This is the interview that almost never happened.
In advance of their upcoming show at the Murat at Old National Centre — "A Very Stupid Conversation" — the two comic legends agreed to a phone interview with NUVO's Ed Wenck and Katherine Coplen.
Ed and Kat huddled around a land-line at NUVO HQ while Steve and Marty (that's what they call one another) were conferenced in on their own cell phones.
In the middle of the interview, NUVO's soon-to-be-former IT contractor decided to reset the entire telephone system in the building, shutting down the very device Ed and Kat were using for the story you're about to read. (Cue a thousand tiny screams.)
Without missing a beat, the unflappable Coplen dialed up her press contact to continue the interview while Wenck stomped around the newsroom floor, blathering on about heads rolling, incompetence in the modern workplace and so on. Ultimately, the interview continued — using Kat's phone for the NUVO end and Ed's phone as a secondary recording device.
The bugs didn't attack until later. Was there some sort of Biblical journalistic curse placed on their room that day? Was the ghost of Chevy Chase, the Third Amigo, sending plagues of bugs and dropped lines? Alas, the editors will never know. But that's okay – they were too busy laughing at the super-famous-for-being-funny-for-a-reason comedy superstars that they managed to get back on the line.
ED WENCK: Martin, we've actually met before. We shared a stage together at the Palladium in Carmel in 2011 where I was interviewed by Jiminy Glick.
MARTY SHORT: Was I sweet or vicious?
ED: Both, actually. While we're in the fawning portion of the interview, I've got to tell you how impressed I was with how kind you were — you had read the program and my bio and remarked backstage that you also had a kid named Oliver that played hockey, like I do. And that was all when you were getting out of that horrible fat suit.
KAT COPLEN: While we're still in the fawning portion of the interview, I've been tasked to tell you that my dad insisted to his sister in 1978 that she end her wedding promptly on time so he could get home and watch your standup specialA Wild and Crazy Guy. And she did!
STEVE MARTIN: Oh, I'm sorry she had to do that.
ED: On a character level, I've got to know where guys like Jiminy Glick come from.
MARTY: Based on a guy I knew when I was younger.
STEVE: Was his name Jiminy Glick?
MARTY (LAUGHS): I can't tell you his name or his family will sue me. He had this voice that would start very, very high and then go very, very low — I used that primarily. The rest of it comes from watching those morons with power on daytime TV.
STEVE: "Morons with Power" — that would be another good name for our show.
KAT: You've been friends for a long time. I'd love to know what you admire about each others' comedy and performance.
STEVE: I admire that Marty has an edge to his comedy — you never quite know what he's going to think about a person or thing.
MARTY: Well, Steve's obviously so talented that he's done very, very well. You'd think he'd pick up a check now and then.
ED: I want to talk about how the current show developed. [There's a story that] you guys were at dinner parties together and people said, "Oh my God, you two are incredible."
MARTY: Actually, we were asked to do it professionally, just to interview each other, and it worked surprisingly well, and then we thought, well, maybe we can do this again [at Chicago's Just For Laughs Festival in 2011] — and so we did.
KAT: Where do the Steep Canyon Rangers figure into this show? Martin, do you have a taste for bluegrass now?
MARTY: You know, I do! It's inspiring when you're checking your phone messages in the wings, and you look up occasionally and hear a bit of a song.
STEVE: You've got to stop texting me while I'm playing.
MARTY: Well, you seem so distracted anyway.
During Kat's next question, Ed realized that the little red light on NUVO's phone had suddenly gone dark. Kat and Ed looked at one another with the same expressions exhibited by the little kids in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex first shows up. Horror was followed quickly by a rage-induced panic attack filled with cursing, gnashing of teeth and a speedy redial. Thankfully, Steve and Marty were still standing by.
STEVE: I can't believe they hung up on us!
MARTY: I think they just expected more.
ED (AFTER A ROUND OF DEEP BREATHING AND NERVOUS LAUGHTER): You guys were on Saturday Night Live in two very different incarnations of that program (NOTE: Steve was a frequent host starting in the 1970s, and Marty was a full-time member of the cast during a season in the mid-'80s). I wonder if you guys compared notes as to what the show was like? Steve, when you were hosting regularly it was pretty raucous, and it seemed to have calmed down when Martin came on board.
STEVE: No, it calmed down BECAUSE Martin came on board.
MARTY: You know I'm still on, right?
STEVE: No, I didn't! It was kind of raucous, because you had the original cast — Belushi and Aykroyd and so on. I just think that the later casts were — no pun intended — more sober. Although, nobody was high. I never saw that ever.
MARTY: Yeah, that was a tad overrated. Certainly in my year everyone — Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, me — everyone had a one-year contract. We were just treating it like a series of 24 specials that we had to do.
KAT: Steve, I know you just released an album this week [So Familiar, with Edie Brickell]. What's the most exciting — or worrisome, whichever way you're feeling about it — part of an album release week for you?
STEVE: You're very curious about how people respond to it. When you're making a record in a studio, you don't have a lot of response, and this is actually the first time a lot of people will have ever heard it. The response so far has been really good, with critics ... the hard part is over, I guess.
MARTY: When was it released, Steve?
STEVE: It was last Friday. I can't believe you weren't here to celebrate with me.
MARTY: I gotta get it.
STEVE: I'll give you a copy.
MARTY: I'd like that.
STEVE: When I see you.
KAT: I just browsed the contents of your estate sale, Steve, and I was wondering — if you can recall — what one thing that you put up for sale that you'd maybe rather give to Martin?
STEVE: Well, if he would've taken it, I wouldn't have sold it. That's kind of a fun thing to do, you know? We're not allowed to say it on the website, but I can say it: the money is going to my charity. I'm also cleaning out my house. There's actually some pretty nice stuff.
MARTY: And you know who came over to help sort through your home?
STEVE: Who was that?
MARTY: My daughter-in-law.
STEVE: Oh! Yes. Absolutely right. I thought you were going for a joke.
MARTY: Me? You're crazy.
STEVE: I said "going for," not "achieving."
KAT: Steve, I know you're a new dad. Martin, you have kids — have you imparted any advice about fatherhood?
MARTY: Steve has a natural instinct. One of his strengths is that he's not afraid to hit someone else's kid.
STEVE: Hey, what's fair is fair.
ED: A lot of people saw a videotape of this most recent show [you two are performing] in which David Letterman turned up on stage to do a Top Ten list regarding Donald Trump ... If you guys were going to tour with a third, who would you pick?
MARTY: I wish Dave would do them all, he was so fantastic.
STEVE: I know. Letterman appeared on our show just for fun one time in San Antonio. We'd love to have him come out all the time, but I guess you can't get David Letterman all the time.
MARTY: Not for what we paid him.
KAT: Any thoughts about the great city of Indianapolis?
MARTY: It's my favorite city in all the United States of America.
STEVE: We were just talking about that today before we got on the phone.
MARTY: We were exchanging emails about that. You'd think it's the city we lived in, but no.
STEVE: It's the city we WANT to live in.
STEVE: I remember it very well, because I'd been there many times when I was touring in my younger days. I remember really, really liking it. It's fun to go down to the beach!