The story behind comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short’s decadeslong friendship starts in 1985 on the set of their first movie together, “Three Amigos,” and involves a game of Scrabble and a lewd joke.
Nearly 35 years later, the pair find themselves not just the best of friends, but also partners in show business, with their ongoing, ever-changing night of comedy and music. “Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t” will make its first-ever stop in eastern Maine this Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
It’s not Martin’s first time in Bangor — he did stand up comedy at the old Bangor Auditorium in the late 1970s. Short is new to Bangor, but he’s not new to Maine, thanks to his longtime friend and colleague, actress and Maine native Andrea Martin.
“One of my closest friends, Andrea Martin, is from Portland, and we would come to visit her in Maine,” Short said in an interview he and Martin did with the Bangor Daily News ahead of their Saturday show. “Not in Bangor, however. Or is it Bang-er? How is it pronounced?”
Their 2019 tour builds on the success of their first tour together, “An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life,” which resulted in a 2018 Netflix special that was nominated for four Emmy Awards. As with the original tour, show goers can expect sketches, songs and in-depth conversations between two Hollywood icons — interspersed with new material the pair come up with in between dates.
Martin will play his banjo, with and without backing band the Steep Canyon Rangers. Short will sing songs with pianist Jeff Babko. And there will undoubtedly be some surprises.
“We are constantly working on new material, whether it’s one joke or a new bit,” Martin said. “If you saw it from one show to the next, you’d think it was a similar show. If you saw it a month or two in, it would be a very different show.”
On the road, Martin and Short find time outside of the show itself to spend quality time together — whether they’re workshopping new material or simply enjoying an after-show cocktail.
“Marty hits the bars around town, and I stay out of his way,” Martin said. “In truth, we’ll hang out after the show, we have wine, we talk and laugh and decompress. What’s great about touring is that it’s not just the two of us — it’s a whole group of folks that get to enjoy each other.”
Though the pair rib each other on a seemingly nonstop basis, Martin and Short are, of course, fans of each other’s work. When asked to name their favorite things about the other’s career, Martin points to Short’s countless television specials, and his bizarre and hilarious characters, such as outrageous television personality Jiminy Glick, while Short singles out Martin’s plays for both the stage and screen, such as “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
Short also remains impressed by Martin’s skills as a magician — something Martin learned as a teenager when he worked at Disneyland — and his passion for art collecting.
“He does card tricks on the plane from one city to the next. They make no sense, other than the fact that he truly is magic,” Short said. “And his knowledge of art is fascinating. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I wish he’d put some of that energy into the show.”
“Steve Martin and Martin Short: Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t” is set for 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cross Insurance Center. Tickets start at $25.75 and are available via ticketmaster.com or at the Cross Center box office.