In Advance of Their Performance at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Steve Martin and Martin Short Discuss Mixing Comedy and Music

Comedians and musicians Steve Martin and Martin Short performed together once about six years ago at a comedy festival. They had such a good time that they decided to tour together with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers and acclaimed musician Jeff Babko. 

During the concert, they talk about their careers and discuss their influences. Their upcoming show here, which takes place at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17 at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, mixes standup comedy and music. In a recent conference call, the two talk about the performance and only half seriously answer our questions.

I think Steve has played banjo since he was 17, and Martin has sung in musicals. Can you each talk about your initial musical inspirations.
I always wanted to be a singer. Even as a 14-year-old, I would pretend to do albums in my attic and bedroom and things like. My mother was a concert mistress at the symphony. I grew up with classical music in the house, and I played the piano for a while, but Steve is the real musician.
Martin: Our musical genres are completely different. Marty is more crooner-based, and I’m more legitimate and real music based. But we managed to figure out to blend them in a nice way, and I think it gives a lot of variety to the show.

Do you two remember the first time you ever met?
I do. Steve doesn’t.
Martin: Marty and I met on Three Amigos, but we talk about it in our show so we don’t want to give that away.

How did you come up with the idea of touring together?
We did the Just Laughs Comedy Festival in 2011. It went very well and reminded us of the ease of our chemistry with each other. We wanted to do it again and then we got more ambitious with it and tried different things until it developed into a show.

Talk about what it’s like to mix comedy and music?
When I first started in show business in the ‘60s, there were lots of acts touring around and doing comedy and music. To me, it’s natural that comedy and music go together. It’s the show business I’ve been raised in.

Which one of you gets the biggest laughs?
It’s obvious. It shouldn’t be a question. Just read the reviews.

Do you have any material directed at Trump?
Not much. Nothing that that’s a put down or anything. We do put mention his name.
Martin: How could you put him down? Where do you start?
Short: We do a show that aims to acknowledge that there are both parties out there, and we don’t want to make anyone feel badly. It’s not a political show.

Can you each talk about what you like about performing with the Steep Canyon Rangers?
We’ve had a long, long musical history together. I think it’s seven or eight years. We’ve done an album, and we’re now on our second album. We click musically and personally. We’re entwined with each other’s families a little bit. They have a new album coming out, and they’ve really defined their sound. It’s really good.

What do you ultimately hope that people get out of the live show?
: I want people to think that if only they could have that kind of joy that we have when we're on stage.
Martin: He means it. We want people to have a good time and have it be one of the best shows they’ve ever seen. It’s true. Absolutely.

What other projects do you have in the works?
I’m doing nothing. I have no projects in the works.
Martin: Can you tell us about it? It sounds fascinating. I have a record, a musical and a play. It sounds like I’m doing a lot, but it’s really been back logged.

Do you anticipate this will be a yearly venture?
We think so.
Short: Yes. We’re very excited about next year.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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