Steve Martin and Martin Short Reflect on 36 Years of Friendship and Laughter

The Only Murders in the Building costars and Emmy nominees are telling PEOPLE exclusively all about their special bond — and why they're not slowing down

Steve Martin and Martin Short are one of comedy's most dynamic duos — both on and off the screen.

Throughout working on countless projects together and embarking on joint comedy tours, the two veteran actors — who just received Emmy nominations for their roles on Hulu's Only Murders in the Building — they've maintained a close bond. But they wouldn't be where they are today if they hadn't met decades ago while working on 1986's Three Amigos!

"We were on the set of Three Amigos!, and he did something, and I just had this feeling like, 'That,' Martin, 76, says of his first impression of Short, 72, in this week's PEOPLE cover story. "As a comedian, you appreciate people who are funny, and he just had it."

Steve Martin and Martin Short cover rollout

"The three of us had so much fun in the movie and we did make a conscious effort to keep up with each other," Short shares of the 1986 comedy, which also starred Chevy Chase.

"Often, you make a film and you never see the other actors again," he continues. "We were having dinners and vacationing together right away, and then [Steve and I] made three other films together."

For more on PEOPLE's cover story with Steve Martin and Martin Short, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

Today, "there's just an ease between us," says Martin. "Sometimes, I'll hang out with Marty and I'll realize I haven't laughed that hard in two months. And that just feels great."

Adds Short: "You have a perspective at this age that it's not forever. So to feel great and healthy and have loved ones around you, you appreciate it."

And that includes working together on Only Murders in the Building — and the show's unanticipated success (which includes a total of 17 Emmy nominations).

Steve Martin and Martin Short cover rollout

"I don't think you ever really expect it, so it's a nice surprise when it happens," says Martin, who is a co-creator on the show. "I am thrilled to be in an undeniable hit show—and to be working with my friend that I would hang out with anyway."

Says Short: "It's not like it's a hit that we think is for the kids and have to pretend we think it's great. We love this. If you came to set you would see a very loose, happy [atmosphere]. Before you approach, you'd hear laughter first, and that's including Selena [Gomez, their costar]. We all like to work with such a joyful exuberance."

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Martin and Short — who've spent countless hours on screen solving murders, saving small towns and planning weddings, baby showers and reunions — focus on quality time over quantity when their individual lives converge. And sometimes that means no words are necessary at all.

"The truth is, we don't spend that much time together. When we're working, we do, but we might not talk for a while. We don't talk every day on the phone," says Martin.

"Even when we do talk on the phone, I'm not often listening," Short quips.

Martin adds, "I know, there are a lot of long silences."

Steve Martin and Martin Short cover rollout

As for what's next for the iconic pair? "We'll probably do our live show until we drop," Martin predicts.

"I'm excited to do another season [of Only Murders in the Building]," Short adds. (The show has been renewed for a third season.) "And if the show came to an end, I would go, 'Okay, what's next?'"

Martin also has another book in the works, "a cartoon memoir," he says, coming out in the fall.

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Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building is currently streaming on Hulu.

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