Steve Martin: Hi, Connecticut Magazine!
How are you?
Martin Short: Very good, how are you?
SM: That’s Marty.
Yes, I recognize the voices. We’re promoting your Feb. 16 show at Foxwoods. Are either of you guys gamblers?
SM: First of all, we don’t think of it as promotion. We just think of it as fun.
OK, that’s good.
SM: I’m joking.
MS: If this is any indication of what our show is — that joke — then we need to do more PR. That even scared me and I’m part of the show.
SM: I just think that “promotion” is flagrant commercialism. We’re trying to come off more like artists.
MS: Well, it’s too late, so we have to come up with something else.
I watched your Netflix special recently, and you both seem very reverential when talking about meeting iconic figures, whether it be Sinatra or Elvis. Do you relish being on the other side of that relationship now, where others look at you in that way?
MS: Steve and I have talked about this. And the reality is I don’t think either one of us see each other as anything different than the same goofs that started doing this, hoping to succeed.
SM: But also, a more realistic answer is, it’s better than the opposite, obviously.
Steve, I was reading a self-critique of an appearance you made on The Virginia Graham Show back in the day. You were very hard on yourself …
SM: If you had seen it, you would not think I was hard on myself. Go ahead.
MS: Virginia Graham, as I recall, had a giant head, did she not?
SM: I think it was more a giant hairdo.
MS: Uh-huh. I think it went with a giant head. The end result was that from her chin to the top of her hair was about 2 inches shorter than I am.
One of the things you said about yourself was you were “self-aware.” Why is that a negative in stand-up?
SM: What I meant was I was trying to fulfill an image that I had in my head of something that was bizarre. So it had a ring of falseness about it. And it just came off like, what am I doing? There’s a sweet spot in performance that’s too big or too small, and the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. But in this case, it was between bizarre and weird, and there is no sweet spot between bizarre and weird.
In a Vanity Fair article from six years ago about you, Martin, Larry David said he’s never heard a bad word said about you. Is your record still clean? Still no bad words?
MS: No, no, sometimes, uh ... I was trying to think of someone who hates me.
SM: I’ll tell a story, Marty. You probably won’t remember this. We were talking with your wife, Nancy, and this was 15 years ago. She said you worked for a director and she said he was the only director, or even person, she ever saw who was not liking you.
SM: This bit that Marty used to do, which was what Jerry Lewis used to do, was hug people low, hug them around their waist. She says that’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone not gravitate to your charm.
MS: Aww, that’s lovely.
SM: No, that’s terrible.
MS: I can’t remember, I wasn’t listening at the time. And that’s the great secret to charm, is not to listen.
In the early stages of most people’s careers, you’re just trying to get a paycheck. How long has it been since either of you have been involved in a project for any reason other than you just wanted to be doing it?
SM: I’d say, maybe four weeks.
MS: I was gonna say, I’d like to know what that feeling is.
When you’re going to be hosting Saturday Night Live, do you walk in there and start from scratch or are you preparing in advance and coming up with ideas and sketches?
SM: The only thing you can really work on is your monologue, because they have their own sketch writers. I’ve come in with ideas and they don’t care about that.
MS: The last time I did it I just came with a whole written script and I thought it was brilliant. And it just bombed. And Lorne still goes [switches into his Lorne Michaels impression], “Marty, how do you feel about the one sketch? Do you still want to do it?” He doesn’t want to be rude.
Have there been any moments on any of the tours where things kind of go off script?
MS: Well, I think it often goes off script. But again, we have a very solid outline that we like and have worked on, so you don’t want to ever have the audience cheated out of a great joke because you’ve done it a few times in a row and you want to change it. But, invariably, we always improvise and something’s different from show to show.