Don't expect Steve Martin to give away any secrets about himself or his popular Hulu whodunit "Only Murders in the Building," which wraps its season Tuesday.
But he'll gladly tell you about his co-star and BFF Martin Short, their new third amiga Selena Gomez and his participation in next month's Minneapolis' PACER Center Gala, which will be an online event again this year.
Let's start with Short, the veteran of "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live." He is not really like his Mr. Show Biz stage persona.
"It's all his comic persona that he's been good at doing for a very, very long time. Sort of the show-business enthusiast," said Martin, who met Short in 1986 when they co-starred in "Three Amigos" with Chevy Chase.
"We both play egotistical pretty well. He's not egotistical offstage in the least."
"I don't think so," said the comedian, playwright, author, musician, screenwriter, actor and art collector.
Martin is a straight shooter. At least in interviews. Or one-on-one interviews. If he has a foil to bounce off, his banter almost becomes one-upmanship.
Martin's humor works even better with a third wheel on "Only Murders in the Building," even though Gomez, at 29, is more than 40 years younger than her cohorts (Martin is 76, Short 71).
The series follows a trio of lonely misfits creating a true-crime podcast as they try to solve a murder in their stately New York City apartment building.
"Selena was already a pro. She didn't need anything from us," Martin said of Gomez, who starred in Disney Channel's series "Wizards of Waverly Place" (2007-12) and Woody Allen's 2019 movie "A Rainy Day in New York."
"The question was: 'Are we going to get along with this new person that we don't know?' The answer is we did. It was better than expected because she has a great sense of humor. Marty and I have worked together for a hundred years. And Selena is just the perfect fit."
The witty, sometimes absurd scripts play on the generation gap with Gomez's sarcastic, secretive millennial often correcting her older would-be sleuths — Short is a has-been Broadway director and Martin a graceless ex-TV detective — about texting and other modern ways.
A parody of the true-crime genre featuring cameos by Tina Fey, Jane Lynch and Sting, the "crimedy" series leans on repartee that's not unlike Martin and Short's live duo act, billed as "An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life" when it played the Twin Cities in 2017.
Martin said the pair have added "Only Murders" references to their ongoing stage routine. But he doesn't play concertina, as he does in the series.
"I don't play the concertina," said Martin, a Grammy-winning banjoist. "Banjo is not [befitting] my character. So I suggested the concertina because it has a good sound.
"I did work with a professional player so I could imitate it very well.
"We're not really detectives, either," he added with a light chuckle.
No more movies
The idea for "Only Murders in the Building" has been percolating in Martin's brain for a decade. He was inspired by the 1990s TV series "Forensic Files" because it was a half-hour show focusing on using scientific methods to solve crimes, not about "mourning the victim."
In real life, he does follow one true-crime podcast, "Case File," from Australia. "It's written very, very well."
Last month, "Only Murders" got the green light for Season 2. Filming is slated to begin next month. "It's still being written," Martin said, declining to share spoilers. "The team is back, let's put it that way."
Although he appreciates the chemistry with his gung-ho gumshoes, he has no intention of making a "Three Amigos" sequel with Short and Gomez. Or any movies, for that matter. He doesn't want to be on location for three months away from his 9-year-old daughter and wife. "Only Murders" is shot in New York, where he has a home.
A veteran of more than 50 films, including "The Jerk" and the "Father of the Bride" series, Martin found that his first TV series is more like movie-making than he imagined.
"I was expecting it to be much more streamlined and fewer takes, operating at a completely different pace. But it's exactly the same," he observed. "The biggest change since I was doing movies is the lighting. We used to go rehearse our scene and then go to our trailers and sit for two hours while they lit it. Now we rehearse it, and they're ready."
Martin called the other day to promote his virtual appearance Nov. 13 at the PACER Center Gala. It will be a Q&A session with clients and supporters of the Minnesota-based organization, which helps children with disabilities and fights bullying.
"Bullying is one of the most demeaning, hard-to-cope-with things for children that I can imagine," he said. "I've been in show business a long time and I've worked with bullies and now they're being called out.
"My experience with bullies is if you call them out, they immediately back down. But the damage it can do to a little kid just breaks my heart."
Martin is good at talking business. It's hard to get him to make funny over the phone. Even if you give him some potential straight lines. Though he did reveal a tiny secret after 25 minutes of back-and-forth:
Q: What do you think about extending your record as host of "SNL" (he's done it 15 times, second most to Alec Baldwin's 17) but co-hosting with Short and having Gomez as the musical guest?
A: It's being explored. It's not that Marty and I would host; it's that Selena would host and do it all, and we would guest-star or be in a sketch. We don't have any plans right now. That show is heavily booked.
Q: But you do know "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels (who was best man at Martin's wedding).
A: Well, yes.
Q: One of my favorite lines in "Only Murders" is "embrace the mess." Tell me about the latest mess you embraced.
A: I guess it would be the show. When you start a show, you don't know what it's going to be and you're dealing with 10 scripts that have to tell a story and have everything make sense at the end. The line "embrace the mess" came from the writers. I think it's good advice, rather than to be intimidated by something that seems too big.
Q: What's next musically?
A: Nothing major musically. The next thing I'm working on is with Harry Bliss, the cartoonist. (They collaborated on the 2020 bestseller "A Wealth of Pigeons.") We're going to do another book called "Memories of the Movies." It's my movie-career anecdotes expressed in comic-strip form.
Q: What makes you giddy?
A: I get a lot of laughs from Marty. And I like hanging out with comedians. My child. I keep my daughter in my private life. Every time I get on the phone with Marty something funny happens. I just spoke with him yesterday.
Q: Give me some adjectives to describe the real Steve Martin.
A: I don't even know what an adjective is.
Q: Didn't you go to college?
A: It didn't amount to much.
Q: What happened to the arrows you used to wear on your head in your standup comedy days? (YouTube it.)
A: I don't know where they went. The reason I know, I recently did an inventory and auctioned a lot of memorabilia for charity. I couldn't find an arrow. Strange.
Q: How many did you have?
A: I think I had two. One and a backup. We were kind of primitive back then.
Twitter: @JonBream 612-673-1719
'Only Murders in the Building'
When: Season finale streams Tuesday.
Steve Martin at PACER benefit
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13.
Tickets: $75 and up, pacer.org.