There are evenings you'll never forget and then there's the night when Steve Martin and Martin Short take over the Embassy Theatre stage, along with musical acts the Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko. That night - Friday, May 18 - promises to be, according to the show's subtitle, "an evening you will forget for the rest of your life."
Martin and Short have been on the road together for months now, entertaining audiences with a loose-jointed, roast-heavy two-man show reminiscent of the old Martin and Lewis routines, sans the simmering animosity, and now it's Fort Wayne's chance to savor the sight of two longtime friends and veteran comics sharing space and trading barbs.
Billboard described this eminently forgettable evening as delightfully improvisational: "The show as it stands has no structure, which is fine. When they first began doing a few gigs together, Martin and Short sat together for a conversation of show biz reminiscing, followed by an audience Q&A, in what struck some attendees at the time as being more like a book tour than a comedy show. Since then, they've jettisoned the Q&A, made the sit-down a minor part of the set and embellished the whole show with 'bits,' like one that has Short's Jiminy Glick character as a ventriloquist's puppet in Martin's hands, commenting on politicians' photos. Donald Trump, we learned, is 'doing a remake of Three Amigos ... The No Amigos.'"
Steve Martin is obviously a comedy giant. He's been a standup, television and silver screen staple for decades. He needs no introduction.
Spoiler alert: we're going to introduce him anyway.
Martin got his start in comedy in the 1960s, writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Later, he was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson's on The Tonight Show and a regular host of Saturday Night Live, making a name for himself as a wild and crazy guy and as King Tut. Even before that, he performed in a comedy show at the California theme park, Knotts Berry Farm, and wrote skits and routines and skits with an actress named Stormie Sherk (not to be confused with Stormy Daniels).
It was Sherk who, struck by Martin's sharp wit, suggested he apply to college. He enrolled in California State University Long Beach where he studied philosophy. In a 2010 interview with Smithsonian, Martin said his philosophy studies shaped his approach to comedy in very clear and important ways. He started to question everything, including a joke's basic building blocks.
"What if there were no punch lines?" he thought. "What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation."
In the 70s it seemed like Martin either wrote for or performed on every comedy special that aired on television, including The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. If a show was funny and it ran for an hour, you could be sure Martin had a role in it. He became a household name thanks to his work on The Tonight Show and SNL, becoming one of the latter's most beloved hosts, so beloved, in fact, that many fans will be forgiven for thinking him a full-time cast member.
His success in the 70s lead to Platinum comedy albums and an eventual decision to leave standup in favor of acting, writing and playing the banjo. He did pretty well at those things, too, appearing in hit films like The Jerk, L.A. Story, Roxanne and Parenthood, and penning plays, books and even a country album that went on to win a Grammy. It's like, what can't this guy do? The answer is: this guy does everything and he does it better than you.
Martin Short is likewise multi-talented and so famous we're not sure why we're telling you any of this. Oh well. When you're finished reading this story, you can forget it. For the rest of your life.
Short was born in Ontario, Canada, the youngest of five children. His mother, a violinist, encouraged her children to be creative and, even though he graduated from McMaster University with a degree in social work, Short realized he was destined to pursue other things when he was cast in a Toronto production of Godspell, along with other soon-to-be stars Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy and Paul Shaffer. After that he joined Toronto's branch of the improv comedy troupe Second City, launching SCTV, in which he made a name for himself creating a myriad of outlandish characters, including talk show host Brock Linehan, defense attorney Nathan Thurm and oddball Ed Grimley.
In 1984 Short joined the cast of SNL and was credited with helping bring the show back from the dead after Eddie Murphy's departure. Sketch comedy led, as it often does, to roles in television and movies. Martin is probably best known for his appearances in Three Amigos and Innerspace, but many fans will love him forever for creating the sweaty and obsequious Jiminy Glick, whose celebrity interviews often made Between Two Ferns look like a Barbara Walters special.
He's appeared in Law and Order: SVU Weeds, How I Met Your Mother and Arrested Development and starred in two different television shows called The Martin Short Show.
Which is funny, because one of the things Martin Short is best at doing is not being Martin Short. His impressions are not only hilariously on-point but wide-ranging and without mercy. He's done everyone from Jerry Lewis to Katherine Hepburn, and in the forgettable evening with Steve Martin he even plays a female bluegrass fan whose love of the genre is rivaled only by her bra size.
Between TV shows and movies, Short has made time to return to his first love, the theater, appearing in The Producers alongside Michael Broderick and his one-man show, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me.
Fame obviously becomes both Short and Martin. The two friends recently announced that An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life will soon be a Netflix show. Their performance at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina will hit the streaming service May 25.
Shut-ins and other assorted introverts might say, "Then why should I bother seeing it live?"
Answer: because it's never the same show. It varies night to night. Also, there's nothing quite like seeing comedy geniuses in person, on their feet, responding to life's many absurdities in real time. Spoiler alert: you won't be disappointed.