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interview: pauly shore

Pauly shore at SundancePauly Shore has seen the top of the mountain and he’s plumbed the valley of despair with a career that skyrocketed to megastardom in the early ’90s with a show on MTV and several hit movies, then fizzled just as quickly with a failed FOX sitcom and an ever-diminishing box-office for his films.

Pauly’s father, comedian Sammy Shore, opened for Elvis in the 1970s. At about the same time, his mother Mitzi opened the legendary Comedy Store on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, giving her son the rare opportunity to hang out with such rising talents as Robin Williams, David Letterman and the late Sam Kinison, who became his mentor.

With the 2003 Sundance Film Festival debut of his self-mockumentary Pauly Shore Is Dead, actor Shore is gunning for a return to respectability and a chance to reach a new generation with his singular breed of comedy.

Long bitch-slapped by the media — one relatively gracious journalist dubbed him “the dethroned king of dumb-ass comedy” — no one understands better than Shore himself the fleeting nature of fame, fortune and relevance. Yet in this semi-autobiographical dark comedy, which marks his feature directing debut, he is more than willing to flog his own misfortunes as he satirizes the perils of Hollywood. The film follows Shore as he loses his sitcom, house and girlfriend (Jaime Bergman), leading him to fake his own death in a quest for post-mortem adulation.

The comedy is fueled by Shore’s self-depreciation and dozens of cameos including Todd Bridges, Tommy Chong, Ellen DeGeneres, Snoop Dogg, Fred Durst, Heidi Fleiss, Kato Kaelin, Tommy Lee, Chris Rock, Verne Troyer, Vince Vaughn and more.

BadMouth got a chance to interview him via cellphone days before the movie made its U.S. premeire here in Sacramento.

Pauly Shore I’m in a taxi with a whole bunch of people. They’re molesting me.

BadMouth In a good way or a bad way?

Pauly Shore In a good way. Oh, touch me there! Touch me there!

Pauly Shore Is DeadBadMouth Tell me about the movie.

Pauly Shore It’s called Pauly Shore is Dead. And you know that I wrote it and directed it and all that stuff, right? I’ve been working on it for about four years. And it’s coming out. Sacramento is the first spot. Then L.A. and New York on October 1st.

BadMouth Why did you chose Sacramento to premiere the movie?

Pauly Shore I have family there. No, I’m just kidding. I’ve been playing Sacramento for a long time. And every time I played up there it’s been really good for me. And the Crest Theater is a beautiful theater.

BadMouth There are a staggering number of cameos in this movie. And really big celebrities, too. How did you get everybody rounded up for this?

Pauly Shore That’s why it took so long, you know what I mean? That’s why it took four-and-a-half/five years. I was just kind of tenacious. Is that the right word?

I was kind of anal about it. I just wanted to make sure that I filled it with as many familiar faces as I could. I was lucky enough that the people that I pitched, the celebrities, they got the joke. They thought it was funny, and they loved the fact that I’m paying for it.

It’s my baby. When other artists hear that — you reach out to them — they feel more apt to do that, as opposed to getting a call from a studio head or someone like that.

BadMouth Is it fair to say that in the film you poke fun at your career a bit?

Pauly Shore Yeah, I’d say a lot.

BadMouth If you could go back in time would you do things differently the second time around?

Pauly ShorePauly Shore Well, probably. But at the time I really wanted the work. I was in an office to do studio movies. I thought at the time that the projects were right, but then you look back and what I did at the time was create something that was bigger than life. Anytime someone does that, its going to slow down. I kinda slowed down and went away for a while. This is like my — I don’t want to say it’s my “comeback movie.” My whole life, the last 36 years, is in that movie.

BadMouth When the movies were over and you had your down time. There were a lot of people waiting to kick you when you were down. Was it hard not to take that personally?

Pauly Shore Of course you’re going to take that personally.

BadMouth I saw the MTV Punk’d where they went after you. That seemed over the line to me.

Pauly Shore I was used to people dissing me. But that show is set up to dis people. I got set up. I got fucked. I got punked. They punked me. It’s hard to look cool in a situation like that. It’s like stepping on a banana peel.

BadMouth When your girlfriend Shannon Wilsey [porn-star “Savannah”] died, you told an interviewer “Don’t become your character.” Was there some advice in there for yourself, too? Because people have a hard time separating Pauly Shore from “The Wiezel.”

Pauly Shore I would say so. But in reality I did and didn’t [become the Wiezel]. Because if I did become my character, I’d probably be homeless right now. I’m Jewish. I’ve always had a thing where it’s okay to dance with the devil, just don’t become the devil. Even at my peak, I never went too over the top.

You’d think when you saw my old MTV stuff that I was always drunk and high and all that stuff. I wasn’t. It was actually my producers and directors and editors. They were all fucked up.

BadMouth So you didn’t become the Wiezel, but do you think producers and directors had a hard time seeing you as someone outside of that character you were playing?

The Son-In-LawPauly Shore Oh, definitely. That’s been my biggest problem. But at the same time, it wasn’t a problem, do you know what I mean? I had an unbelievable run. I starred in like six movies. You have to go away to come back. That’s just normal. That’s with bands, actors, comedians, everything.

I just think that if this movie takes off, and if it’s seen and it’s pushed out there and it catches fire — it will be the first of its kind.

BadMouth It’s pretty daring what you’re doing — poking fun at your career and the Hollywood fame machine. You’re laying it out there in a way I really haven’t seen before.

Pauly Shore With the movie, I wanted to appeal to my audience — the Midwest people who love the Wiezel and goofy stuff — and I also wanted to appeal to people who never liked my stuff. There’s a lot of people out there who didn’t like my style of comedy. So this movie is for both audiences.

BadMouth Were there a lot of people who didn’t like your comedy? I always felt like everyone liked you for a while, then it suddenly became uncool to be into Pauly Shore.

Pauly Shore You look at Seinfeld and guys like Dennis Miller and Bill Maher, those guys are more highbrow. Their comedy has always been that way. So this movie appeals to that audience. It’s very Curb Your Enthusiasm. The comedy comes from the situation, as opposed to me bumping into a wall or jumping off of a table and falling down.

BadMouth Is this an evolution of your comedy style or are you just getting to express some versatility in a way that you weren’t able to earlier in your career?

Pauly Shore I think it’s just kind of like me making fun of a period in my life when people didn’t see me around for a while. Anytime someone in this business is very much out there and then they’re not out there? Immediately people think something bad happened. They’re like, “Where are you? What happened?”

So in the movie I made it like something bad happened. It’s all make-believe. Like Carrot-Top moves into my house. That’s not real. That would be really funny, because — I don’t want to say that he’s my arch-enemy or whatever, but people think that Pauly Shore, Carrot-Top, Adam Sandler, [David] Spade — all those guys are kind of in that — you know what I mean? It’s pretty funny casting-wise to have Carrot-Top move into my house and kick me out.

Pauly ShoreBadMouth I enjoy your stand-up. And I’ve always thought that the material you wrote for yourself was better than what they gave you in the films. Is the movie going to be a chance for you to show what you can do as a writer?

Pauly Shore Yes, definitely. It’s definitely a showcase for me writing, directing and acting — all that.

BadMouth In an interview with your Son-In-Law co-star Carla Gugino (Spy Kids) and she said this about you: “He’s a really funny guy and maybe an example of a guy who got into a rut with a certain type of role because I actually think he’s more versatile than what we’ve seen him do.” Is the movie going to be our chance to see some versatility?

Pauly Shore Definitely. I’ve gotten good reviews so far, which has been pretty great, because I’m not used to getting good reviews.

BadMouth So this may be the movie that gives you critical as well as box office acclaim — because your movies always did really well.

Pauly Shore I hope that people pay to see it and that they get it. And that they tell their friends. We’re counting on word-of-mouth. People gotta leave saying, “God, I want to see that again,” or “I got to tell my friends about that.”

BadMouth You self-financed the entire movie?

Pauly Shore Yeah.

BadMouth That’s pretty brave.

Pauly Shore That’s crazy. That’s the biggest rule in Hollywood: “Don’t spend your own money.” But people applaud me for spending my own money. Every time I give speeches about the movie or talk about it, they always mention the fact that I spent my own money.

BadMouth Was this in some ways an effort to take back control of your own career?

Pauly Shore Hold on one second — (aside) 46th? You can’t take me there? Okay. How much is it? Hold on. I’m lost in New York. I gotta get out of the cab. I’m lost in New York which is my next movie.

BadMouth I think the Olsen twins got that covered.

Pauly Shore (Laughs)

BadMouth In the past you’ve cited Tom Hanks as a role model for you as someone who was able to transition from goofy roles (Bosom Buddies) to being a more serious actor. Is the movie a move in that direction?

Pauly Shore You look at someone like Hanks or Robin Williams, and they were regarded as goofballs at the beginning of their careers. All they got was an opportunity. That’s it. They got an opportunity to do something different. They got an opportunity to work with a great director.

Weirder things have happened. Hopefully, the movie will set me up for an opportunity for a director to say, “You know what? I’m going put Pauly Shore in a role that people would never expect him to be in.” I don’t have to star in it. Just something different. Something like what Sandler did in Punch Drunk Love.

It didn’t do great at the box office, but it was critically acclaimed. He came across really cool.

BadMouth Was self-financing a necessity? Hollywood might have given you some money to make Encino Man 2, but would they have given you money to do this?

Pauly Shore Exactly.

BadMouth Is there any other question that I should be asking about that I wasn’t bright enough to ask?

Pauly Shore Um-um-um-um — No, that’s cool. The main thing is that this thing came from the heart. I was down-and-out. I couldn’t get it financed. No one would step up. I got so frustrated and pissed off, I was like “Ya know, ‘Fuck everyone. I’m going to do this myself.’ ” And I just started writing checks.

I just kind of learned along the way. When I came at it with that attitude, everything started falling into place. It’s like God saying, “This is how you need to make this thing.”

Pauley Rates His Movies