MOORHEAD — When filming for “Three Amigos” started in early 1986, Steve Martin and Martin Short were already stars, but had never actually met. They became fast friends and would work together through the years.
Over the past few years they've brought their friendship out on the road, performing a live variety show in theaters across the country.
This Friday, June 7, they bring the latest version of the show, “Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t,” to the Bluestem Amphitheater in south Moorhead.
The comedy legends talked about the work it takes to make the show, which Martin says is up to 70 percent different from their Netflix special, “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life,” fun for them and the audience.
How do you like going out on the road with this show?
SM: It’s been fun from the beginning until about five minutes ago. It keeps our creative spirit alive, always having something to think about.
MS: And it’s a great deal of fun to do.
Watching the Netflix special, there seemed like there was a lot of improv and ad-libs. Is that the same on the road?
SM: You can’t just say you’re going to ad-lib. There has to be something that motivates you to ad-lib. Like, one night, we have this little section where we sit and talk to each other and Marty’s back of the chair broke and he fell completely backwards. Once both of us realized he wasn’t hurt, it becomes kind of funny. But the thing that really made me laugh was that Marty, after he fell, was now holding for his laugh. So he was taking a little extra advantage of a spontaneous moment.
You make each other laugh during the show. Do you try to keep yourself from cracking up too much, or is that just collateral for working with another comic?
MS: If the audience is part of it, it’s a great part of the show. If the audience doesn’t know why you’re laughing, it’s not great.
SM: When we laugh onstage it's sincere, but we know each other well, so we don’t laugh that often at material we’ve done before.
MS: If Steve or I try a new joke and it bombs, then he and I will immediately start sincerely laughing. That’s why this show is a great deal of fun to do and hopefully to watch.
Have you ever found it difficult to work with someone because they keep cracking up?
SM: That’s not being difficult, that’s almost a pleasure, working with someone with a good sense of humor. One night I was working on ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” with Michael Caine and Glenne Headly, and it was a late night shoot and it took them two hours to shoot a very simple scene because Glenne Headly found Michael Caine so funny. (Director) Frank Oz was incredibly patient because we’re making a comedy, so it’s kind of what you want.
MS: One person comes to mind, but I won’t mention his name.
MS: Not you.
SM: It’s not a bad thing to say about somebody.
MS: I’m still not going to say.
SM: OK. How about we cancel our show together? How about that?
MS: I’ll phone you in a second. So much of my stuff is in improv and that’s when you don’t want someone to laugh in the middle of a scene because it destroys the take.
The sit-down chat you do onstage is reminiscent of talk shows. Who did you enjoy sitting down with?
SM: They were all different. Johnny Carson and David Letterman and Conan (O'Brien). I get along with all of them. I prepare the same way. Marty over-prepares and is always fantastic and was named one of the greatest talk show guests of all time, and that made me want to bang his shins with a pipe.
MS: I like the edit.
Did you ever have an interview that went incredibly awkward?
MS: Yes. In the 1980s, I was promoting an album called “Comedy is not Pretty,” so on the cover, I dressed up like a woman. A not-very-attractive woman. So I thought it would be funny to go on “The Tonight Show” dressed as a woman and I go out there and it’s funny for 30 seconds — and then I realize I have 10 minutes to go, dressed as a woman in a very uncomfortable wig and lipstick.
Steve’s been playing banjo for years and finally released an album of music in 2009. Martin, you have a background in musicals and have done a one-man Broadway show. Have you ever thought about recording your singing?
MS: I’ve always felt you make an agreement with the audience about what they want to see you do and once you’re the clown, that’s what they want to see. I don’t think we ever want to see Charlie Chaplin release his ballads. Not that I’m Charlie Chaplin. I’m more like Sidney Chaplin.
You’ve known each other now for about 35 years. What was your first impression of each other?
SM: I was walking to the set on the first days of “Three Amigos” and Chevy (Chase) is beside me and behind me I hear Katherine Hepburn saying, “Where’s my bicycle?” and it was Marty.
MS: I remember going to Steve’s house to get the script and Steve says to me, "Can you give this to Martin Short?"
What do you find in the other person that allows you to play off him so well?
MS: Timing with us is very natural. I don’t even think of it as working with Steve, it’s just a natural fit.
SM: I’ve had the opportunity with this show to re-learn timing. I haven’t done stand-up for years and years. The more and more we go on, the better it gets. I mean filling out the lines, making them as funny as they can be, learning how to emphasize a word or get a strange little attitude in the line. Anyway, that’s special comedy stuff and I just gave away all of our secrets.
If you go
What: Steve Martin and Martin Short
When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 7
Where: Bluestem Amphitheater, 801 50th Ave. S., Moorhead
Info: Tickets range from $75 to $175; https://jadepresents.com or 866-300-8300