Thursday, September 4, 2014

A chat with Martin before his Very Stupid Conversation with Steve

Martin Short talks with CL about his new TV co-star, his role in Paul Thomas Anderson's forthcoming film and a new memoir, too.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 1:57 PM

click to enlarge GET MARTIN-IZED: Martin Short and Steve Martin are headlining a show in St. Pete this Sunday.
  • GET MARTIN-IZED: Martin Short and Steve Martin are headlining a show in St. Pete this Sunday.

Two of showbiz's beloved Three Amigos reunite for Steve Martin & Martin Short in A Very Stupid Conversation, a show that's stopping at downtown St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater on Sun., Sept. 7.

Martin and Steve's versatile humor, musical talents and off-the-cuff genius should make for an entertaining, laid-back show with singing, banter and banjo playing in an interview-style format. Expect to get some background on their careers and respective philosophies on comedy, and get a chance to participate in an audience Q&A. Steve has been on the road quite a bit already with folk/bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers, has authored some bestsellers, and pops up in a movie or for a TV appearance from time to time. Tony-winner and SCTV alum Short was among SNL's all-time best, with memorable characters that include Ed Grimley and Irving Cohen. (“Gimme a C! A bouncy C!”). Both Martins have appeared in films together, including the Father of the Bride franchise.
A Very Stupid Conversation with Steve Martin & Martin Short
Sun., Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. The Mahaffey Theater, St. Pete. $89-$165.
Though Steve has been the more prominent A-lister, Short is on the precipice of what looks to be a big year, co-starring in two heavy-duty ensemble casts — Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, due out nationwide on Jan. 15, and Fox's highly anticipated sitcom Mulaney starring acclaimed comedian/writer John Mulaney with Elliott Gould, Zack Pearlman and SNL's Nasim Pedrad. With a reputation as a good-hearted gent, Vanity Fair calls Short "Hollywood's most beloved." In that feature, we learn that Nora Ephron, before her death last summer, requested that Short speak first at her memorial service — ahead of Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, and Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson. She referred to Short as “the best person”: “Not the best person at something — just ‘the best person.’ Period.”

Short sounds most excited about his new memoir out on Nov. 4. It's fittingly titled I Must Say, inspired by the Grimley catchphrase.  

CL caught up with showbiz's ubiquitous good guy for a brief phoner last Saturday, over the Labor Day weekend.

He started out by giving us some background on the show with Steve Martin: "You know Steve and I have been close, close friends since we made Three Amigos. So, I think it was 2011, maybe, and we were ask the Just for Laughs comedy festival, and the idea was that we would interview each other. We called it “A Stupid Conversation With …” and then after that — and we loved doing that; it was lots of fun — and then we started to evolve the show. Take out the conversation. I would do 20 minutes with my piano player [Jeffrey Babko]. Steve would play his banjo. Then we just kept adding stuff. Then it evolved into the Steve and Marty show!"

Short also chatted up his new TV co-star, John Mulaney.  

click to enlarge SATURDAY NIGHT LIFE: Short, front row center, with the cast of SNL, September 1984.
  • SATURDAY NIGHT LIFE: Short, front row center, with the cast of SNL, September 1984.
"He is a very funny stand-up comic and writer," Short effused. "John wrote for years for Saturday Night Live — he wrote the Stefon character that Bill Hader would play. ... Basically the show follows his life and I play a famous comedy star that he writes for."  

Short's turn in Inherent Vice, however, is a bit less conventional, as one would expect from the director of There Will Be Blood and The Master. "I play Dr. Rudy Blacknoyd, who is a coke-riddled dentist (laughs) — a perfect typecast for me." He added that he loved working with Joaquin Phoenix and that the film is "odder and not as sincere and more comedic" than Anderson's recent films.

Some topics about Short's recent life were a little more difficult to touch on — the recent loss of friend and comedian Robin Williams and his wife, Nancy Dolman, four years ago to ovarian cancer. Short, who grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, learned early about dealing with loss. He had to cope with the death of both parents (mother, breast cancer; father, stroke) and an older brother (car accident) before adulthood — a dubious blessing to say the least but a reality that no doubt has strengthened Short's character and inner resolve. The setbacks didn't deter him from graduating from McMaster University with a degree in social work and later studying theater.

"I think loss is a part of life that you have to figure out and if you don't figure it out, you'll be in a tough state," he said matter of factly. "You do figure it out and you become empowered and wiser."

Wise, yes, but Short will always have that impish charm. The youngest of five, he continues to have that  sprightly youthful air that belies his age — 64 — but he says his lack of conventional manliness has never given him a complex.

"I accept things about me that are a fact," he said. "I've never been one for self-analysis and don't ever ponder what it would like to be anyone else. I wouldn't know what it's like to be anyone but me, and I'm fine with that!"


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