Steve Martin and Martin Short didn’t intend to become today’s hottest comedy duo, but if they continue with their sidesplitting tour, which stops Friday at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing, they may become synonymous with Martin and Lewis or Abbott and Costello. The pair, who first crossed barbs in 1986’s “Three Amigos,” have taken what started as an onstage conversation and elevated it into a tour de force of song, dance and lightly sauteed insults. The two legends spoke by phone recently.
Martin: Hi, Neal. I’m so glad that your first name has only one syllable, because I’m so tired.
Q: You two were just in the Twin Cities last May. Is there something special about this market?
Martin: The truth is, I don’t know why we’re coming back. Some kind of demand seems the likely reason.
Short: You don’t want to come back to a city too soon, but this is a very creative time for us. After taping the show for Netflix, we went back and came up with fresh material and sketches. About 50 percent of the show will be new.
Q: I get the impression you two didn’t intend for this tour to go on as long as it has. What has kept you going?
Short: If we had kept it as just an onstage interview, it would have gotten tiring pretty soon, but we realized that our chemistry and the fun we were having with the pianist Jeff Babko and the Steep Canyon Rangers [Martin’s Grammy-winning bluegrass band] were as much fun as we could have anywhere else. It became this creative thing to do.
Martin: The short answer to that question is just: We realized it was really fun to do. Having a really good time is important, especially for me since I’m in my early 70s. It’s great to have a place to go with someone I really like: Jeff Babko. I have no interest in doing anything else. I lost interest in movies and television at exactly the same time they lost interest in me.
Short: Steve, isn’t it time with this new show that you admit your real age?
Martin: OK, someone in his early 80s.
Short: This show is the main thing in my life, although I do have an animated feature coming out with Ricky Gervais.
Short: Oh, yeah, I was going to tell you about that.
Q: I know it’s hard to describe chemistry, but can you give it a shot?
Martin: Here’s what I have to say about chemistry —
Short: Here we go. Everyone sit down. Hold on. My pencil broke.
Martin: Chemistry has nothing to do with your personal relationship. I’ve seen husbands and wives on screen with zero chemistry and strangers who can’t stand each other have great chemistry. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not you like someone.
Short: I don’t agree with that.
Martin: I’m hanging up. I hope you enjoy working with somebody else.
Short: I think it’s obvious in our shows that we really like each other, and people want to see that.
Q: So much of your separate careers nod to an appreciation for the comics that came before you. Do you think younger audience members respect the past the way you guys did?
Martin: I don’t know. It’s funny to have once been considered, arguably, avant-garde and cutting-edge, but now there are new comedians like Hannah Gadsby that are cutting-edge in a completely different way. I don’t know where I’m going with this, but there is a definite generational challenge. But I don’t think we’re squares.
Short: I find that hard to answer. I have friends who are of that younger generation that appreciate what we do, but I’m not sure they represent everyone.
Q: Have you guys thought about doing a more legitimate stage production? Maybe Neil Simon?
Martin: I’m too tired to do Broadway. I don’t have eight shows a week in me. It takes the fun out of it. Right now, we’re not doing more than six shows a month.
Short: I’ve done theater a lot, but when you do, you have no other life. You can’t go out and have dinner a couple nights a week or go to East Hampton on the weekend.
Q: Even though your touring is limited, do you like being on the road, or is it a hassle?
Martin: When I first started touring, there was no such thing as a good hotel, except in Manhattan. There was no good food outside the major cities, especially in a hotel. Now, Marty and I can both enjoy going to our separate rooms, catching up on the news, ordering room service, calling our families. It’s pretty easy for us. We’ve gotten the routine down so we can save our energy for the show.
Short: Or you finish a show, have a glass of wine and get on a plane for the next city where we all sit in the same seats and play cribbage. It’s all very familiar and family-esque.
Q: Can you each cite one performance the other has given that has impressed you the most?
Martin: For me, it’s Marty’s broad, broad repertoire on “SCTV.” Those ongoing characters on both that show and “Saturday Night Live” is something I could never do.
Short: I’m most in awe of Steve’s unbelievable, eclectic range from doing [the “Cyrano”-inspired 1987 film] “Roxanne” to the Great Flydini to writing plays to being a banjo artist. He could teach a course on art at UCLA. I collect bottles. It’s sad. If you see me painting on a dock, there are numbers on that canvas.