After meeting while making the Hollywood movie The Three Amigos more than three decades ago, the two Hollywood veterans — Martin is 73, Short is 69 — have become such firm friends that they have been performing comedy and music together for eight years on and off.
«The first time we ever did it, we interviewed each other for the Just For Laughs comedy festival in 2011,» Short says. «We enjoyed it and started to say, ‘what if we did more of these?’ Then we evolved it into a show.»
Their first version was filmed for the Netflix special An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life; the second, Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t, is heading for Australia.
Martin says the title — with its slightly worrying sense of mortality — was inspired by Carl Reiner, who directed him in such movies as The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains and All Of Me.
«We just think of it as ‘oh, soon we’ll be dead’,» Martin says. «Carl Reiner [said] ‘always say what’s on the audience’s mind immediately’, meaning ‘now you see them, soon you won’t’. Just get that out of the way.»
Martin, whose celebrated comic career including hosting the Academy Awards three times and winning an honorary Oscar, shone as a stand-up comedian before acting in the likes of The Three Amigos, Roxanne and LA Story (all of which he wrote) as well as Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Parenthood and Father of the Bride (which he didn’t). And as well as writing plays and novels, he has won five Grammys for a music career built around his love for the banjo.
A fellow graduate of Saturday Night Live, Short has appeared in such movies as Father of the Bride and Mars Attacks, won a Tony for a Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s Little Me, co-wrote and starred in the musical Fame Becomes Me and wrote the 2014 memoir I Must Say: My Life As A Humble Comedy Legend.
For any fans who have already watched the Netflix special, the Humble Comedy Legend says much of Now You See Them will be new.
«It will still have the same feel of enjoying each other’s energy,» he says. «There’s this great [bluegrass] band, Steep Canyon Rangers, and [pianist-keyboardist] Jeff Babko and all these great people that we work with. But it’s a wall-to-wall funny show.»
Despite a chaotic Hollywood publicist who is hopefully working very cheap and the inevitable overlapping of questions and answers between three cities, the duo gives a sense of a friendship based on one-upping each other.
Short: «We immediately started making each other laugh [working on Three Amigos]. For people like us, that’s a big allure. At the end of the film we decided to make sure we continued this friendship.»
Martin: «Marty introduced me to kidding around. I must have kidded around before that but I thought ‘oh, this reminds me of a friend of mine [comic] Gary Mule Deer. We used to kid around’. And I love kidding around.»
Short: «Don’t you think friends do that anyway?»
Martin: «I don’t see that a lot. Married couples, I don’t see them gently putting each other down. Can you think of another friend that we run into that does this?
Short: «Kim Jong-un and his late half-brother. Then, like everything, the half brother went too far.»
It will be Martin’s first trip to Australia since he joined his then-wife, actress Victoria Tennant, while she shot the TV series Snowy River: The McGregor Saga in the early 1990s.
«I just loved the people, I loved the sun,» Martin says. «I had no interest going to the film set so I presented a play I wrote there, [Picasso at the Lapin Agile] directed by Neil Armfield, and I did a workshop of it in Melbourne. That’s what occupied my days and I really, really enjoyed it.»
While Trump jokes have become a staple of both Saturday Night Live and late-night American comics trying to make sense of a troubling country, don’t expect too many in the new show — at least from Martin.
«When I first started, I’d do Nixon jokes,» he says. «Then I realised ‘the country is so obsessed with politics, what if I wasn’t?’ That actually changed my life because I knocked out all the political jokes, I trimmed my hair and I put on a suit.»
So will it be a wild sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll experience when they go on tour?
Martin: «No, it will be very benign, calm, nothing dramatic.»
Short: «But it’s fun. That’s why we’ll get on a plane. We’ll start playing cribbage and have a glass of white wine.»
Martin: «And that’s at 9am.»
Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t is at Perth’s Riverside Theatre on November 8-9, Adelaide Entertainment Centre on November 11, Brisbane Entertainment Centre on November 13, Melbourne Arena on November 15 and Sydney’s ICC Theatre on November 17. Tickets go on sale on May 7.
Garry Maddox is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.