Pauly Shore 2020 Interview – Comedy Icon On Losing His Parents, His New Movie, Dating Apps, and Nic Cage

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“It reminds me of America, you know?” Pauly Shore tells me of his decision to move from his native Los Angeles to his new home in Las Vegas, where he’s writing, podcasting, and chilling by the pool with a cast of characters you truly will not believe, but we’ll get to that later. “Las Vegas reminds me of America, and I am America.” He pauses, thinks about it. “I mean, Pauly Shore is America.”

It’s an incredible thing to say for a lot of reasons, not least among them that Pauly Shore is in fact canonically California. At least his film and television persona, his aesthetic, his pseudo-alter-ego the Weasel were. He radiates such a strong and thorough SoCal stoner energy that although I have no specific memories of him on a skateboard, I have trouble picturing him without one. But he’s in his fifties now, and the last two and a half years have seen the death of both of his parents and what is at least for now the end of traditional live stand-up comedy. It’s time for Pauly to refocus. He’s in Vegas—which, like him, is America—and he’s getting ready for the release of Guest House, his first big studio comedy since 1996’s Bio-Dome, while like the rest of us he tries to figure out what comes next. “I’m just trying to keep things light in my life right now,” he says. “Just living my life, trying to stay healthy.”

You can’t blame him for wanting a break from Los Angeles. He grew up in its comedy epicenter: the Comedy Store, the legendary Sunset Strip comedy club his parents, Mitzi and Sammy Shore, opened in 1972. He spent his youth there, as a child and then as a performer, bumping into Richard Pryor and spending time with his eventual mentor, Sam Kinison. “When I started opening for Sam, he was the one that introduced me to America. I had never really been to Peoria, Illinois, or, you know, Steak ‘n Shake, that whole space.” So while he dripped L.A. (“People thought, like, Oh, that’s Pauly Shore, he’s California, he represents freedom”), he was falling in love with Middle America. “I really enjoyed the people out there. My mom’s from Wisconsin and my dad’s from Chicago, so I guess I’m part Midwest.” But now all those people are gone—Mitzi and Sammy passed thirteen months apart, in 2018 and 2019—and a change was in order. A relocation to a simulation of Middle America just makes sense.

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You know the thing about tragedy plus time equaling comedy. It’s been a rough couple of years, and the hardship has forced his stand-up to evolve from aloof and character-based to personal. “I’m definitely more relatable now than I was when I first started,” he says. “I think when you go through negative things, it connects you more with people.” So his focus shifted from the mockumentary projects he’d been doing since 2003’s Pauly Shore Is Dead to stand-up to a one-man show about his life to a possible Vegas residency. “I was like: I’m not doing movies; now I’m a straight stand-up.

The universe had other plans. “You know and I know: The phone rings or doesn’t ring, and it rang.” A friend at Lionsgate called with an offer of a bit part as a police officer in Guest House, to which he said yes, after which the film’s director and cowriter, Sam Macaroni, saw Pauly on the Joe Rogan Podcast. “He said to himself, ‘Screw the police officer, Pauly should be starring in movies. He’s a movie star.’ Sam called me and said, ‘Would you want to play the lead character?’ I was like: Whoa, okay.” From there, he started honing the deadbeat living in the titular pool house of a young straitlaced heterosexual couple. “I was able to soften that character.”

A Pauly Shore selfie.

Pauly Shore

It’s important here to note that in the version of Guest House that has been softened, Pauly’s character, who is named Randy Cockfield, forces the male half of the couple—played by Mike Castle of Netflix’s Brews Brothers—to do a hit off a giant, erection-shaped bong he’s attached to his crotch. This happens 13 minutes into the film. I am both curious and frightened to know what Randy Cockfield was like presoftening.

But it is interesting that this role wasn’t written specifically for Pauly Shore. Turns out it was just lucky casting. “I asked Sam, I said, ‘Who did you think of for this role?’ I don’t think he even knew.” Randy is a completely plausible scenario for the Weasel—or for any of the characters Pauly played in his run of movies from Encino Man to Bio-Dome—to be living out in 2020.

Pauly’s persona, and the Weasel, which are kind of the same thing but also kind of not—“I think it’s kind of who I am,” he says. “I don’t know. It gets blurred”—both got developed on MTV. His show Totally Pauly ran from 1990 to 1995, but he continued to make appearances on the network throughout the nineties, largely because the 23-year-old production assistants he worked with on that show would go on to be the 27-year-old executives who ran the place. “I was very fortunate to be led into that, kind of the cool school. If you held a mic with an MTV cube on it, immediately you were crowned someone that was cool. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve appreciated it, you know? I remember everything. I actually wasn’t on drugs or drinking or smoking weed—I was pretty much aware of everything.”

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Among those later appearances was in a challenge on the first Wanna Be a VJ, where contestants—including myself—had to pretend to co-present a Video Music Award with Pauly. I shoehorned in a Bio-Dome reference. He was chill about it. “I discovered you, didn’t I?” he says now. Not entirely false.

Right now he’s pouring his comedy energy into a podcast called Pauly Shore’s Random Rants. “As a comic, you have ideas, so you just rant on different things off the cuff.” The show started in L.A., but now it’s out of his Vegas home. “I’m setting up shop out here, Random Rants Vegas. I have my crew around me. I have a DJ, I have a sidekick, I have a producer, I have guests. Yesterday we filmed with the UFC fighter Roy Nelson.” He’s largely outgrown the Weasel. “I’m not walking down the street going, ‘Yo, bro, what’s up?’ ” he says. “I mean, a little bit, but not every word out of my mouth.”

And the Vegas house attracts a cast of characters. “Louie Anderson, I talk to him all the time, he’s here. I was at Faizon Love’s house a couple days ago, Nicolas Cage is out here, Carrot Top’s out here, Billy Gibbons [of ZZ Top] lives next door. He’ll come and sit on my couch, and he’ll bring his barbecue sauce. He’ll be like, ‘Dude, you got to try this barbecue sauce.’ I’m like, ‘All right.’ ” I will need this reality show greenlit right away.

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Though he’d given the apps a whirl back in Los Angeles, he’s not really doing much in the way of dating out in Vegas. “I’ve just been through so much with my parents passing in the last two years that I’m just emotionally—I don’t want to say standoffish—but I’m not really down to dive into something that isn’t going to last.” Plus, when you’ve got Carrot Top and Billy Gibbons’s barbecue sauce at home, what more do you really need?

He’s also busy taking his life experience and putting it into a one-man show in the style of Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth. “My whole life, no matter what I’m promoting, people always ask me about my childhood, so I just said, ‘Screw it, I’ll do the one-man show about my childhood.’ Stories of growing up at the Comedy Store, Mom in the seventies and eighties, Beverly Hills High School, my MTV days.” He had been workshopping it on tour, and then Covid happened. “Obviously, it stopped, but I got it to a place where I was really happy with it,” he says. “It’s emotional, it’s like therapy, you’re going back and opening different wounds. There’s a lot of the fun stuff in it as well, but it is a ride.”

Pauly Shore is taking a moment in midlife to reflect and prepare for the next act. He’s got a one-man show in the works, a podcast, a YouTube karaoke show called Pauly-Oke, a stand-up career to get back to once the world comes back to life, and a new movie that, despite his softening, still features supporting performances from both Steve-O and a possum who has been given the street drug Flakka. He’s grinding, he’s chilling, he’s recovering from a hard couple of years, he’s finding happiness just off Fremont Street.

Ain’t that America?

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