It’s 4:39 a.m. and, unsurprisingly, I’m in my pajamas. But, again, so is Martin Short. It’s 11:39 a.m. in Los Angeles and he’s wearing a white bathrobe lying on what looks like his bed.
“It’s very late for me to be in my bathrobe,” Short said. “But you know, I had to get coffee, I was doing interviews, I was answering emails… But to be honest, I just walked in.”
Where did he go ?
“Going clubbing. So many different clubs.
Short is one of three faces on screen. Steve Martin and Selena Gomez are the other two. Martin is on the other side of the United States, in New York, where it’s a more leisurely 2:39 in the afternoon, while Gomez is in LA (and dressed).
I tell them that my daughter has strict instructions not to get up if she hears me talking. “Bring her in, she can ask questions,” says Martin, who is also fully dressed and seated in his wood-paneled office. Behind him is a large painting by Aboriginal artist Rover Thomas.
The trio have become the hottest property on television with their delightful whodunit Only murders in the building. They play the neighbors of the Arconia, a posh New York apartment building, who band together to investigate the alleged murder of another resident. The problem? They do all of this by recording real-time episodes of their new true-crime podcast, Only Murders in the Building.
Cue an avalanche of jokes (like a bus, if you missed one another was never far behind), a list of guest stars (Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, Amy Ryan, Jane Lynch and even Sting, playing a fictionalized version of himself), a scene-stealing wallpaper, and a thrilling murder mystery that really kept you guessing until the end.
Above all, the show was a great reminder of what comedy superstars Martin and Short are all about. I never knew I missed them together until I saw them together again (let’s just say me, at 10, screaming for having two of the three amigos on my screen). After 35 years of friendship, their chemistry and timing are even easier – Martin’s feigned growl bounces off Short’s ridicule.
“Well, we both make each other laugh,” Short says of their relationship. “It started there and seeped through.”
Martin adds, “When it comes to each other, we’re both very easy going. Like, we never ask ourselves personal questions. For example, Marty, ask me a personal question.
Short: “So Steve, you have a daughter…”
Martin, hands over ears: “Waaaaaaahhhhh!
It’s a blank page, of course.
Short laughs: “No, no, I know everything about him. I think that [our relationship] begins with laughter and we are very close friends. Why does anyone have a friend after several decades? It’s because they like hanging out with them. It’s funny. And Steve is nice. And that’s important.
This Only murders in the building became an instant hit when it premiered last August and became the most-watched comedy on US subscription channel Hulu in the US and on Disney+’s Star Original Channel everywhere else, was no surprise . What was a surprise, however, was how seamlessly Gomez fit in with the two comedy legends.
The 29-year-old was barely a twinkle in her parents’ eyes when Martin, 76, and Short, 72, became friends on the set of their 1986 comedy. Three Amigos! and built a partnership that has lasted across film, television and the stage.
As the millennial resident in the trio, Gomez’s dry delivery cuts through the Boomer nonsense of the other two: neurotic Martin actor Charles-Haden Savage and failed Broadway director Oliver Putnam.
“I was intimidated, for sure,” Gomez says. “I was nervous. I thought maybe I would be a bit off because I wouldn’t get some things.
“And then the moment I met them individually, I felt so much better. Huge relief. They made me feel comfortable. And then from there, we were all really good at working with each other. the others. They asked me questions. I asked them questions. We just have a really good working relationship.
On the other hand, Martin and Short weren’t quite sure who Gomez was: a former Disney child star turned singer who was better known for her love life (Justin Bieber, The Weeknd) and health issues than she was. was for his acting.
“Marty and I didn’t know who Selena was, personally,” Martin says, “She was a pop star. And we didn’t know what that meant. She might be a diva. connect at all, you know. Being able to joke around is a big thing in our life…”
Short jumps: “Yeah, that would be awful to work with someone without a sense of humor. It would be just awful.
Gomez: “Yeah, you gotta have some irony to get you.”
Martin: “Anyway, it was all love at first sight. And it’s been that way ever since.”
On Zoom, the three are as easy with each other as they are on screen. Martin asks Gomez to explain a half “dab” (the dance move that makes it look like you’re blocking out a sneeze), which she does, while Short is playful but more pointed.
To that end, Martin says that Short doesn’t care if people like or dislike his work, whereas Martin is more of a people pleaser. “I don’t think that way,” he told Short. “I hope people really like [what I’m doing] but you have a different attitude to your performance than mine.
Court: “Well, my point of view is symbolized by someone who lives in the real world. And yours is someone who should be living in Bellevue Mental Institution.
Season two of Only murders in the building picks up immediately where the first left off – warning: spoilers ahead – with Gomez’s character Mabel crouching over the bloody body of grumpy Arconia resident Bunny, who was stabbed eight times with one of huge knitting needles from Mabel.
To complicate matters further, the trio are no longer just famous for solving Tim Kono’s death, they are immediately considered suspects in Bunny’s murder. They even have their own suitcase: Olimabel. “The Charles is quiet,” says Oliver.
They’re not just “persons of interest in this case,” as the investigating detective puts it, but people of interest, period.
How they navigate that fame – Mabel wonders if she’s loved for herself and not just for her infamy, Charles is offered a chance to revive his famous TV character ‘Bravos’, while Oliver is busy with navigating his new stalker and neighbor Amy Schumer – forms part of the plot, but otherwise it’s as dashing as ever.
And this is, as much as its stars, the reason for the success of the series: in the era of very chic comedies, either dark (see barry) or tickle rather than cackle (someone somewhere), Only murders in the building deftly balances great laugh-out-loud moments (Oliver’s failed Broadway show Splash! Musical comedy) with a more personal fare (the solitude of Charles).
“I think backstory is a big bogus myth in Hollywood,” Martin jokes. “They say we always have to give them backstory. No, you don’t. Nobody cares.”
Martin co-created the series with showrunner John Hoffman because he was inspired, he said, by The Murder She Wrote. But aside from co-writing the first episode, neither he nor Short are contributing to the scripts. Surely, for two experienced actors, the desire to improvise in certain scenes must be irresistible?
“Ad-libbing on film is very difficult,” says Martin. “Because you have, maybe, three cameras installed, the cameramen must be able to follow you. They need to know where you land, you need to be enlightened. You can have the words or the phrases, but you can’t be too extreme. You don’t want to let the other actors down either, they need to know what you’re going to do.
Gomez: “They’ll also say, ‘Have a free hand.’ So it’s up to us to do what we want, to try a different line.
Court: “Well, with Selena and me, it’s called a freedom hold but when Steve does it, that’s when it’s called a coffin hold.”
The show is filmed in New York City, with the exteriors, courtyard and elevator scenes filmed on location at the Belnord, a grand 1909 apartment building on the Upper West Side, where $4.5 million will buy you a renovated apartment. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the Belnord to the San Remo, the twin-towered Baroque building overlooking Central Park, where Martin lives.
“The only thing missing is the incredible plot,” Martin says of his building. “I don’t think there’s any intrigue in our building, but maybe I don’t know what’s going on.”
As I get the three minute clearance, I try to prank Martin – a serious art collector who counts works by David Hockney, Andy Warhol and many native desert paintings among his works – on the erotic painting that forms part of the plot in the early episodes of season two. Would he pay $1 million for it?
“It’s an Australian Rover Thomas painting,” he replies very seriously, assuming I’m asking about the large painting hanging behind him.
I try again, before cutting short: “She means Bunny’s painting.”
Martin: “Oh, well, my only job as an art collector was to try to make it look like a half-decent painting because a lot of times the paintings on TV shows don’t look like art pieces. “authentic era. It looks like an authentic photo from the 1930s.”
Would you pay a million dollars for this, Steve?
“Well, knowing it’s made for TV…”
Season two of Only Murders in the Building premieres June 28 on Disney+
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