Legends Steve Martin and Martin Short Talk Comedy and Cancel Culture

Photo by Mark Seliger; courtesy sonnen, Inc.
*Due to COVID-related concerns, the original August 27, 2021 date has been postponed until March 27, 2022.
The article has been updated to reflect the new date.

In advance of their show at The Palace Theatre, we caught up with comedy gods Steve Martin and Martin Short, who discussed their new Hulu show with Selena Gomez, cancel culture, and upcoming area performance.

What could be better than a true comedy icon taking the stage? How about two at the same time. That’s what audiences can expect when monumental funnymen Martin Short and Steve Martin perform at Stamford’s Palace Theatre on March 27, 2022 during their Funniest Show in Town at The Moment tour. Martin is a celebrated actor, comedian, musician, author, and producer known for creating zeitgeist-defining characters on Saturday Night Live and starring roles in hit films like Three Amigos; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; and Father of the Bride. Short is a megastar in his own right, an SNL alum and Tony Award winner who has made memorable appearances in films like Mars Attacks!, Inner Space, and The Santa Clause 3. Both will be starring alongside Selena Gomez in the Hulu mystery Only Murders in the Building, which premieres on August 31.

According to the funnymen, much has shifted both internally and externally since the duo shot their lauded 2018 Netflix comedy special, An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. “We have to watch for what has changed because some old jokes have new meanings. We are going to be cautious about that, and find new material to perhaps address the pandemic,” explains Martin. “That’s a very delicate area because, on one hand, you have people doing what they always did and, on the other hand, you have people dying, so it’s a very hard thing to address in comedy.”

Photo by Mark Seliger

Short chimes in, pointing to their upcoming Stamford performance. “We have changed a lot, and the [live] show is going to very different than the Netflix show,” says Short. “There will be new material, different ideas, new bits, new endings.” Martin agrees, adding, “We have changed quite a bit.”

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One hallmark of this change is the duo’s recent jump to the Hulu streaming platform in a new show with singer and Spring Breakers star Selena Gomez, Only Murders in the Building. The trio’s chemistry is reminiscent of that of Martin and Short’s comedic synergy in 1986’s iconic Three Amigos. “In a strange way off-screen, we are kind of the three amigos,” muses Martin. “We are friendly, and we laugh and joke around and like to see each other but, on-screen, of course it’s more like the three arch-enemies,” he says with a laugh, referring to Gomez’s acerbic character in the show.

The project also marked another first. “I had never done a television series before,” admits Martin, who created the show with John Hoffman, while Short served as Executive Producer. “But the shift from movies to television today is not that significant, because what used to be a movie is now a television show, only it’s in parts and series. I was expecting some kind of abbreviated process because it was television, but it wasn’t. It was exactly like a movie. The same kind of slow pace, the same kind of care, the same number of takes, and reshoots if you have to.”

Additionally, the show’s strong writing made Martin confident the part was the right decision, and that he and his costars would still able to inject elements of themselves, even amidst the tight plotting. “Selena [Gomez] and Martin [Short] contributed their own little bits creatively, which is what actors do. They are on the right wavelength,” says Martin of his co-stars. “But sometimes, when you get a beautiful scene, you don’t contribute anything to it. You just read it, say it, act it, perform it — and we had a lot of those. But, once in a while, you think: well what if we did this or what if we did that?”

Yet another drastic change that the last few years have brought is the rise of cancel culture in comedy. Both Short and Martin take a clear-eyed and respectful view of the shift. “I think it does make you conscious that what can be said can be meant to be funny, but can hurt,” notes Short. “So, it makes you a little sharper. But I don’t think you should therefore be afraid of having any edge, or there’s no comedy.”

After a thoughtful pause, Martin agrees, pointing to moments in his Hulu show that attempt to touch on this shift. “It’s a line you walk all the time. For example, in Only Murders in the Building, one of my favorite bits were when Marty [Short] and I — in character, on-screen — would say something inappropriate and Selena would just go, nuh-uh,” shares Martin. “And that’s a way of addressing something in a comedic and actual, truthful way.”

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The Funniest Show in Town at the Moment starring Steve Martin and Martin Short hits the stage at The Palace Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 26. Tickets start at $125.


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