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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 2:04 am | Fair 50º


Gerald Carpenter: The Martins to Bring Comedic Magic to The Bowl

Steve Martin and Martin Short, surely there is no need to identify them in more detail, with special guests, The All Male Bluegrass Boys — who cannot, for any practical purpose, be identified — will play a one-night stand at 7:30 p.m. this Sunday, Aug. 14, at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Billed as “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life,” the show will include stand-up, film clips, musical numbers and conversations about their lives in show business.

It will be interesting to see how Martin and Short — both of them on the short list for the funniest man alive — will work together on the same stage, in real time, being, as opposed to playing, themselves.

For all the superficial similarity of their career paths (university stand-up and sketch comedy television movies, always with music somewhere), they have evolved into diametrical opposites as performers.

As a comedian, sketch artist and actor, Martin has always based his characters on a version — fanciful or otherwise — of himself, on the irreducible matrix of his hair, his face, his mask-like smile and his athelete’s body. I don’t suggest that this is a limitation.

All the memorable screen actors, comic or serious, have reassured their audiences by maintaining, unchanged, a recognizable set of features, which they put at the service of whatever story they are involved in.

Martin’s range is actually wider than many stars. “[Jimmy] Stewart could never play a murderer,” said Alfred Hitchcock.

Martin’s character, in The Spanish Prisoner could very well encompass a murder or two — light years away from the cardboard con man he played in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels — without a fundamental change in his core nature; he’s just another way for Martin to have turned out.

And if you have seen All of Me, you know he can do physical comedy that is hallucinogenic in its hilarious intensity.

It’s very exciting to watch an actor bust out of the ghetto into which he has been typecast, the way Keith Carradine became a suave and dangerous adult in Choose Me, the way Bruce Dern shed his psycho squint to become a laid-back ironic cowboy in Posse.

In the same way, Martin became a mature and valuable screen presence in films like Roxanne, L.A. Story, Grand Canyon, A Simple Twist of Fate and The Spanish Prisoner without losing the flawless comic timing that made him such a box office draw.

Short, on the other hand, is a brilliant chameleon, with more faces than Lon Chaney.

Some of his characters — the anxious, hyper-articulate geek Ed Grimley comes to mind — are clearly based on fun-house mirror recollections of his own adolescence.

Others, the Roy Cohn-esque lawyer, Nathan Thurm, for instance, are derived with uncanny accuracy from historical figures.

In one sketch, he conflated closely observed impressions of Jerry Lewis and Robert Duvall for a parody called “Tender Fella.”

In another, he took Montgomery Clift’s stuttering, mentally defective witness in Judgment at Nuremberg and made him the central character in a 1950s sitcom.

As for the fawning yet abusive celebrity interviewer, Jiminy Glick, who looks and moves like a cross between Chris Christie and the Automatic Pilot in Airplane! — well, don’t get me started.

Tickets to Steve Martin and Martin Short range from $55-$130 and the can be purchased at the Santa Barbara Bowl’s box office, by phone at 805.962.7411 or online at here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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