Kimiko Hahn, a professor at Queens College, City University of New York, is the author of 10 books of poetry…
Steve Martin and Martin Short on faux flattery and genuine compliments
Judy Woodruff: Steve Martin and Martin Short met more than 30 years ago. And the legendary comedians have been nearly inseparable ever since.
They sat down with Brief But Spectacular host, Steve Goldbloom, to talk about their latest touring special, "Now You See Them, Soon You Won't."
Steve Martin: This is now a standard now on all the interviews, the moving sideways camera.
Steve Goldbloom: Yes.
Steve Martin: But I always find it odd to cut to someone who's not talking -- who will be talking into camera.
Martin Short: But, you know, you have always struggled. Remember when you struggled with the talkies? When the talkies came in, you were always, I had to work on my voice.
Martin Short: Now, don't keep looking at him. Remember, look at the green tape.
Steve Martin: Ah, just relax.
Martin Short: OK.
One, two, three.
Steve Goldbloom: It's hard to make a career in show business, possibly even harder to sustain a career in show business. Did you ever think that you would be relevant for this long?
Steve Martin: I guess he's talking to me.
Martin Short: Let me just say, Steve, what an honor it is for me to be standing next to a man who is a novelist, a playwright, a musician, a composer, and a legendary comedian.
Steve Martin: And let me say what an honor it is for me to be standing next to the man who is standing next to that man.
Steve Goldbloom: Seeing your work together, it feels like it commands the attention, the same way like an Oscars monologue commands attention. And then you slow things down, and you become reflective, and you're talking about each other's work.
Tell me about the design of your special and your tour.
Steve Martin: This was a real moment for both of us, when we -- we're totally rehearsed. We have done the show 100 times. Everything was just in its beautiful little comedic place.
Martin Short: You know, it was a work in progress as we developed it.
Steve Martin: And still is.
Martin Short: I mean, there would be time we'd think, gee, should we cut the chat? Does the chat slow it down? And someone else would say, no, no, no, that's like having dinner with you guys.
Steve Goldbloom: The banjo helps slow things down a little bit.
Steve Martin: Yes, let me get it.
Martin Short: No, no, no. He just -- he just mentioned it.
Martin Short: Just because you mention a banjo doesn't mean you...
Steve Martin: I got it back at the apartment.
Martin Short: No, no, no.
Steve Goldbloom: Steve, what is your relationship to the banjo?
Martin, what is your relationship to Steve's banjo?
Martin Short: I dated Steve's banjo for many years.
Steve Martin: I started playing in the '60s. I have been playing for 55 years. I know. I should be better.
We're in show business, but I have another life as a musician. You have a whole other set of friends that kind of levels you out. It's really nice.
That's why you're un-level.
Martin Short: Mm-hmm.
Steve Goldbloom: In the show that I saw last year, it seems like there's an honest mistake. Steve, you say "Grinville." Martin, you say "Greenville."
And you say, you would tell me, Steve, if you were having a stroke, wouldn't you? And it looked like a -- is that a real mistake? Are there real mistakes?
Steve Martin: No, it was a real mistake. Yes. Yes.
Martin Short: Yes. Totally, yes.
Steve Martin: We will never intentionally make a mistake, but, sometimes...
Martin Short: Yes.
Steve Martin: Because that looks phony. I think the audience smells it. But if something happens, we exploit it.
Steve Goldbloom: In your work together, left-handed compliments play a big role, and you talk about a lot of them. What are some of your favorites?
Steve Martin: One of the great things about touring around the country with Marty Short, no paparazzi.
Steve Goldbloom: Ah. This is...
Martin Short: Boy, that landed good.
Steve Martin: Thank you.
Steve Goldbloom: The crew's been instructed not to laugh.
Steve Martin: Oh, just like our audiences. That must be what happens.
Steve Goldbloom: There is a Martin Short on Twitter, but it's a nutritionist in London.
Martin Short: Really?
Steve Goldbloom: You're not on Twitter?
Martin Short: No, I'm not.
Steve Goldbloom: OK.
Steve, you're very good at Twitter.
Steve Martin: I stopped. I thought it was too dangerous.
Steve Goldbloom: Just that you might say something that would offend people?
Steve Martin: You can say the most innocuous thing, and, suddenly, you're in the news.
Steve Goldbloom: Martin, does Jiminy Glick allow you to say things that you wish you could say in real life?
Martin Short: One time I was interviewing Edie Falco, and I asked her a question. I said, "What was it like starting off as a young actress?"
And she started answering. And I went, "Shh. Just because I ask you a question doesn't mean I need an answer."
Martin Short: And she said she used to be shushed as a kid. And it was an electrical shock in her.
Steve Goldbloom: Faux flattery plays such a character in your role, in your work together and your appearances on talk shows. For this moment, if you could, look at each other and pay each other just a genuine compliment.
Steve Martin: We can't do that.
Martin Short: I can't do that.
Steve Martin: No, I will tell you. I have said this before. But you are great singer, and you use it exactly right. I have heard you talk about it. No, I don't want to sing a serious song.
But when we do, do our comedy songs, they're so beautifully sung. And I worked with Karen Carpenter. I toured with her, who has an amazing voice, an amazing instrument every night. And you have this kind of amazing instrument, because you really sound like Karen Carpenter.
Martin Short: Thank you.
Steve Martin: Don't go there.
Martin Short: I don't have anything.
Steve Martin: Yes.
Martin Short: Sorry.
Steve Martin: Hi, I'm Steve Martin.
Martin Short: And I'm Martin Short.
Steve Martin: And this is our Brief But Spectacular take on...
Martin Short: ... our fabulously popular and undeserved success.
Judy Woodruff: And we could watch them for much longer than brief.