Interview: Comedian Pauly Shore at Columbus Circle

Here’s what I wrote for Playboy’s “The Smoking Jacket”:

IF YOU HAD CABLE TV AT ANY POINT IN THE 90s, Pauly Shore was in your home. Working as an MTV host, Shore was known as “The Weasel,” and he was something of a cross between Stephen Tyler and a tipsy Muppet. His career launched a barrage of feature comedy films including Encino Man, Son in Law, The Goofy Movie, Bio-dome, In the Army Now, and Jury Duty, among others.

In the following lull, Shore’s projects are more amorphous and experimental. Still, the familiar character continues paddling to catch his next wave. Over the past few years, he’s made a slight comeback with a recurring role in HBO’s Entourage, hosting comedy specials, touring comedy clubs, and directing his own independent films.

Now, more man than weasel, Shore has a new made-for-TV movie, Whisky Business, coming out on CMT.

The movie is a hattrick, with Shore spoofing Jersey Shore bros, shoddily wrapped in mafia genre, and shoved in the moonshining South. I imagine that there, in Whereversville, Somethingahassee (I have no idea), Shore’s character earns the favor of the townspeople by mashing produce into their moonshine and introducing their unsophisticated taste buds and livers to the exciting world of fruity mixed drinks, spray tans, blow outs, fades, and nightclubs. In the end, the townspeople all wind up a little more relaxed and open minded. Even the harsh conservative guy who can’t stand him warms up. I can only assume this is how the 2-hour film plays out, because I couldn’t watch more than 20 minutes of it.

I caught up with an unexpectedly thoughtful Pauly Shore on a vacant bike carriage at Columbus Circle, Central Park, to take a look back on the 90s, find out where he’s been, and why country music fans have ‘wood’ for him. What I discovered was a man comfortable with his identity, sincerely passionate about his work, and extraordinarily caring of his fans.

Selections from our conversation are below.

The Smoking Jacket: Hey Pauly, I’m Matt De Vlieger.

Pauly Shore: Hi Matt De Vlieger.

TSJ: I’m interviewing you for The Smoking Jacket today.

PS: Cool. Cool.

TSJ: How’s everything been going?

PS: It’s been cool. It’s nice to still be in the business I guess, 20 or so years later. (Pauly becomes distracted by several people walking by.) You’re interesting to look at, but you’re not as bizarre as these people walking by.

TSJ: Thank you, I appreciate it. Bizarre looks are something you’re familiar with. Speaking of which, I know you from MTV growing up, on television almost every day, for quite a while.

PS: You were probably really little when my show came out.

TSJ: Probably, yeah.

PS: A little baby. How old are you?

TSJ: I was born in 84…27.

PS: My show came out in the 90s.

TSJ: You were doing something where you were out on the street, just talking to people, being yourself at every major event. What was it like to have such an awesome job?

PS: Um, that’s a good question. I didn’t look at it as a job; I looked at it as a party. You know… let’s go over here and fuck with these people and just have fun. In a nice way though, not in a mean spirited way. My stuff was never mean spirited. You watch guys like Sacha Baron Cohen right now, who to me is a genius…like he’s really funny but his stuff is harsh. You know what I mean? My stuff isn’t harsh. My stuff comes from more of a real place.

TSJ: Well, he puts himself out as a character. He’s not going out as Sasha Baron Cohen (Bruno, Borat, Ali G., etc.). So that brings up a question for me and your character. What was Weasel? Who is Weasel? What is Weasel?

PS: It’s kinda like who I was, like back in the day. Now, I’m just stripped down Pauly, where it’s still the same guy, but it’s not, you know what I mean, it’s not like [Pauly curls his had toward the camera, looks into it and caws like a timid crow], you know, before it was more like that. When I first started out, it was more like that. Now, it’s like just a boring guy, I guess.

TSJ: Oh. Come on. But Weasel? Where did it come from?

PS: It was just something that kinda developed on MTV, ya know, the pausing between words… it almost happened by accident. You know, I think the first word that I said was major.

TSJ: Mayyyyyyjor?

PS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah… I was introducing a video on MTV,” and check it out, Rock the Cradle of Love by Billy Idol, cause it’s gonna be ma-jorrrr.” That was the first one and then I started pausing between “bu-uddy”, “grin-dage”, and it just started flowing and then my rhythm just kinda got more comfortable and my style just kinda created on MTV, you know?

TSJ: So, like, you’re pretty much a linguistic genius. You’re like the Noam Chomsky of MTV, in a way. So, what was your favorite word that you came up with? I mean, there were plenty of them.

PS: I don’t know. “Check out the wood you cre-ate-ed” was pretty cool, or “what’s up, bud-dy”, and “weezin’ tha ju-uice.”

TSJ: When people stop you, what do they say?

PS: I don’t know. They smile, because you know… I touch them.

TSJ: Just stop there–you touch them.

PS: Yeah, I touch them, you know, in some way, with the stuff that I’ve done. I’m very fortunate that my stuff, that the people who do know who I am, it’s all races, all ages, all styles… I’m lucky my style was able to be all styles. Which is weird about my movie right here that we’re promoting…people are like, “why the hell are you on the country music channel? Do you know any country songs?” I’m like, “no.” They’re like, “what the hell are you doing on our channel?” I’m like, “my style fits the mid-west.” That’s kinda weird right?

You’re like the Noam Chomsky of MTV.
TSJ: Do you think it’s based on Son in Law?

PS: I think definitely, it surrounds Son in Law, but, again, my style is very free and having a good time and people in the South and the Midwest, they don’t care. You know what I mean? Everyone sits on their porches, or they go to the Wal-Marts, or they go to wherever they go and they fuck around, and they drink their beer and they got their mullets.

TSJ: It’s a little unpretentious.

PS: They just don’t care, you know? And that’s the style that they relate to that I had.

TSJ: You must’ve seen a lot in Comedy Clubs, you grew up in Comedy Clubs. Were you around it every day?

PS: Well, since I was four. My mom’s, like a legend in the comedy business, Mitzi Shore. She started the Comedy Store with my dad, back in the early 70s. My parents divorced and my mom got the club, and she is like the Mother Theresa of comedy. She’s seen it all and she developed all these different comedians in the 70s and 80s.

TSJ: How much of that is a part of you? It seems like something you can’t separate.

PS: Yeah, it is and it isn’t. It’s interesting…I think it’s 50/50. It’s my roots but it’s not who I am, you know? Who I am is pretty much what people know, like the movies, MTV, all that stuff, you know?

TSJ: But you’re a comedy person. Comedy’s you’re life. You’re a comedian.

PS: Yeah, that’s part of the reason why I don’t have a girlfriend, wife, kids, because you can’t really successfully have that if you’re always traveling… women need attention, guys need attention. Unless I find someone really cool.

TSJ: But there are benefits of being single also. You’ve plucked the fruits of that, right?

PS: No, never.

TSJ: I mean, I’ve heard you talking about hanging out at the Playboy Mansion…Howard Stern is in awe of your sex life…

PS: Yeah, he likes that stuff. I think he likes my honesty.

TSJ: What was your favorite movie to work on?

PS: Studio films, I’d have to say… I mean Son in Law was cool because it was one of those films that took me from the MTV kind of kid audience to mainstream. I toured all over the world with that film. Disney flew me to Australia and Japan and that was really cool. As far as my indie films, I really loved Adopted because I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Did you see it? I mean, it’s insane.

TSJ: Yeah. It’s interesting because you took on a social, cultural issue, because you took on a trend that’s going on in celebrity world–adopting children from Africa and why they do it. What were you trying to get out of that film?

PS: Every movie, there has to be a story. The story had to come from me, as a guy who is older now, wants to have kids, cause I’m with my niece and nephew and that’s kinda what motivates me to have a kid. Then I say, I’m not married and I don’t have kids, where’s all the other celebrities adopting kids? The fuck, Africa! So that motivates me to go to Africa…so I really go over there and really kinda go through the process, but everything is set up. It’s fake.

TSJ: I was wondering, you’re calling the kids “my son” and encouraging them. Does the kid think he’s going to get adopted by the end?

PS: No, they’re all actors. I wouldn’t do that for real. That would be terrible.

TSJ: Yeah. Phew!

PS: And then Pauly Shore is dead is basically me saying to myself, after I accomplished that, I can do anything because that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. That was really hard to do, because emotionally, I invested everything into it. I invested my finances…never directing before…just everything. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. It was just like a tight rope. I was just bungee jumping. I just said fuck it and it was like freedom for me. It cost me a lot of money. I made the money back, but it’s not like I made money-money off it. Like I took a big chance. It was also at the time when the DVD world was really popular and the DVD world’s pretty much dead right now. So now I would never put my own money into something like that.

TSJ: What was your goal with that?

PS: To make a good movie. I’m really proud of it, and I think it’s a good movie, and I think it’s funnier than shit. I mean, if you haven’t seen it, it’s fucking insane.

TSJ: Is Pauly Shore dead? What are you doing now?

PS: I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done. I’m just not someone who has millions of millions of dollars behind me. I kinda do my own thing, touring, and I’m still in front of the camera, the cameras just keep getting smaller.

TSJ: That’s just technology. Things keep getting smaller.

PS: My next thing that I am doing is Paulytics and that’s gonna be Pauly Shore goes to Washington. That’s going to come out near the election on Showtime. I’m going to be, again, going outside my comfort zone, because you’re not going to expect me going on stage, telling jokes about politics. It’s going to be hard, especially for me, because I rely so much on telling jokes about vagina, or girls or fucking with my career.

TSJ: You were the god of spring break for maybe 10 years. What are some of your best memories of Spring Break?

PS: No memories! It was interesting because when I first hit MTV, it was me and Christian Slater in my hotel room. No one knew us. They really weren’t putting us on camera and then like two years later, we were like the man there. So I have had several thoughts about Spring Break. First one, I was like, look at all the crazy people and they were pushing me away. Then, like 2 years later, all the crazy people were like “yo, bro!”

TSJ: Can I ask you this? How did you make the 90s look so awesome?

PS: I don’t know. I just hit the nerve I guess.

TSJ: Were they awesome?

PS: Yeah…and it was before the Internet. I think the Internet fucked everything up to be honest. I mean, think about this, when was the last time you downloaded porn and paid for it? Never. But that’s terrible. What about these poor porn stars? They need to get paid too. You know, people take movies, clips; everything is on these fucking phones. I think there should be a holiday, Throw the Blackberry/IPhone Off the Bridge Day. I think that’s the problem, that we’re too connected to the Internet and social media and I think it’s fucked everything up. Obviously it’s really good, but I also think it’s really fucked up.

TSJ: In what ways do you think we, or the youth generation, have changed in the last few years.

PS: I think people are more stressed. People are thinking more, instead of being. People are more caught up, instead of being like that. I mean, my emails down right now and I’m going crazy. That’s fucking retarded, but that’s the world we live in.

TSJ: Is there any comic from your youth that particularly influenced you?

PS: Yeah… George Carlin to me was a fucking genius. I mean he wasn’t even a comedian. He was more like…

TSJ: A philosopher or a prophet.

PS: Yeah. But that was like funny on top of it. And then obviously, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, I liked Dice when he first started. They all started with my mom. This is the 40-year anniversary of the Comedy Store, so yeah man. They all kinda changed my diapers in some way or another. Yeah, it was a cool time. It was the 70s and 80s.

TSJ: Those were the days.

PS: Yeah, the days are now though too, man. The days are now though too…When I first started I had people I looked up to too and if you guys look up to me or whoever else, just be inspired, you know. You don’t have to be inspired by comedians. You have to be inspired by things that are real, whether it’s music, comedy…a movie–that should inspire you.

TSJ: Anything else you want to share before we wrap it up?

PS: I wanna get a bigger gay audience. That’s my one thing. So if there’s any gay people, come see me bro! What the fuck?


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