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The enduring and spectacular friendship of Steve Martin and Martin Short


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Next up: the two Martins.

Comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short met in the mid-'80s while filming "The Three Amigos." Since then, they have grown closer personally and professionally.

And in this latest installment of "That Moment When," they share some of their magic that keeps all of us laughing.

This report is part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Martin Short: We are very close friends.

I mean, we will vacation together. We're going to go on a vacation next month with families.

Steve Martin: Not ours, just a family.


Martin Short: Not ours, different family. Your family.

Steve Martin: Hoping to meet.

Steve Goldbloom: Can you describe the moment when you when you first met?

Martin Short: I went to Steve's house to pick up a script for "Three Amigos."

I couldn't believe how great and beautiful this house was, a Picasso here and a Bacon there.

And I said to Steve: "How did you get this rich, because I have seen your work?"

And you said?

Steve Martin: I said: "Could you get this script to Marty Short?"


Steve Goldbloom: Welcome to "That Moment When." I'm Steve Goldbloom.

We were excited to welcome the humble comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short, currently touring in their latest special, "Now You See Them, Soon You Won't."

Martin Short: 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: We talked about their careers and their more than 30 years of friendship, which started on the set of "Three Amigos."

You have talked about being in films, that, when you're in the trenches of a movie, you get very close. And then there's this routine of just never seeing people again, and that you made a conscious decision not to let Steve go.

Martin Short: That's true.

You are intensely involved in everyone's gossip. And if they're having an affair on set, you want to hear about it. And then you never see them again.

But, sometimes, you say, I don't want to lose that person. And, certainly, that was the case with Steve and myself.

Steve Martin: Yes, we got along.

Martin Short: Yes.

Steve Martin: We had instant comedy rapport.

Now, actually, that time when I first met Marty, he had just had a little girl. And I remember being jealous of the little girl, because she was going to take time away from me.


Steve Goldbloom: Was there a lack of competition, would you say, between you two as comedians?

Steve Martin: I don't think we have any competitive streak.

Martin Short: No.

In general, I don't remember feeling upset that Steve was funnier at dinner or something, because it never happened.


Steve Goldbloom: When I watch you together, I noticed that there's like a laugh every 15 seconds.

How mindful and conscious are you of the stretch of time between when you talk and the audience laughs?

Steve Martin: I would say we're extremely conscious.

Martin Short: Extremely, yes.

Steve Martin: You know, when I -- this has nothing to do with you.

But when I was...

Martin Short: Well, can I get a coffee, because I have heard -- whatever you're going to say, trust me, I have heard it.

Steve Martin: No.

When I was writing "The Jerk" with Carl Reiner and...


Steve Martin: Thank you -- Michael Elias and Carl Gottlieb, our goal was to have a joke on every page.

I think that we kind of think that way too.

Steve Goldbloom: I feel this is unanimous. You two are the greatest talk show guests in history.

In fact, Martin, you were considered the greatest by a magazine. I mean, that it's a competition, but I believe they did say that.

Steve Martin: No, it's not a competition.

But when that came out in "The New Yorker," June 17, 2017, of course, no one was happier than me. And I had to deal with it.

Steve Goldbloom: How much preparation goes into, say, a "David Letterman" appearance?

Martin Short: For me, a lot. I mean, I would send in 20 pages to the session producer, because I felt scoring on "Letterman" was the happiest you could feel for the next month.

Steve Martin: Yes.

Steve Goldbloom: Well, that is the thing. After "Letterman," you had this ritual of going out with Paul Shaffer.

Martin Short: Paul would say: "We must now go to the three hippest, most fabulous places in New York."


Martin Short: Yes.

Steve Goldbloom: As a work couple, you spend a lot of time together.

Who has a louder inner critic?

Martin Short: I would say Steve.

Steve Martin: Yes, I would say that's probably true.

Martin Short: If I prepare a lot for a talk show or something, and then, for some reason, I'm off, or the host is off, or we don't connect, then I feel there's nothing I could have done more. And then I feel fine.

Steve Martin: I'm the opposite.


Steve Martin: No, if I don't -- if it doesn't go down well, I get kind of depressed and, like, what happened, and try to analyze it.

Martin Short: Early on, I realized that, for me to be tense, I would see myself back on something, and I would think, I'm not helping myself. So, I willed anxiety away.

My brother died when I was 12. My mother died when I was 17, my father at 20. When you go through those tough experiences, you're either empowered by it or victimized by it. And, somehow, I think I was empowered by it.

If someone didn't laugh at me putting my hair up in a point, I didn't really care.


Steve Goldbloom: I know there was a moment, Martin, with you when you were on "SNL" that you wanted to watch some tape back, and somebody said: "Give it a rest. Just -- just move forward."


Martin Short: Yes, that was Davey Wilson, the director. I was going to get a VHS tape.

Steve Martin: That's what we used to do when we first doing "Saturday Night Live."

Lorne and I and some members of the cast would go up to his office and watch the entire show again.

Martin Short: Oh, my God.

Steve Martin: Yes.

Martin Short: His point was, it's done. It's finished. You can't judge it like...


Steve Martin: Well, he's -- he's not taking into consideration self-love.

Martin Short: That's true. But it would turn into possibly self-hatred.


Steve Goldbloom: This is a special question for Martin.

Is there a moment when you recognized the genius of Steve? And, of course, this question is special because it was submitted by Steve.


Martin Short: I met Steve in 1985, 10 years after...

Steve Martin: By the way, I object to the phrase genius. I don't agree with that. I can't just sit here.

But, anyway, go ahead.

Martin Short: And, by the way...

Steve Martin: Yes.

Martin Short: ... you're not alone.

Steve Martin: Yes.


Martin Short: I think it kind of takes a genius to be open to the people around him that can make him even better.

The whole package is a genius.

Steve Martin: I actually remember a moment -- I can't identify the year, but we were going to look at his special. It was so extreme.


Steve Martin: And I -- and I thought, wow, you are really unafraid. And I remember that.

We were thinking, this is really bizarre. I have got to respect this guy more.

Steve Goldbloom: Steve, you have said before that people think they want to see you revive old material with an arrow through your head, and you say, they don't want that; they just think they want that.

Why do you think that?

Steve Martin: That era -- we're talking about the late '70s, when I was doing my stand-up comedy -- it was a kind of a zeitgeist thing. And if you abstract it out of the times, to me, it's not as funny.

And, also, when you do an old bit, you sort of get automatic laughter or automatic applause. But it's not real laughter. I don't even remember how to do it. I don't even know where I was coming from.

When I look at it, I go, was that funny? I don't know.

Steve Goldbloom: If you could add a third wheel to your act that you haven't worked with, who would it be?

Martin Short: For box office, I would say Bieber.


Steve Martin: I would say, Jerry Seinfeld is too good. So, we don't want him.

Martin Short: Yes, yes.


Steve Martin: John Mulaney, maybe, as a younger voice.

Martin Short: He doesn't need us.

Steve Martin: No, he doesn't need us.


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