Pauly Shore on Stephen Baldwin, Timothy McVeigh and The Weasel
Yes, yes, we all know him as The Weasel, the speech-impaired, blank-eyed wonderboy who confused parents and enthused Gen X-ers in films like Encino Man, Son in Law and Bio-Dome. But Pauly Shore's revival as a standup comedian is more than just a '90s novelty act: Descended from Mitzi Shore, owner of the iconic Comedy Store in Los Angeles, and mentored by such legendary comics as Sam Kinison, Pauly Shore has comedy credentials that extend far beyond catchphrases like "wheeze the juice" and "what's up baaaahdy?"
We caught up with Pauly Shore in advance of his performances at The Denver Improv this week. And after informing us that his dad, Sammy Shore, an L.A. comic who used to open for Elvis, will be opening for him here, Shore filled us in on what he's been up to over the last couple of decades, chatting about politics, Stephen Baldwin's bizarre descent into money-grubbing evangelism, and how he's come to terms with his past as an Icarus-like superstar.
Westword: I'm curious: What did you make of your Bio-Dome co-star, Steven Baldwin, coming out with his big evangelica, anti-pot, Restore Steven campaign?
Pauly Shore: I haven't heard about that, when did he start this?
A few years ago. He started appearing on cable news coming out against pot legalization. And then he had a big online campaign asking for money to prove the liberal media wrong about . . . something. I believe his campaign said that Steven went broke because the liberal media hates Christians.
We gotta go down there and donate. We gotta restore him, bro. Like the six million dollar man, right?
What do you make of him coming out as anti-pot after starring with you in an iconic drug movie?
I think it's good, because Steven Baldwin, in his personal life, was going down the wrong path. He's an excess guy, he's a guy that needs to have something. So if he's not doing drugs and drinking, this is his new excess. It's good, it's positive -- it's a little extreme, but that's better than the alternative.
It seems like the Weasel character you created was one of the first signs of vintage fashion in the early '90s.
It's interesting. All the old styles end up coming back -- I brought it back, and then it came back again through LMFAO, or whatever. Hip-hop, rock and roll, every style ends up coming back. Look at Ke$ha, she's very '90s.
Where were you shopping at the time when you picked all that up?
My mom's closet.
Speaking of your mom, growing up in The Comedy Store, I assume you were exposed to all levels of good and bad comedy -- did that give you a different perspective on standup than someone who had only watched comics from the crowd would have?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I was four when she started it, so it was the '70s and '80s. So in the seventies you had Redd Foxx, and in the '80s it was Richard Pryor and Sam Kinison, and Dice and Roseanne. And now I'm older looking back on it, and I'm like, fuck, that was crazy.
Were the other comics cynical about you getting into standup considering who your parents were?
They're still cynical about me.
Well, I assume they're cynical about you now for a different reason: You had huge success as a Hollywood star. But I'm wondering if they thought of you as a fortunate son going into comedy when you were a teenager.
Yeah, it's a similar situation with a lot of kids who grow up like that, like Charlie Sheen or Angelina [Jolie], Lenny Kravitz or Nicolas Cage. It's interesting in that when you grow up in those households, you have two obstacles to overcome: the first is just making it, period, and then you go, "Ah shit, how am I going make it being known as so-and-so's son or nephew?" You know what I mean? And those obstacles make you work twice as hard.
But you did carve out something unique for yourself that extended beyond the Comedy Store. How much of The Weasel character was just your imagination, or was a reflection of a kind of L.A. culture in the early '90s?
It was something I was already doing, but it kind of developed on MTV. Different friends and comedians would call me a weasel, but they would never say "wee . . . zell," like that. That was something that accidentally happened on my show Totally Pauly. The words all kind of happened organically on the show.
You were just making them up on the spot?
Yeah. The first word I was fucking around with was "major." So it was like, "Check out this video it's gonna be may . . . jer." And then I started pausing all my words. It just kind of happened, but it happened organically, it wasn't like I sat in a room thinking, "Okay, how am I going to come up with something?" And when we watched the tape back of the first episode of Totally Pauly we were all laughing, because it was so silly and retarded. Accidentally, not purposefully.
But you were creating a character that was different from every-day Pauly Shore.
No, that was kind of who I was. It wasn't like I dressed like that only on-camera; that was how I dressed all the time. I used to drive around in my purple jeep with my cut-off shorts and boots, handing people my headshot.
After that took off, it seems like you were marketed was as a cultural counterpoint to older, suburban or rural people. The whole idea of Weasel was that he didn't make sense to old people.
My opening joke that I had when I first came out was "I know you people are looking at me thinking, 'Didn't we leave him at home?' But you better get used to me bro, because I'm the future of America. You're going to go take a driving test and be offered English, Spanish or Dude."
Was it a conscious choice to distance yourself from The Weasel after Encino Man and Son in Law? Your characters in Bio-Dome and In The Army Now seem like you turned down the volume on the cartoonishness of it all.
The character of The Weasel didn't make sense in those particular films. It wouldn't make sense in In The Army Now for me to go "hey brah, ooh OOH!" It was more of a leading-man character, like Tom Hanks or Bill Murray. In Bio-Dome it was more of an over-the-top, Beavis and Butthead-type thing.
Has Denver been on your radar for standup comedy?
Denver and San Francisco have always had really cool comedy scenes, and I'm happy that it's there, but you can be a good comedian from Pittsburgh, so it doesn't really matter where you're from.
Didn't Timothy McVeigh go to court there?
I was there. I saw him.
Well let's talk a little bit about your Showtime special, Paulytics. You interviewed some pretty interesting people during the election: Barney Frank, Michael Steele, Herman Cain. Were they cynical about being interviewed by The Weasel, or were they open to it?
Of course they were open to it. They sat down with me. They were cool. If they were cynical and weird about it, they wouldn't have agreed to do the interview.
In an interview, you said a big influence on Paulytics was Bill Maher. I'm wondering if you caught his bit in 2010 talking about government regulation-cutting jobs, and that being okay -- referencing deep-water oil drilling and the BP spill, saying, "Pauly Shore used to have a job making movies, and now he doesn't, that's not necessarily a bad thing."
We both love each other. We're old friends. That's like Letterman saying something about me. I think you jab people that you like. He's awesome. It's like with the Jeff Ross roasts. It's good, you gotta do that. It's fair game.
In an interview on Alec Baldwin's podcast, Andrew McCarthy recently spoke on his efforts redefining himself as an adult actor, when everyone associated him not only with his own youth, but with coming-of-age films for young people. It seems similar to your arc, with The Weasel being known as the identity of young people on MTV. How are you dealing with redefining your public image as an adult actor?
I think David Spade once said, "You work your whole career trying to come up with something, and then you spend the rest of your career trying to get away from that thing." I'm at this point where I'm really embracing my past. There was a time when I did Pauly Shore Is Dead, where I was . . . I don't want to say bitter, but I was tired. Burnt. Some of it had to do with the career slowing down, but a lot of it was just that I was growing up, and I didn't know how to grow up.
When I was in my twenties, life was just a Motley Crue party, know what I mean? Girls, Girls, Girls. And then I got older and I felt like my skin was shedding; I grew out of it, whether the cameras were in front of me or not. These days I'm so much more interested in staying in and getting sleep than I am going out and getting drunk. Not that I don't want to, but my body just says "don't." I'd love to go out and get laid and drunk, but my body says no, relax.
Are these the types of subjects that you address in your standup act? The new, older Pauly Shore -- he's not The Weasel anymore.
I think my new standup is more autobiographical. Everyone comes to the show having seen me in Son in Law and Bio-Dome, and they don't know my past before that. Probably about 50 percent of them don't know that my mom owns The Store, and my dad's a comedian and Sam Kinison babysat me. So that's where my comedy's at, it's entering the next phase. Sort of like how Mike Tyson has a one-man show. It's like that -- I'm talking about my pre-Weasel childhood.
At that time you were around such an excess of drugs and booze, many of those characters either dying off or getting clean, but you're not known for being a fucked-up celebrity in and out of court and rehab. In fact, that reminds me of your part in the Kid 'n Play movie Class Act, where you're an anti-drug advocate.
I'm actually pretty PG-13, believe it or not. My standup's a little lewd, but I'm America. I'm almost the stoner version of Larry The Cable Guy, you know? Son in Law really identified my audience.
But it's not too associated with drugs, despite the impaired speech. Was it being around all that as a kid that turned you off of drugs?
If you look at my Twitter, it says "dance with the devil, don't become the devil." That's something I came up with a long time ago. Like, it's okay get fucked up, just don't become the person that's fucked up.
But you were dabbling in drugs a little bit at that time.
Sure. Of course.
But it never got out of hand?
Not really. Mostly with chicks it got a little out of hand. I was just so into it, I was in my twenties. It became important for me to meet girls after my shows, important for me to go on the road and meet girls. And then going up to the Playboy Mansion and meeting hot chicks -- I used to jerk off to Playboy, and then I was jerking onto Playboy girls, it was pretty cool.
Pauly Shore will be performing at The Denver Improv February 22 through February 24. Tickets are $24. Click here for more information.
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