Call it returning to the scene of the crime, or, more accurately, the birth of a friendship.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, comedians/actors Steve Martin and Martin Short will bring “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” to the Tucson Arena, about 12 miles from Old Tucson Studios where the two comics became friends 30-plus years ago.
The pair — Martin of “Saturday Night Live” and Hollywood fame, and Short, who got his start on Canada’s sketch comedy show “Second City Television” before jumping into Hollywood — met in spring 1985 when both were cast in the comedy “Three Amigos.” Most of the movie was filmed at Old Tucson Studios.
“I was the third amigo hired,” Short said during a phone interview last week with both actors.
“We call that the last amigo hired,” Martin shot back.
“Last amigo, chief amigo. Terms are terms,” Short countered. “But anyway, I met Steve on that film. I think I met him in the late spring of ’85 and we got to be great, great friends shooting that movie.”
“I became closer friends with my horse,” Martin said. “But I don’t really see the horse very much anymore. So this is my second-closest friendship that emerged from that movie.”
“Ah, thank you,” Short said. Can you feel the love?
The pair went on to talk about the show, which was released as a Netflix special earlier this year, their friendship and Martin’s early obsession with turquoise jewelry.
“I toured around there quite a bit, Albuquerque and Tucson. In the ’70s, I used to collect turquoise jewelry,” Martin recalled. “I had fun going around to little shops. ... There are very embarrassing photos around of me laden with turquoise jewelry.”
Their show here is the first time either man has performed in Tucson in years. Short brought his one-man show to Centennial Hall in 2008; Martin, a pretty phenomenal banjo player, brought the Steep Canyon Rangers to the Fox Tucson Theatre in 2011.
About the show
Martin: “We don’t really know how to describe it. A bad description is a big comedy, variety show. But that doesn’t seem to suit it because it makes it sound old-fashioned, which it is. We don’t want it to sound old-fashioned.”
Short: “(Comedian) Catherine O’Hara called it a ‘children’s show for adults.’ I like that better. Reality is that it just is a representation of what Steve and I love to do and how we love to perform for people. It started off with a long conversation we did with each other closing a comedy festival in Chicago in 2001. From there it evolved into this show — fast-moving, joke, joke, joke, joke, joke.”
The funnest part
of the night
Martin: “I would say when we know we have a kind of semi-new routine or joke or bit to do and just kind of look forward all night to that moment when you get to do it, especially if you know it’s working.”
Short: “We’re developing lots of new material to add to our show to vary it from the Netflix show. This is a very creative time developing material. So it is exciting, I totally agree, when something you were hoping would work works.”
Merging two stage shows into one
Short: “I had a show before me and Steve did this, so I kind of merged part of my show with his show.”
Martin: “I had a full show with the band, but what we’re doing is not a music show. We’re doing some music. So I had to really search around to figure out, OK, I was doing comedy in the old music show. We picked and chose, but eventually after we combined, we developed a really solid, even show.”
It’s a comedy
Short: “I think that similar types attract each other. I don’t think we have those kind of egos. We have slightly obsessive egos when it comes to trying to get something perfect, and work-ethic egos. But I don’t think that Steve and I do that.”
Martin: “I actually haven’t found gigantic egos in comedy. Comedy is humiliating. You’re always on edge. You’re only as good as your last show.”
Short: “Neurosurgeons probably have much bigger egos.”
Martin: “I shouldn’t say comedy is humiliating. I should say comedy is humbling.”
Short: “How does anyone sustain a friendship? I don’t know.”
Martin: “We don’t get mad at each other. By the way, we’re not talking every morning on the phone. Right now we see each other when we’re working and on special occasions. It’s not like the pressure. I even have a child I have to actually pay some attention to.”
Short: “And I’m constantly celebrating the child within me.”
Martin: “The audience does make a subtle difference in our show. If the audience is good — and by the way, no audience is bad; they just are what they are — and the audience is really with us, it does free us up and make us better, I think.”
Keeping the comedy (mostly) clean
Martin: “We have an interest in current comedy and the people we’ve seen like John Mulaney and Hannah Gadsby. I guess my only resistance is when saying the curse word real loud at the end of the joke is the joke. The joke has to work first and then you have to add in the curse words.”
Short: “I also think that in general, from the head of the state on, the level of crassness has increased tremendously in the past decade, and I don’t think it has to.”