The word legendary is often overused—but it certainly applies to Steve Martin and Martin Short. From Saturday Night Live to Western comedy Three Amigos in 1986 to the current Only Murders in the Building, the two have amazing chemistry—and clearly enjoy working together.
They’re back on the road with a new comedy special, You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Today!—including a stop at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage, at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 18.
During a recent phone interview, they talked about what’s new in their show.
“Well, there’s lots that’s changed; I would say 50% of the show is different than it was,” said Short. “What we can share is … well, we can’t share anything, because then we’d spoil it.”
Added Martin: “We’re basically a big, huge variety show with a million jokes and funny songs and a cast of thousands. Well, actually, a cast of tens.”
Seeing as this tour includes their first regular live performances since the pandemic shutdowns—and their An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life show in 2018—the shows include some ideas that hadn’t been tested before in front of live audiences.
“We actually did think that when we came back, we’d want a lot of new material, since we had these years to work on things,” Martin said. “Unfortunately, you can’t try them out; you can only try them out when you start working again. … I’d say our show is 50 to 70% different, and the only things we kept are things that we think the audience kind of wants to see again—so there are a million joke changes, but the shape is the same. We have our own solo spots; we do all kinds of stuff together. I play with the band, and we have the band play with Marty and me. Basically, our goal is to have it be the funniest show you ever saw. We want people to go and say, ‘That was the funniest thing I ever saw,’ and we don’t rest really until we feel that we’ve done that.”
Martin and Short said the shows they do together are “more fun” than shows they do on their own.
“My history was Second City in Toronto, and that was an improv group,” Short said. “To me, it was so much better than coming up as a standup, because when you bomb with someone, then you share the failure over laughs and wine later.”
Replied Martin: “You make it sound like we always bomb.”
“Well, Steve, I’ve seen your work,” said Short.
Returning to a degree of seriousness, Martin said: “When you’re out there alone, you’re just going for the next thing, but here, you have a partner to bounce off. It’s a whole new kind of timing, and it’s a whole new type of delivery. That’s really new and fun for us.”
At 76 (Martin) and 72 (Short), the seasoned entertainers said they still always rehearse.
“Whenever we get to a new venue, we have at least an hour of rehearsal,” Short said. “If we haven’t done the show in a couple of weeks, we run through the whole show. If we’ve done it the night before, then we just do the crucial parts of checking sound and lights.”
Martin and Short have been given a new avenue as entertainers via Only Murders in the Building, a show whose second season will premiere on Hulu on June 28. The two star alongside Selena Gomez in the mystery-comedy—and their live-show experience comes in handy.
“I’d say the one thing that we contribute to the show that comes from our live performances are sort of our thoughts for lines or jokes—more one liners or a little exchange, something like that,” Short said.
Added Martin: “We know we have a rhythm there, so if we can find a place to put in something that bounces back and forth between me and Marty, or me and Selena, or Marty and Selena, we’re sort of used to that.”
The two have been performing together on a regular basis since 2004.
“It started off with us being asked to interview each other at the closing of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Chicago,” Short said. “We had no intention of doing a show together. That was just a one-off, and the audience loved it, but more importantly, we loved doing it. It was fun; we’re close friends; the rehearsal’s fun; the dinner the night before is fun. That’s why we wanted to do it again and again—and the more we did it, the more we refined the show.”
Added Martin, probably joking: “And the interviews are fun!”
Steve Martin and Martin Short will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 18, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $130 to $175. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.