Steve Martin and Martin Short have been funny separately and together for decades, but most of us haven’t been lucky enough to see them onstage together. Now we can, when the duo comes to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Feb. 10 for the tongue-in-cheek-titled “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” (tickets, 953-3368). The evening also offers Martin on banjo with bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, and the Van Wezel Foundation’s annual gala precedes the show, with an after-party as well.
Q. What’s the concept of this show? How much is prepared before and how much is ad-lib?
Martin: We’ve sort of done this before, about four years ago, but this is the most organized show, and we’ll be touring with it doing 40 to 50 performances through 2017. When you do anything, like a talk show, you prepare, and that makes you confident and loose enough to go to the bits that are not so prepared. We share a work ethic and I think we share a similar comedy sensibility, so we can improvise some.
Steve: We have a show we like to do with lines and a setup, but the real spontaneity comes between the lines, with the freshness you are able to bring to it. If something goes wrong, youcan riff on it. We each do some standup, and Marty brings his pianist and does some songs on his own, too. The music interludes just make for great variety.
Q. How long have you two known each other?
Steve: How long has it been, Marty?
Martin: I met Steve in 1985.
Steve: But the friendship only solidified recently when we realized we could commercialize it.
Q. And how many movies have you worked in together?
Martin: Six, if you count Schindler’s List. Let’s see, Three Amigos, Prince of Egypt, Father of the Bride, I and II, and Jiminy Glick in La La Wood.
Steve: What did I do in that? Oh, yeah, I was interviewed.
Q. So what do you admire most about each other’s talents?
Steve: Absolutely nothing. No, really, Marty is indomitable. He’s endlessly upbeat and straightforward.
Martin: I’m amazed at two things: the massive range of his talent, and his sincerity about not thinking he has talent.
Q. Why do you think the two of you made your way into comedy?
Steve: It’s simple. I love comedy; I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. And then maybe later, psychologically there’s a reason for wanting to be onstage.
Martin: I grew up in a very funny family that loved watching Jerry Lewis movies. I was the youngest of five, and everybody was funny. I don’t come from the “behind the clown is pain and tears” notion. It’s been said of me that I’m actually laughing on the inside.