A Q&A With Steve Martin and Martin Short Before Their Riverside Show

See the legendary comedic duo at the Riverside on May 12.

THIRTY-SIX YEARS after first meeting on the set of Three Amigos, Steve Martin and Martin Short are bringing their comedy tour “You Won’t Believe What They Look Like Now” to the Riverside on May 12. We sat down with the duo beforehand to discuss performing live again, their Hulu show “Only Murders in the Building,” and their upcoming show. 

What does it feel like to perform live again after the pandemic?

Martin Short: For me, it was a very quick return. It’s that thing where you worry about it. “Oh, my God will I remember?” And then you’re out there, and you just kind of remember what that energy feels like and how much fun it is.

Steve Martin: When we first started coming back – we’ve done maybe six shows in the last couple of months – the audience was fully masked. And I thought that would subdue the audience, but it didn’t. That was the biggest surprise for me. It was the strangest thing. There was not even a sound difference.

MS: Because we were used to the sound of a masked audience.

SM: We only perform for criminals.


 

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What is your impression of Milwaukee audiences? Are they fun to perform for?

SM: Yes, I have great memories. I remember in the ‘70s, I opened for The Carpenters. The audience’s have always been good and very receptive. I always think of it as a great place to play.

What should audiences expect from your show at the Riverside?

MS: Comedy is very subjective, obviously, but I would like to think that they would be experiencing wall-to-wall laughs and entertainment and experiencing the greatest night they’d ever experienced in the theater.

SM: You know, that’s actually true. Marty and I have a goal. We realize it’s a big deal to go out and pay the ticket price and get the parking and get there and arrange your eating schedule. And so we want to deliver the best show possible. Our goal when the audience leave’s [is for them to say] “That was the funniest show I ever saw.”

You’ve been touring together for quite a few years now. How has the show evolved since you first started putting it on?

MS: It continually evolves. When we did our Netflix show a few years ago, first we thought, “Oh we can’t repeat anything. We mustn’t repeat anything.” And then we realized that if you saw your favorite singer, if you saw Mick Jagger, you’d want him to do “Satisfaction,” so we started doing the material that we enjoyed while creating new material, and I would say now it’s 60% a different show

SM: I think more. But also we’re doing “Satisfaction,” which is a big add.

MS: That’s true. And may I add, we’re finally doing it properly.

SM: Because we have the soul.

You are performing with Jeff Babko and The Steep Canyon Rangers – how does music fit into the show?

SM: I would say music is about 25% of our show. It’s a comedy show with music. That’s the way I think of it.

The new season of “Only Murders in the Building” is premiering in June. Can you share a little bit about what’s in store for that?

SM: We have some fabulous actors joining it. Shirley MacLaine, Nathan Lane is back, Jane Lynch. Are we allowed to say Andrea Martin or is that a secret, Marty?

MS: No, that’s out now.

SM: The key to the show is not so much the actors as it is the script. We love the mystery, and we love delivering a mystery to the audience. And I think we have another good mystery this year. We do a new mystery every year, a new murder, which is part of the joke. This is the deadliest apartment building in New York City.

What do you think of making shows for streaming versus the traditional network format?

SM: I just love it. I mean, I watch a lot of streaming. And it’s so convenient. So I’m gung-ho about streaming.

MS: I think it’s all changed in a generation of how we watch television. There was a time when [we used] the term “appointment television.” Thursday nights, NBC comedy, “Oh, that’s appointment television.” People don’t live their lives that way [now]. They don’t know what is on. When I was a kid, I knew every show on every night. That’s a long time ago. And also, these things last forever. If you’re in a movie, and it comes out and it’s successful, it’s still gone from the theaters after a few months, or a few weeks. But these things last forever.

SM: Years ago, I was talking to Michael Caine. This is like the ’80s. I did a movie with him. And he said, “You know, when I first started doing movies, you could only see it once. So if I did a bad movie, nobody would ever see it again.” He said, “Now they have Betamax and all my bad movies are out there for everyone to watch.” And that’s the way it is now.

That’s all the questions I have. Unless there’s anything you’d like to add?

SM: I had my eyes dilated this morning.

MS: Interesting.

SM: Yeah. Interesting. I’ll tell you more about it later.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.