The Weasel Grows Up

The late 80s and early 90s were good to Pauly Shore. The Weasel – an alter ego born out of Shore’s standup – became, for a time, more than just a character. The Weasel was a living, breathing thing whose mannerisms and catchphrases, like it or not, infiltrated the fabric of American pop culture. From the small screen to the big screen, there was no escaping Pauly Shore. Shore’s new documentary, Pauly Shore Stands Alone, which recently premiered on Showtime, opens with archival footage from that wildly successful point in his career. But the film quickly shifts focus to the reality of today: Pauly Shore, age 46, dealing with the mundane pressures of adulthood while trying to manage a career in standup comedy. I talked to Shore the day after the film’s television premiere about his motives for making the movie, life on the road and people’s strange and intense connection with The Weasel.

Your documentary just premiered last night on Showtime. What’s been the feedback so far?

People seem to be in to it, I guess. I just kind of look at my Twitter feed for my notifications, you know? People seem to like it.

Are you happy with the way it came out?

Yeah, I like the feel. Have you seen it?

Yeah, your people sent me a screener. I watched it last week.

OK yeah, so I like the feel of it. I like the honesty of it. I like the look. I like the music. I like the shots and I think the story is cool. People seem to relate to it.

This was something you directed yourself. What prompted you to do it at this point in your career?

I just thought it was at an interesting time. I mean, I think my story, a lot of people are going through. It’s relatable – being in their 40s, taking care of their elderly parents, maybe not having the best relationships with family members and being alone. I thought it would be interesting doing it with the backdrop of this snowy Midwestern tour, telling this story as I’m cruising along and doing my thing, you know? I just thought that the timing was good and the fact that I was living at home with my mom, you know, people relate to that shit. It’s the real thing.

Do you think it was a surprise for a lot of your fans that you weren’t living in the big house in the Hills and that you’re actually living at home with your mom, driving yourself to your own shows and clicking seats? Was that kind of a revelation for a lot of people?

I think a lot of the response I got on Twitter was that, “He’s just like one of us.” I think that people … I’ll read you a couple right here …“Just finished Pauly Shore Stands Alone. It was more funny and heartfelt than I expected. Great job, Pauly.”

You had a superfan who was at one of your shows – this was in the documentary. She was really geeking out on you and you invited her to the show in the next town. She came to that one and you took her out for some late night eats. You insisted that she not treat you like some kind of a star, or like a person she saw in the movies, but to treat you like a friend. That really marked a big change in her personality. She was almost like an obsessive fan, trying to say she wasn’t crazy but still seemed a little intense, until you said, “I’m just like you.” That seemed to change her entire perspective on you andeven the way she carried herself. Is this something that represents a repeat interaction you have with your fans?

I think that a lot of people that see people they grew up with, or they’ve seen on TV, if they’re fans they get a little crazy. I think it’s cool to kind of defuse them and kind of just say, “Hey, it’s cool, you know?” I think it’s an ongoing thing with people and their celebrity crush, or their person they grew up with. I thought the Joan Rivers documentary was really good because it showed her busting her ass and doing her thing. I think people relate to that. It’s important as a performer to show all sides: The good, the bad, the sexy, the unsexy, the whole thing.

There was plenty of unsexy in this. It actually leaned a little bit dark to me. I was surprised. I mean, the setting of the Midwest in the winter is already bleak, but there are instances where you’re the only person staying in a whole entire hotel. You’re interacting with people who admittedly say that nothing ever happens in their town. There was a bit of a melancholy undercurrent to the whole thing. But let me go back to Joan Rivers for a second. That documentary for her was kind of a benchmark in her career because right after that she had a bit of a resurgence. People were like, “Oh, Joan is still out doing it and maybe we should pay a little more attention to her.” She had a second, maybe third wind.  

Yeah, fourth or fifth, I mean, more like sixth or seventh. She was at it for so many years knocking it out.

Are you hoping that this documentary is going to yield results like that for you, or was your motive, “Lets just put it out there and show it to people?”   

My motivation was to just do a good piece of work, a good documentary. At the end of the day, you can’t control what’s going to happen in your life or your career. All you can control is the content. For me, if it gets me one thing, then that’s amazing. If it doesn’t get me anything, then that’s OK too. It is what it is.

When I watched it I noticed you had a vibe that was way more relaxed than what I expected. I think that was the biggest thing for me. You look for a personal connection in every interaction that you have with people, no matter how mundane the interaction is.  

That’s what I do. That’s who I am wherever I go, whether it’s TSA, or a guy picking me up at the airport. It’s kind of like my old MTV show but toned down. Remember Totally Pauly on MTV?

I do.

It was like that but more like… I don’t know. I mean I’m the same guy, but like, older and a little crustier. But underneath the hair and the clothes there’s always the guy who is out there talking to people.

When I discovered you as a teenager I thought, “Well this is definitely a character.” You seemed to live the character. But you’ve dropped a lot of that now. You reference it sometimes, but for the most part now you’re talking about your prostate issues and what it’s like to wake up and masturbate as a 40-something-year-old man. It doesn’t have that rock ‘n roll style that you used to push. It doesn’t seem like a character. You were larger than life at one point and now you seem to be presenting the idea that, “I’m not larger than life. I’m just like you.”  

Yeah, that’s what I’ve become. This is what I’ve become, you know?

You open the movie with old footage of a huge theatre show in Dallas and it’s very much a rock star style show, then it immediately cuts to your life now. There’s a big change. That’s kind of the evolution of everybody’s lives; You have big moments and you have small moments. But you kind of have a Zen-like quality going throughout all of it, just accepting the past for the past and doing what you can now.  

You know, [when] you’re in your 40s you don’t want to be acting like you’re in your 20s. Number one, it’s not a good look. Number two, your body, your mind and your heart just can’t handle it. I talk about it on stage. Hangovers last a lot longer in your 40s than they do in your 20s. People tend to not get as fucked up, or do as much crazy shit in their 40s, because they know the repercussions.

You live in LA but you choose to tour in smaller markets. What’s the thought behind that?

I tour all the markets. I really do them all. But I also do all the markets in between the big markets. I’ll do anything. I don’t care where it is. On Sunday I’m going to Chattanooga, Tennessee for a night, then I’m going to Nashville for two nights, and then Kentucky for three or four nights. I don’t know, I mix it up. The last tour I did, I did this Ohio tour.

A lot of people are excited to see you because of the movies. Maybe they haven’t been following your standup career. What do you think it is that’s made that lasting connection where, even if they haven’t been paying attention to what you’ve been doing for the past five/ten years, they want to go see the guy from Son in Law.  

They just love those fucking movies dude. It’s crazy. I can’t believe it. I’m cool with it. I’m like, “Awesome.” I like the movies. They’re really fun movies, like In the Army Now. These are still really fun movies that, after 20 years, have sustained time. They still play. Encino Man is still a really fun movie. I’m pretty lucky that I even had that run in films, you know?

Because you had been a standup before you did MTV, before you got any films and you’re still a standup. That was another thing I noticed you were trying to make a point of in the documentary. That, “I’m not out doing standup now because I’m not doing movies. I’ve always been a standup. Movies was just this explosion that happened in my life.”

One hundred percent. That came secondary. But when someone makes it… dude everyone makes it a certain way. Like, Dane Cook I guess made it through his standup. Chappelle made it through the Chappelle Show. Louis C.K. made it through his standup, not so much his show. Chris Rock made it through his standup and now he’s doing movies. I made it through MTV, but really through my movies. Hopefully through this doc people say,“Oh no, he’s a standup,” and people will want to come see me do standup as opposed to the guy from films.

You were exposed to all kinds of famous comedians from a very young age. Could you explain a little bit about what that upbringing is like – to be immersed and surrounded by comedy – and how that shaped you as a young person?

Well, you know, it’s interesting because there’s a lot of people who grew up around it and aren’t affected by it. I don’t think Adam Sandler’s mom or dad were in the business, you know what I mean? It just depends on the person. Being a standup is something I was born to do. I got the work ethic from my mom and my dad pounding it and laying the groundwork and just being around it. I got the bug, lets put it that way, at a young age. I was just naturally funny. So, a combination of that and the work ethic and the vision I had for myself and my career. It’s what I do.

How is your current relationship with your parents?

It’s good. You know, my mom is sick and she’s been sick for a while. When I’m home, I go see her and she’s got Parkinson’s. She’s had it for a while. It’s a terrible disease and you can’t walk. She’s 84, so she’s had it for a while. My dad is 87 and he seems to be OK, but he’s getting up there as well. My parents are both fighters and that’s one of the reasons they’re still out there.

In the documentary you talked about not having a family of your own – wife and kids – and that the connection with the people you meet on the road are what give you the sense of family. How important is it to make those human connections? How do you sort of… adopt people on the road?

Well, when I’m at home in LA there’s not a lot of love. I have a girlfriend now. Her name is Allie and she’s awesome and really cool, but other than that, I might get some love from my friends, but my brother… no one is around and my mom’s sick, so I don’t have that family community in LA. I get it when I go on the road. You can tell when you watch the doc that there is a lot of love that people have for me, so I give it and I receive it. It’s pretty legit, I think. There’s been times I’ve been in LA and personal things are going on and I hop on a plane and I get on stage and feel the smiling faces and when I hug them in the front row I get super genuine.

The footage of people hanging out after the show was impressive to me. They bring the lights up and everyone sticks around to get a picture and say something personal. That goes back to what we talked about earlier. Somehow in your career you made some really deep connections with these people and they haven’t been able to let go. Hopefully your standup continues to do that.  

That’s true and that’s why I tell you that I’m still shocked to this day that all these people show up for me.

You mentioned doing some touring. What else is cooking for you? Are you interested in getting back in front of the camera, or do you have other plans to produce, write, or direct?

Right now I’m just focused on promoting the doc. It’s going to be on Showtime for a month. Hopefully the ratings will come in and people will have responded to it. I have a podcast (Pauly Shore’s Interested) that is out right now. It’s on every week and it’s on my website and iTunes. This week [the guest] is Chris Rock. Other than that, I just kind of want to chill out for a little bit then I think I’m going to put together a one man show, a documentary of my life and a book. I’ve been working with my agents on slowly putting those three projects together.

The Weasel Grows Up