'd end up doing.
SM: Well, I didn't know anything else. I didn't know where I was going to go, that's true. I didn't know where it was going to end up.
GM: So the ugly parts of doing standup, whether it's in a small club or a huge arena, those are the parts you could do without, but the actual performance of it you liked?
SM: Yes, absolutely. I mean, some nights were better than others. When you walk off, you're feeling a little bit high, which is exactly what Marty and I feel like when we end our show. We feel good. Doing the show with Marty is the first time I've ever felt good before I went out.
GM: You can tell you guys have a ton of fun out there. I'm also interested in the approach to your respective non-comedic talents. For Martin, you're a great singer, but you always sing ironically – I'm not sure if that's the right word – and Steve, when you play the banjo, you play seriously, although in your old standup you used to play ironically.
SM: When I started in show business, we'd go to folk music clubs and there'd be a singer and they'd have some funny dialogue before he'd sing a serious song. Exactly what I'm doing today. We try to keep it funny. We do have some funny songs in the show, which is something I've always stayed away from but not it's going pretty well.
GM: And Martin, when you sing – and like I say, you're a great singer – there's always that 'I can't take myself seriously' aspect to it. Am I right?
MS: Yeah, you're 100 percent right. I do. I think that there are many singers out there and I think that when you make an agreement with the audience, you are making an agreement to be funny. If you're giving them something they're not expecting to get, then they kind of sit there and say, 'Well, I guess he's got to go through these growth moments as a singer and then hopefully a sandbag will drop on his head soon.'
GM: Do you guys have any memories of time spent in Vancouver?
SM: I have a ton of memories. I shot some of Pink Panther there. I curated an art show about Lawren Harris and spent some time in Vancouver for that. I shot a movie called The Big Year there. And I shot Roxanne in Nelson, just outside of Vancouver, and a lot in Vancouver. So I go back a long way with Vancouver.
MS: When I did the Chrysler Industrial show in '74, I remember working in Vancouver the first time.
SM: Legendary. That is legendary.
MS: Legendary. I once shot a beer commercial for two days in Vancouver. And when the Molson people saw it, they said, 'He looks too young to be drinking beer' and they never aired it.
GM: The writer for Letterman, Steve somebody, did a show about these industrial musicals.
MS: That's right. Yeah, Steve Young.
GM: Right. I talked to him about them. Oh wow, I didn't know you did that.
MS: It's a documentary.
GM: Yeah. He also did a live version. Hey guys, thanks so much. I know you've got to run and catch a flight. Looking forward to seeing your show live.
SM: Okay, thanks a lot.
MS: My pleasure.