By Ben Crandell
City & Shore PRIME Magazine
It may be hard to imagine, but there was a time when late-night comedy, Saturday Night Live in particular, could not lean on the day’s political foibles to fill scripts. This forced Steve Martin to introduce a bit on a 1978 episode of SNL (he is a 15-time host) that satirized pop culture’s Tutankhamun mania with a novelty song, King Tut, that later would hit Billboard’s Top 20 singles. And it allowed Martin Short to develop the indelible SNL characters Jiminy Glick and Ed Grimley.
On March 10, the two men will bring their special comedy chemistry to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. On a break from the tour, the two shared some deadpan humor by phone from New York.
Do you remember the first time you met?
Short: I remember meeting Steve very briefly, backstage, when he was guest hosting on The New Show back in 1984. [Martin: “Wow.”] It was literally in the middle of the show, and my friend Catherine O’Hara [SCTV, Home Alone] was also guesting on the show, and she quickly introduced us and you went [Short’s voice rises in an air of patronizing superficiality], “Oh, hi!” [Laughs] But I really first remember meeting Steve in 1985, going to his house to pick up a script for Three Amigos.
Steve, do you remember any of that?
Martin: Marty remembers it all. I’m trying to forget it. But, we actually talk about this in our show.
Is this a good time to be trying to make people laugh?
Short: Any time is a good time to make people laugh. Particularly now, yes. [Laughs] People need to laugh now more than ever.
Martin: It’s actually an interesting question, because there are so many laughs on late-night talks shows that we have to be aware of, if we’re infringing on material [the audience] has seen a dozen times on late-night talks shows. That’s why we steer away from political material, because that’s already well covered. So we do have a niche that people aren’t getting, which is nonpolitical comedy.
Is it hard to do nonpolitical comedy these days?
Short: Sometimes [political comedy] can be tempting. It can get an easier, quicker reaction, but you’re getting a reaction, generally, from half the audience. Half the audience is saying, ‘Huh, I guess that’s not for me.’ And that’s not our agenda.
The reviews of your show have been very positive. Why does it work? Why do you two click?
Martin: I believe because we are both very dedicated to having the show be really fun for the audience. I think of it as a triangle. There’s me and Marty, two points of the triangle, and the third part of the triangle is the audience. We can’t break any of those lines. And we just really like to make the audience laugh. … I told Marty, I said, ‘I write plays, I do this and that, but this is really what I do best,’ standing up there and having fun and getting laughs. We really like it.
So there is some audience interaction in this show?
Martin: Yes, there is. We do a bit about The Three Amigos and we bring people up onstage. We talk to the audience a lot. We actually talk directly to the audience. I know a lot of comedians do that [laughs], but it’s really fun to do not a presentational show, but an inclusive show. You might want to write that down, Marty.
So, if I’m sitting in the front row I should be prepared.
Martin: Yes, you should bring a tarp.
Performances of Steve Martin and Martin Short in An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Lives are at 2 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $69-$250 at the Broward Center box office and all Ticketmaster outlets, including Ticketmaster.com and by calling 800-745-3000.