Steve Martin and Martin Short's "An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life" — streaming on Netflix, but still playing live in theaters around the country, including the Paramount Theatre July 7 — is a mix of faux-insults and reminiscing between the two comic masters, with music and more.
“I’m lying in a coffin,” Steve Martin says when I ask from where he is speaking.
“No, I’m in Los Angeles,” he joked. “And Marty is in Canada.”
Indeed, we are sharing a phone line with Martin Short, Martin’s friend of 30 years and his co-star in “An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Life,” which is coming to Seattle’s Paramount Theatre Saturday, July 7.
Short, 68, who is in Ontario, reports there is a slight delay on his end of the phone.
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“By the way,” Martin, 72, tells me, “Marty has a slight delay in person.”
And so it begins.
“An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” — streaming on Netflix, but still playing live in theaters around the country — is a mix of faux-insults and reminiscing between the two comic masters; music from the banjo-playing Martin, backed by the bluegrass Steep Canyon Rangers; Short singing (and stripping); and a sketch featuring Short’s bloviating talk-show host, Jiminy Glick, who cracks on everyone from Hillary Clinton to Vladimir Putin.
It’s corny, it’s cutting, it’s sweet. And it’s just a pleasure to see the two icons and longtime friends together on stage, still performing after long careers that, for Short, started with the Canadian sketch show “SCTV” and, for Martin, as a writer on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
They are the embodiment of a certain time in America’s collective laugh track.
“We just think of it as a show,” Martin said. “Somebody called it ‘retro,’ and I think that’s probably true to a young person, but to us it’s a regular show.”
Short: “We kind of do what we find obviously funny. It is interesting because we’re often asked about retro or variety show. Most of television is a variety show.”
Martin: “You know what, Marty? I love it when you teach.”
The two first met in 1986, when Short went to Martin’s house to pick up a script for their first movie together, “The Three Amigos.” Since then, they have appeared together in two “Father of the Bride” movies and, on their own, on Broadway and television.
Both are veterans of the talk-show circuit, but Short has clearly mastered the form, appearing on David Letterman’s show more than 30 times, always full of old-school insults, showbiz stories and a put-on, smarmy charm. In March, Ian Crouch of The New Yorker wondered if Short may be “The Greatest Talk-Show Guest of All Time.”
“In the Carson days, the witty banter was often in the last half-hour when they had authors on,” Martin said.
“There are so many shows now,” Short said. “And they’re moving fast. Johnny’s interviews would go 19 minutes. Now they’re 6 minutes.”
Their banter is clean and old-school, lots of cracks about Martin’s paleness and Short’s supposed B-list status. And yet, they are entertainers, with Short able to not only sing like Tony Bennett but also channel Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Rain Man and whoever else crosses his mind.
Every time Martin finished speaking, Short implied that he had ducked out to avoid listening.
“I’m back!” he said at one point. “Your answer was so profound. I have gone and showered.”
The friends do 40 shows a year, which comes to about three a month.
“It’s ideal,” Short said.
“We love it,” Martin said. “We get to hang out with the band. Everyone hangs around and gets along. It’s fun.”
There is very little politics, which is on purpose. Martin aims to keep the shows “politically neutral.”
“People need a respite from all this,” Short said. “You don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable.”
Martin lets a moment pass.
“I’ve never heard a statement so weak, Marty.”
The audience is typically 35 and up, with a “scattering” of young people, Short said. Some people bring their kids.
“What I like is that when you do a live show, where people paid to get in, there’s no trolls,” Martin said. “If we were doing a show on the internet, there would be trolls. We present our comedy material, it’s a lot of fun and there’s no negative.
“People are very excited to see the two of us together. I am always amazed at the wide range of ages. Look, we have as much fun at doing this as possible.”
“Wow!” Short says, as if he had missed the whole thing. “That was a beautiful walk.”
Steve Martin & Martin Short — “An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest of Your Life,” 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, July 7; Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $75-$191; 800-982-2787, stgpresents.org