Pauly Shore has comedy in his blood. His father, Sammy Shore, was a stand-up comic who toured extensively as Elvis Presley’s opening act. Shore’s mother, Mitzi, ruled the legendary Los Angeles club The Comedy Store at the height of its influence, a gig that arguably made her the most powerful woman in comedy at the time. She had the power to make or break struggling comedians, and gave crucial shots to a veritable who’s who of stand-up legends, like Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, and many more.
So it’s no surprise that Shore took to comedy from an early age. He honed his loose, goofy, slangy “Weasel” persona as the host of MTV’s Totally Pauly before starring in a series of high-profile vehicles throughout the ’90s, including Encino Man, In The Army Now, Jury Duty, and Bio-Dome. After the commercial failure of Bio-Dome, Shore starred in the ill-fated sitcom Pauly before moving on to voiceover work and bit parts in independent film. In 2003, he riffed self-deprecatingly on his persona by writing, directing, and starring in Pauly Shore Is Dead. And he similarly goofs on his playboy, party-hearty reputation in his latest directorial endeavor, Adopted, a mockumentary in which he plays himself going to Africa to adopt a child, à la Madonna and Angelina Jolie. The A.V. Club recently spoke with Shore about whether it was God’s divine plan that he star in Bio-Dome.
The A.V. Club: How did Adopted come about?
Pauly Shore: I was on my way to South Africa to perform and do shows. I became very friendly with the promoter of my stand-up concerts down there. We started talking on e-mail. He started saying I was selling tickets down there. I said, “Let’s do a film. Let’s come up with something.” Then when I got down there, my little wheels started turning in my head, and I came up with this concept. And I storyboarded it in my hotel room, and kind of approached it like any other film. We cast it and location-scouted it and got the paperwork and paid people and rode that line between docu- and mocku-world, trying to keep it as real as possible. So people really think, you know, I’m adopting a child.
AVC: Were the films of Sacha Baron Cohen an inspiration?
PS: No, actually. I actually did my movie before his movie, but because mine was an independent film, it took a longer time.
AVC: Before Borat?
PS: Before Bruno. Because he adopted the black baby in Bruno, right?
AVC: Right. I was just thinking in terms of—
PS: Well I’ve been around as long as this guy’s been around. He’s brilliant. He does some great, great stuff with his characters. But I usually play myself, you know.
AVC: On what level are you ultimately playing yourself?
PS: I would say just my name, you know what I mean? I’m not really going to Africa to adopt an African child. I really don’t go out every night to red-carpet events. I don’t go out with 20-year-olds, and partying every night, and da da da da. It stems from kind of the perception or persona that people might have of me. So at the end of the day, you’re doing a movie for entertainment. So you have to set up a character of a guy who’s out of his mind that you don’t want to give a kid to. So I had to set that up at the beginning. I’m looking for love. I have no family. I pop over there in Africa, and the social worker is really looking at me high and low like, “We’re not giving this guy a kid.”
AVC: You played at the Gathering Of The Juggalos last year. How was that?
PS: It was rough. It’s not the best crowd to perform in front of if you’re going to actually tell jokes and try to do material. It’s pretty cool if you’re going to go hang out and go party with them. It was a pretty cool—like, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, have you ever been to it?
AVC: No, but I am kind of fascinated with that whole phenomenon, so I think it’d be surreal to get such a concentrated dose of it.
PS: Whatever you think it is, it’s a zillion times more. It’s really bizarre. You couldn’t imagine, because literally you’re driving in the middle of nowhere. You’re yelling at the person that’s driving you, “You’re fucking lost. Where the fuck are you taking me?” And all of the sudden, out of nowhere, it’s like Close Encounters Of The Fifth Kind, where there’s lights everywhere and people are walking around crazy. And I’m like, “How did they get all this electricity here,” you know?
AVC: It’s like Woodstock.
PS: Yeah, it’s Woodstock for the Insane Clown Posse. But it was cool. People were really cool and chill. Everyone was really positive. It’s weird, because at that event, you see all these people and they look crazy, but there’s nothing but love. There’s no fighting. There’s never been a fight. They just don’t fight.
AVC: Did Violent J or Shaggy 2 Dope contact you directly?
PS: Someone from their camp did.
AVC: Do you think you would be in comedy if you hadn’t come from such a prominent comedy family?
PS: Absolutely not. I don’t think any of us would be who we are if our parents weren’t who they were. People that are in show business, and their parents are not in show business, their parents probably motivated them to get in show business. They probably grew up in these shitty towns, going, “This sucks. I’ve got to get the hell out of here.” But for me, I grew up and I had brothers and sisters who are not in it, even though they grew up in it. It’s in my blood to tour. It’s in my blood to get on the road. It’s in my blood to go onstage. It’s just kind of like—I’m an artist. I have to continuously do my stuff.
AVC: What was your first exposure to stand-up comedy?
PS: My first time onstage was in the ’80s.
AVC: Right, but what was the first time you were cognizant of, “This is what my mother and my father do.”
PS: Oh. When I was a kid. When I was like 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
AVC: Did you realize at that point that you were in a unique situation?
PS: No, not at all. I just thought it was just normal. When you’re a kid, all you really care about are Slurpees and Slip N Slide and riding your bike, and that’s what I did. But when you get older, you look back, and you’re like, “Holy shit, how the fuck am I still alive?”
AVC: How so?
PS: Well, because I grew up in a comedy club, raised by Sam Kinison and Richard Pryor and Garry Shandling and Roseanne Barr, and all these people that are very kind of crazy. And my mom wasn’t there, and she gave me to the comedians, and my dad was out on the road, and I had no parental supervision.
AVC: How were your first experiences doing stand-up in the ’80s?
PS: Well the first time I went on, I did really well, and after that, I did really bad. It was one of those things where I thought I had it, and after I did it, I was like, “Oh shit, this isn’t as easy as I thought.” Ever since then, the last 20 to 25 years, it’s really been about trying to go about getting real onstage, and trying to relate to your audience. When you’re onstage, it’s important to try and feel some type of therapy in getting the material out, because then you don’t leave the stage so tired. If you’re onstage and you’re doing the same routine over and over, then it gets monotonous. You want to be able to try to get to the truth constantly, and I think the more you do that, the easier it is.
AVC: When you started out, were you doing the Weasel character, or did it evolve?
PS: Yeah, it evolved. It was kind of who I was. It wasn’t like a Pee-wee Herman thing, where I put on the outfit and then I’m someone else. That’s how I dressed. That’s how I acted, and that’s how I evolved on MTV. I really dressed and acted like that, and drove around in a purple jeep, and all that stuff.
AVC: So you were being yourself, an exaggerated version of yourself.
PS: Exactly, exactly, exactly.
AVC: You were on My Super Sweet 16?
PS: I guess, yeah. That wasn’t planned.
AVC: What was the context?
PS: They were filming at the Hard Rock in La Jolla, and I just happened to be there eating with my friend. They just happened in and were like, “Hey can we talk to you?” And I’m like “Okay.”
AVC: Adopted is one of three independent films that you have written, directed, and starred in. How does the process of making a film independently compare to when you were starring in studio films?
PS: Well the reward, I think, internally, is a lot bigger, because every little edit and every little music cue and every little thing is yours. It’s your finger. The release isn’t as big, but the people that see your shit, that actually come up and say, “I saw Pauly Shore Is Dead.” Or “I saw Adopted…” There’s a feeling that’s like, “Holy shit, they saw something that’s really my stamp, and that’s my own.” So it’s a bigger feeling than it is if you just kind of show up and read the lines.
AVC: What do you miss most about starring in studio films?
PS: I miss them a lot. I miss working with great actors, working with great directors. I miss—I don’t want to say it was less pressure, but in a way, it was just because I was doing my thing, and I didn’t have to worry about all the other stuff that comes along with it. You know, I miss acting, that’s the main thing. I miss that process of getting the script and reading it and working on it. Every actor has their own way of memorizing their lines, and the whole process of starting to work with the other actors and the director, and doing rehearsals, and going to the location, and going through wardrobe. The whole process of it, I miss it a lot. I was on Nick Swardson’s film. I had a couple days, I don’t know how long I did. It was a while ago. It comes out in September.
AVC: This was the Happy Madison production?
PS: Yeah, that’s the Happy Madison one. It’s called Born To Be A Star, and it’s with Nick Swardson. Showing up on the set, I missed it a lot, because a lot of the people that work behind the scenes, the gaffers, or the people that rode the trucks, or the caterers, they all missed me. They were all like, “Man you’ve got to get back in the movies. We miss you.” That’s my family, you know, and the fact that Hollywood has taken it from me, it hurts. It hurts, and I miss it a lot. I miss that kind of forum. Since they weren’t giving it to me anymore, there were two ways to be: go on Surreal Life or Sober House and go crazy, or do my own stuff. That’s what I do. You’ve got to continue to do your own thing. At what level, it doesn’t really matter, because it’s all about creating and continuing to do stuff, whether it’s for the Internet or the big screen.
AVC: Of the studio films you starred in, which was your favorite?
PS: I liked all of them. I liked Encino Man. I thought that was fun. I liked Son In Law, In the Army Now. I liked Jury Duty. I liked Bio-Dome. I liked all the movies that I did the voices in, movies that I did parts in, I liked all of them. There’s not a favorite.
AVC: In his memoir, Stephen Baldwin talks about how he felt it was God’s plan for him to appear in Bio-Dome. Did you feel the same way?
PS: [Laughs.] That it was His plan? What?
AVC: That it was divinely pre-ordained that he appear in Bio-Dome so he would be able to bring the gospel to young people who enjoyed the film.
PS: I don’t want to talk about other people’s religion. That’s their business. I’ll just say that Stephen worked with me on Bio-Dome because he liked my work, and we had a lot of fun together. This was right after The Usual Suspects, so that’s where he was coming from.