Martin Short offered an amusing assessment of Friday’s show with his fellow comedian Steve Martin and the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers at the Midland theater: “Hanging out with Steve is like the movie ‘Deliverance’— it’s all fun and games until the banjos come out.”
Self-congratulatory excesses rather than a handful of musical interludes were the low points of the largely entertaining evening. The concert was riveting when Short and Martin traded barbs and when Steep Canyon Rangers showcased its musical prowess. Lulls occurred when the comics basked in past glories.
A video recapping the career highlights of Short and Martin preceded the sold-out show for an audience of about 1,500. It included footage of both men’s stints in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” and their starring roles in successful comedies including “Three Amigos!”
The tour is titled “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” but Short suggested that “Steve and I call this show ‘If We Saved We Wouldn’t Be Here.’ ”
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The comics came out swinging with barrage of put-downs and insults. Martin’s first joke set the tone: “I’m really happy to be here in Kansas City because Grain Valley is a little too fast for me.” Short belittled the pigment-challenged Martin by saying that “you look like someone put a white toupee on a urinal.” In the guise of the unreliable celebrity journalist Jiminy Glick, Short later mercilessly savaged leading politicians.
In an unappealing portion of the show, Short and Martin lounged in chairs as they gossiped about their interactions with celebrities and their career highlights. The immodest reminisces were neither funny nor compelling. A video of a Martin routine on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” was even less welcome.
Short made up for these lapses with a mirthful segment in which he spoofed lounge singers and misguided theatrical productions with bawdy slapstick humor. He also masqueraded as a bagpipe in a gag that Martin said was “one of the strangest bits I’ve ever seen.”
Martin demonstrated his proficiency on banjo with the accomplished North Carolina band Steep Canyon Rangers. A captivating reading of “Knob Creek” indicated that the group merited more time in the spotlight.
Martin deadpanned that he was offended by a sign at the venue picturing he and Short that was emblazoned with the words “sold out.” “How rude!” Martin exclaimed. Friday’s show revealed that rudeness becomes the comedians.
Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag