It was heartening to see Northern Quest Resort & Casino's summer concert venue packed to the very last row for Steve Martin and Martin Short's stop Sunday night, because if anyone deserves to play to full houses as long as they keep performing, it's these two guys.
I'll cop to being a fanboy right here. Few modern American comedians can match Martin's career for creativity in my book, or his longevity. And you can certainly say the same for Short among Canada's funny folks.
If their live shows together were mere nostalgia trips through their old characters, though, I wouldn't be here praising the show they delivered in Airway Heights. Sure, the 73-year-old Martin and 69-year-old short could trot out King Tut and Ed Grimley skits and the audience would laugh along with the memories of characters they got to know in the 1970s and '80s. But then why not just watch old clips from the comics' younger years?
No, this show is built for the here and now, and while they certainly talk about the old days a bit — embarrassing old stories from movie sets were particularly fun — the real appeal in their touring together in 2019 is their easy rapport together on stage, and way with a wicked one-liners with their partner usually in the comedic crosshairs.
One example came when Martin asked Short about his many impressions of real people, noting first with joyous snark that, "I don't do impressions. I don't need to." Short gave as good as he got, making fun of Martin's age more than once. And after performing a ribald song allegedly from a musical he was in early in his career — "Stepbrother to Jesus" — in a graphic bodysuit, Short exited the stage with a quick aside of "Top that, motherf—-er!"
Good-natured oneupmanship ruled the night, including a closing bit when they read eulogies for each other that were both hilarious and wickedly mean. But when they teamed up the laughs were even better. Martin described his early career in ventriloquism, as Short appeared on his arm in his Jiminy Glick persona, and together they mocked the fashion choices of a series of celebrities shown on a large onstage screen. When a picture of Sen. Elizabeth Warren popped up, Glick/Short said "I had no idea David Spade was transitioning." When a picture of Sen. Mitch McConnell appeared, Glick/Short mused "I wonder what it's like to have never taken a good picture?"
Later they took turns sharing one-liners from some of their favorite comics, both living and dead, and the homage that included Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield, Ellen Degeneres, Chris Rock and Mitch Hedberg was one of the more unusual, but satisfying, aspects of a comedy show I've seen. You don't get many "cover tunes" in a stand-up set.
As both Martin and Short are musicians, too, naturally music was a big part of the show. Short sang a bit and did a stint as a set of bagpipes (you had to be there), while Martin brought out roots musicians Alison Brown and the band Della Mae (featuring Spokane's own Kimber Ludiker on fiddle) to play some bluegrass tunes and make some jokes, like when Martin mentioned it was just a couple years ago he wrote his first protest tune: "Let's Keep the Minimum Wage Right Where She's At."
For the better part of two hours Sunday night, these two comedy pros kept things moving and the audience laughing, a welcome respite from the real world awaiting most of us the next morning. If they came back and did a show every Sunday night, I'd be there.