Pauly Shore was talking with Chris Rock recently. It was an interview for Shore’s podcast, “Pauly Shore’s Interested.” It’s about things of interest to Pauly Shore. Mostly it’s about comedy and comedians, because that’s what Pauly Shore does, and who he is – still.
His gigs Friday and Saturday at Laughs Unlimited are the latest in a life spent on stage looking for laughter. These days, he’s got the podcast. He’s got a new self-directed documentary about himself, “Pauly Shore Stands Alone,” how airing on Showtime. And he’s got the stage.
Rock, of course, is a big, big star. He’s been everywhere recently, smartly and hilariously promoting “Top Five,” a new film he wrote, directed and stars in. For both Shore and Rock, it’s been a long, winding trip from 1987 when they were tagged new faces of comedy and shared a show at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.
“We’re here, and the Dunes isn’t,” Rock says with a certain astonishment.
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In 1987, Shore was barely out of Beverly Hills High School. His father, Sammy Shore, is a stand-up comedian. His mother, Mitzi, founded the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Pauly worked his way onto MTV, which changed his life – and MTV.
“Pauly was the first VJ who had nothing to do with music,” Tony DiSanto, who produced Shore’s MTV show “Totally Pauly,” told Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum in their excellent book, “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored History of the Music Video Revolution.”
Shore didn’t have a radio background. He wasn’t anyone’s expert. He was a personality, and became MTV’s own homegrown rock star – groupies and all. He was a natural result of the Los Angeles scene that had given MTV Poison, Warrant and the rest of the big-hair hit makers.
Shore was the first step toward MTV’s lifestyle programming. He was a character, and that character was the Weasel, a sybaritic scarf-sporting surfer bro who spoke in his own pregnant-pause slanguage (chillin’, nugs and such). The Weasel moved to comedy albums (1991’s “The Future of America”) and, for a brief moment, was a box office draw. Critics might not have dug 1992’s “Encino Man,” but it cleared more than $40 million at the box office.
Then Nirvana wiped out the Sunset Strip and shut down the party. Shore’s Hollywood career stalled. But he never stopped wanting to make people laugh.
Last week, someone picked up a phone in a Nashville hotel room and said, “One second.” There were voices in the background, one still imminently recognizable. Shore finished a thought and room reacted with cackles and giggles just as he grabbed the receiver and said, “Hey.”
The night before he’d been in Chattanooga, a set that had gone well for about 90 minutes and then took a turn toward rowdy. The hecklers got going. Shore got a little dirty. That’s the challenge of stand-up, the nightly dynamic a performer has to understand and control.
“With stand-up, I can never be good enough,” Shore said. “I have great sets, but that’s just a moment in time. That’s when the (stuff) lines up.”
Whereas he used to do shows with the audience standing – like the rock star he was – now it’s a more traditional comedy set-up. He’s 46, and age mellows us all, even the Weasel. And that’s where we find him in “Pauly Shore Stands Alone.” He’s guy cruising through middle age with the same middle-age problems many people face, like aging parents and an enlarged prostate.
He still loves the challenge and the art of stand-up, but he also needs the work. Shot two years ago, it follows him on tour through a wintry Midwest and into the type of weary, unspectacular venue that is sometimes attached to a strip club. A recent Rolling Stone piece about Shore and the documentary was titled “The Weasel in Winter.”
More poignant, though just as familiar, is the portrait of his life when he’s off the road and caring for his mother, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. (When the film is available on Shore’s website, part of the proceeds will go to Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s charity.) “It’s an exhausting thing for everyone,” Shore says. “You want to make sure she’s taken care of, and respected, and that you’re doing what you feel she’d want.”
It’s a vulnerable place for a comedian to be. Once Shore played a character, and his success obliterated the differences between the Weasel and Pauly Shore. Now he’s presented himself as plain old Pauly, prostate problems and all.
“It’s amazing when you just tell the truth; people relate to it,” he says.
As for the Weasel, well, the Weasel’s still out there. Shore says it’s like the elephant in the room, except, you know, a weasel. He deals with it early and then maybe comes back to it. Sometimes once is enough. The crowd dictates that, and it’s his job to figure out the crowd.
That’s the fun of stand-up – still.
What: Comedian, actor, former MTV personality and star of a new Showtime documentary
When: 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Laughs Unlimited, 1207 Front St., Sacramento
Information: www.laughsunlimited.com; (916) 446-8128