The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Dead venues don’t wear plaid


By Tessa Solomon

[email protected]

Comedy legends Steve Martin and Martin Short have titled their tour — a cross-country trek that has the duo strumming banjos and hurling snappy one-liners — “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life.”

The staff of the new Hancher Auditorium, and the 1,800 ticket holders of the sold-out show, might have to disagree with that cheeky title.

“This particular show will be a special memory for everyone that attends,” Hancher Director of Marketing and Communications Rob Cline said.

For more than a year, Hancher staff members have worked and figured out logistics behind the scenes to bring the two greats to Iowa City. All that work is about to pay off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, when Martin and Short will usher in this year’s grand opening season.

“There was a sense of relief [when we finally booked them],” Hancher Executive Director Charles Swanson said. “We didn’t have a good second choice; this is what we were determined to have open Hancher’s season. As we get closer, though, it’s hard to believe it’s happening, that it’s almost here.”

It was no unexpected phenomenon when the long-anticipated gala event sold out to the general public in six minutes.

“Women have said they had their dresses picked out two years ago for this,” Swanson said.

The lucky attendees will be entertained with a medley of standup comedy, absurdist sketches (on tour, Short has been known to assume the role of the gun-slinging cowgirl featured in one of Martin’s ballads), and rousing segments of bluegrass played by the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers, who contributed to Martin’s Grammy Award-winning 2013 album with Edie Brickell, Love Has Come for You.

“For the season’s very first performance, a music element was so critical. Music is a part of our history and a part of our future,” Swanson said.

The now-iconic comedic actor was first recognized for his off-beat stand up comedy — Elvis Presley famously complimented a young Martin on his “very oblique sense of humor” — but Martin strayed from standup pursuits in the 1980s, establishing himself as a talented writer and producer.

“We wanted an artist who would represent the interdisciplinary Hancher but also someone whose ego would not be challenged by us paying attention to the new building,” Swanson said.

Inflated egos do not seem to be an issue with Short and Martin, who regularly rib each other in interviews and on stage. The frenetic energy of Short — an esteemed comedian and writer in his own right, known for his roles on “Saturday Night Live,” “Second City Television,” and in the Broadway revival of Little Men, for which he won a Tony — seems the perfect on-stage counterpart to Martin’s blunt delivery.

“We’ll always be proud to say who opened Hancher,” Swanson said. “They’re part of the Hancher history books now.”

To the members of Hancher, though, the historic nature of Saturday reaches far beyond the booking of the two comedy legends, as significant as that accomplishment may be. Rather, the show represents an institution finally healed from wounds inflicted by 2008’s devastating flood and ready to once again foster an elite cultural environment in Iowa City’s community.

“I think we are trying to avoid Saturday being the be-all,-end-all of Hancher,” Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow said. “The whole season defines Hancher; one show alone can’t speak to what we are.”

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