During the monologue for the premier episode, Maya & Marty, co-hosts Maya Rudolph and Martin Short trade some canned banter about how weird and ill-fitting their show is. They’re joking of course, but their feigned confusion about what kind of show Maya & Marty is supposed to be will be shared by viewers as well. Is Maya & Marty a spoof on the variety show genre? Is it a spin-off from Saturday Night Live (both Rudolph and Short are alum of SNL)? And another question raised is why?
The last question is the biggest one because the existence of Maya & Martin is a bit of a head-scratcher. Two years ago, Rudolph headlined a one-off special, The Maya Rudolph Show, which was a pleasant summer show that showed off the comedienne’s brilliance well. But it felt like one of those TV specials that were so popular in the 1970s: a bright, charismatic celebrity stars in a series of sketches and musical numbers, and greets her famous celebrity pals who join in.
And due to the shared good will of the two stars (not to mention their long lists of contacts on their phones), Maya & Marty boast big-named guests like Kenan Thompson, Jimmy Fallon, Larry David, Tom Hanks, Miley Cyrus, Savion Glover, Kate McKinnon, and even SNL scribes John Mulaney and Mikey Day are on board as writers for the show. Given that Rudolph and Short have a shared history of SNL, and Lorne Michaels is the producer on the show, it’s not a surprise that the whole thing feels and looks like a weird bizzaro episode of Saturday Night Live, in which Short and Rudolph are guest hosting, and they receive all of the rejected sketches. Unfortunately, save for a few bright spots, and the always-reliable talent of the hosts, Maya & Marty feels like a dud.
Few of the evening’s sketches worked all that well – the ones that did, predictably relied on the superior talents of Martin and Rudolph. Two highlights of the night include the return of Short’s Jiminy Glick, whose interview-victim is Larry David and Rudolph’s hilariously cruel send-up of Melania Trump. What works about these two sketches is that the writing matches the talent. Short’s Glick character is always a welcome needle to deflate Hollywood sycophancy, while Rudolph’s sketch lets the comic show off her incredibly versatile talent. It feels as if the writers committed to writing two great sketches and then let the rest of the show just go blah.
In between the ho-hum comedy, Miley Cyrus stops by in Dietrich drag to warble Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” before being joined on stage with Rudolph to belt out the torchy standard “I’m a Woman.” And Savion Glover’s show-closing tap dancing routine with the troupe from the Broadway show Shuffle Along outclasses Maya & Martin (a few moments earlier, we watched Rudolph pretend to be a skanky rabbit peeing on someone’s lawn).
Look, I wanted to like Maya & Marty, after all, Maya Rudolph and Martin Short are wonderful talents. But the show is a strange and weird showcase for them, and it’s unclear if the show can improve on its shaky premier. Both Rudolph and Short are brilliant sketch comics, so Maya & Marty should’ve been a no brainer – and, as proven in the Jiminy Glick and Melanie Trump sketch, if the pair is given good writing, they can work their usual magic. Hopefully, the writing improves, as it looks as if the folks on Maya & Marty are having a ball producing the show – and it’d be shame to put a stop to their fun.