Bringingtheir time-tested charms to the internet age, Steve Martin and Martin Short’s new Netflix special, “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life," is a satisfying, nostalgic showcase for the legendary comics.
Martin, soon to turn 73, and Short, 68, first met in the mid-80s on the set of “Three Amigos,” a comedy film in which they co-starred with Chevy Chase.
Martin had gotten his start working in Disneyland’s Magic Shop and made headway in television, first as a writer of “The Smothers Brother’s Comedy Hour” and an iconic absurdist, stand-up comedian in the 1970s. A starring role in the hit comedy “The Jerk” propelled him to Hollywood fame.
Short got his start on Saturday Night Live before starring in “Three Amigos.”
Martin and Short also starred together in two “Father of the Bride” films.
The show packs in everything you’d wish from a variety show: Martin and Short trade jokes, give each other backhanded compliments and rib themselves and Hollywood phoniness. Short showcases his vocal prowess, which involves him stripping into a nude suit, and Martin plays his signature banjo tunes with the Steep Canyon Rangers, an American bluegrass band.
You can almost make out a watery glint in Martin’s eye as he strums those strings.
From the beginning the two jab at each other, as if reluctant friends forced to relive old times for Netflix.
For instance, in the beginning, thinking Martin’s loquacious introduction of Short has finally found its end, his partner runs on stage behind him, manically excited for the audience’s applause. But Martin keeps going, unaware of Short's presence. Short runs on again as Martin says, “I consider him to be the real star of the show tonight — Mr. Jeff Babko on the piano.”
To add to the insults, Short slaps his partner with a backhanded compliment by beginning, “when I think of Steve — which is not often.”
Not even the audience is safe. Martin accidently mispronounces the name of Greenville, the South Carolina city hosting the show, as “Grinville” in a charming flub, to which Short ad libs, “Steve, you’d tell me if you had a stroke right?”
Later Short addresses in comical derision: “It's actually more than a thrill — it's an obligation. Steve and I call this show 'If We'd Saved, We Wouldn't Be Here.’”
But the men’s palpably warm laughter betrays their classic schtick — it’s all tongue-in-cheek fun and the audience very well knows it.
While the two lampoon a few current political and entertainment figures, Martin and Short do spend some time, predictably, in nostalgia, sharing humorous stories of movie set memories, meeting singing legends like Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and awkward photos from their adolescence.
The two men have managed to age gracefully over the years, aware of their own mortality as well as that of their particular style of entertainment. Martin recants meeting a young lady in San Francisco, who asked if he was in “The Jerk.” Momentarily flattered, he replied “yes” and she asked, “Are you going to do another movie?”
Martin and Short have worked hard for several years to hone their material together and it comes off as a breezy good time.
It’s poetic justice that Netflix, which frequently hosts edgier comics and material, should distribute a special that reminds us of a time when comedy mixed zany antics with a certain elegant nonchalance.
I can hardly wait for Martin and Short to take the stage at IU this fall.
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