Pauly Shore on Saying Goodbye to the Weasel, Finding a Kindred Spirit in Nicolas Cage and That Jimmy Kimmel Oscar Joke
In early 2020 Pauly Shore, who had lived in Los Angeles since he was a boy, decided to move to Las Vegas. But after a couple years away, he longed for home. “I’m in the entertainment business,” he explained in February, “so I need to be around people in the entertainment business. For instance, if I go to Starbucks in Vegas, no one around there is in the entertainment business. If I go to Starbucks in West Hollywood — I gotta be around that, because I love the mentality of people in the entertainment business.”
A month later, I am sitting with Pauly Shore at a Starbucks in West Hollywood.
It’s a big day for the 55-year-old comic, actor, podcaster, filmmaker, musician, TikToker and stand-up. He officially just moved back to L.A. yesterday after spending a few days in Austin for South by Southwest. (He was there recording episodes of his podcast Jam in the Van: The Podcast, and he also performed at friend Joe Rogan’s new club, Comedy Mothership.) He’s still waiting for his dog — a buddy is driving him from Vegas — but Shore feels grounded, happy and ready for what’s next. After all, he’s got a ton going on, including meeting with a producer about a script that would be a starring vehicle for him, and as he relaxes outside on the Starbucks patio, people coming and going, he reflects on where he is in his life.
“I like being here,” he says, his voice containing not a trace of the “What’s up, buddddddy?” inflection that he affected at the height of his movie stardom in the 1990s. I’m not talking to the Weasel. I’m talking to a guy whose famous parents — mother Mitzi Shore, who ran L.A.’s iconic Comedy Store for decades, and comedian father Sammy Shore, who co-founded the place — have died and whose brothers he doesn’t speak to. He’s casually funny, but he’s also open and candid, dressed in a simple sweatshirt and shorts. “I like being around a healthy environment,” he tells me. “I just worked out. I had my Acai bowl, go to the Korean spa later, get some food at Bristol Farms. This is a good life, life half-full.”
You may not have noticed, but Shore didn’t disappear after his string of broad comedies stopped clicking at the box office. He’s been very busy in recent years between performing stand-up and making the occasional film. And by “making,” I mean directing. He’s especially proud of 2003’s Pauly Shore Is Dead, a mockumentary about a has-been comedian named Pauly Shore who fakes his death to give his flagging career a boost. As he’ll explain to me, Pauly Shore Is Dead was his way of burying the Weasel — his California-dude persona that helped launch his career but soon became a pigeonhole Shore wanted to escape — in order to reinvent himself. The other film Shore is keen to discuss is 2014’s Pauly Shore Stands Alone, a stripped-down documentary that found him touring small clubs in Wisconsin and Minnesota, all the while grappling with his beloved mom’s worsening health and his own faded popularity. On stage in Stands Alone, Shore laments that fans always ask him why he isn’t in movies anymore — as if that’s not something he hasn’t asked himself thousands of times. The film paints him as resilient, despite the many professional and personal blows he’s absorbed along the way.
He was back in the news recently because of the Oscars. Journalists had pointed out that Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan, both who ended up winning at the Academy Awards on March 12th, had been in Encino Man, Shore’s breakthrough film. Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel noticed, too, including a snarky reference to Encino Man in his opening monologue: “What an incredible night it must be for the two of you,” he said to Fraser and Quan. “And what a very difficult night for Pauly Shore. Maybe it’s time to reboot Bio-Dome.”
Shore insists the dig didn’t bother him. He talked to his friend Simon Rex the other day about it. As Shore recalls, “He goes, ‘It’s great that Jimmy Kimmel did that.’ I got 20 million people that heard my name.” Still, for all his success — and despite a loyal fan base that supports his stand-up — he has never received the sort of critical reappreciation that so many 1990s totems have enjoyed. Encino Man, Son in Law, In the Army Now, Jury Duty and Bio-Dome remain fair game for cultural arbiters to dunk on. Critics don’t just hate these movies — they hated Shore. Who can forget Owen Gleiberman, then writing for Entertainment Weekly, dismissing Shore as “the reptilian imp from MTV. Reeling off Valley Dude slang in a slurry monotone, as if he could barely be bothered to make his lips form words, he’s a fey sleazebag in hippie duds — a cross between Jim Morrison and Richard Simmons. The most interesting thing about watching Pauly Shore is wondering how long it will be before he has to take a day job”?
Back then, Shore took those barbs personally. Over time, he has learned to let such things go. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t remain ambitious. He wants to star in dramas. He wants to keep touring. But he’s not doing it for anyone else or to prove his haters wrong. “You do it for yourself,” he tells me. It’s not the only thing he tells me during our 90-minute conversation. Below, he discusses therapy, grief, hanging out at the Playboy Mansion, being neighbors with Nicolas Cage, his uneasy relationship with the Comedy Store and why he’s uninterested in an Encino Man sequel.
How does it feel to be back home in Los Angeles?
Well, put it this way: I came in from Austin last night, and I was happy that I was flying here as opposed to Vegas. The pandemic, really, it changed everyone. Everyone. I mean, the whole world, including myself. When the whole thing went down, I went to Maui, and when I was there, you get — what’s the word — island fever? Where you’re there for too long? You’re like, “Fuck, get me out of here.” So then I was like, “I’m not going back to L.A.,” because it was riots, and Vegas just seemed fun. I had so much stuff going on in my life and I’m like, “I want to just try to enjoy life.” And so I surrounded myself with a good time, and that was fun. I loved Vegas and I kept a place there — I got a condo there. But most of my stuff’s here now.
We’re not that far from the Comedy Store, which has such a history because of your parents. Is that hard to be so close by?
It’s emotional. It’s emotional because it’s going back to old wounds of my mom and all that stuff. But (L.A.) is my home — and all the comedians I’m friends with, it feels like I have friends here.
Were you happy with how South by Southwest went for you?
It was great. I accomplished all I wanted to accomplish there, so that was cool. I got to perform in front of Joe (Rogan) at his club. He got to see me, I got to see him. I got to see what he’s creating out there, which is amazing. It’s just a different time: Everything has shifted and you have to shift with the times, and he’s at a place now where he has the freedom to create what my mom created pretty much.
Comedy Mothership is his anti-woke place. Did you do a different set because of that?
Definitely, because everyone’s phones are locked up. You can say what you want — you don’t have to think about it. That’s what’s great about Joe’s club: It’s a safe haven for comedians that want to develop. If you want to be edgy, you could be edgy. If you don’t, you don’t. A lot of stand-up, the key to it is not having to think, because a lot of your shit comes to you on stage. And if you’re thinking you got this resistance button in the back of your brain — “Fuck, I can’t say that” — it’s all about flowing and figuring it out.
How much of your stand-up right now is prepared bits versus stuff you’re trying out?
I’m the type of comic that I have an arsenal of material in my brain. I have old stuff, new stuff, things I’ve been working on, the observational shit, shit about myself. When I go on stage, I don’t know where I’m going to go — unless I’m playing a big place and I have to record it. But most of the time, I just know I have all this shit in my head, and then when I get up there, I’m going to figure it out. That’s always my style: It goes back to my MTV days with Totally Pauly, which was very much not scripted. It’s just like, “Let's fucking go.”
How much are you also just vibing off what the audience is giving you?
One of my biggest (pieces of) advice to comedians is, “You don’t tell the audience where you’re going to go on stage — the audience tells you.” It’s like a surfer and a wave: The surfer doesn’t tell the wave where to go — the wave tells the surfer where to go — and the surfer flows with that.
Every audience is completely different. I mean, I worked a little raunchy in front of Joe at his club because it was a later show — it wasn’t a Saturday night early show, which is kind of like a softball. Every show’s different. I’ve worked every club; I’ve worked every city. I’ve worked bowling alleys to strip clubs to bigger places to shitty comedy clubs to good comedy clubs. I use the word “shift” a lot — in life, you have to constantly shift. As a stand-up, you have to constantly adapt to whatever: If the lighting’s fucked up or the sound system sucks or someone’s yelling over it… It’s not like I’m saying I always do great, but I always somehow figure it out.
You’re doing a lot of stuff. You also have a band, Pauly Shore & the Crustys.
I’m going to take a break from it because it’s a lot of work. We have an album coming out, which is cool. It sounds good, it’s awesome, we recorded at my house. They’re good musicians — really good musicians. I’m not a great singer, but I act like I’m a great singer. It’s not like I’m going, “I know how to sing.” But I commit. To me that’s the comedy — I’m taking it serious, which to me is really funny.
We’re going to release that on my website. What I’m going to do is I’m going to do a bundle where you pay me a hundred dollars for a signed T-shirt, a signed picture and then the album — the only place you can get it is on my website. So I’m going to do that and then hopefully I make my money back, or at least break even. From there, sell it at my shows — and then from there, do the Spotify and the Apple Music and all that bullshit, which will be fun.
But at the end of the day, I’m an artist. I don’t want to say I’m a true artist, but I’m a true artist. I’m not motivated by the paycheck. I’m motivated by the stuff that gets me out of bed, which is the comedy, the podcast, the stand-up.
When you made Pauly Shore Stands Alone, you filmed yourself on tour in the Midwest while dealing with your mom’s failing health back in L.A. Now that your mom and dad aren’t here anymore, did that change how you thought of yourself as an artist?
No, I think a true artist always writes where they’re at at that time. So at that time when my mom and dad were getting sicker and dying and going through what they were going through, I was going through what I was going through. Since I’m not married and I don’t have kids and I don’t have my siblings — I don’t really talk to them, we have a weird relationship — I had no one to talk to. The only person I could talk to is the camera, so that’s why I did it, because I wanted to capture that point in my life where I was raw: “Oh shit, what I’m going through is fucking a nightmare and I want to film it.” And it was important for me to film everything that I would never film. Normally, if you film, you produce it, you want to look good. Here, I’m like, “No, just follow me.”
What was it like to put Stands Alone out there in the world?
It felt great. I thought it was one of my best things I’ve done.
Like you said, it’s very raw, though.
You could feel it, because that’s what I was going through. An artist writes what they know about at that time. Alanis Morissette, oh, she broke up with her dude, so she wrote an album. For me, my parents were dying, and I was fucking dying myself going through it, how close I was with both of them. So I’m like, “I got to film this because this is heavy shit.”
Does it ever get easier after your parents are gone?
I told my friend, who I was with earlier, “There’s two types of lives: There’s a life when your parents are in your life, and there’s the life when your parents are not in your life. And those are two completely different lives.” You try to move on, but there’s this heaviness in the air. You can’t kiss your mom. You can’t say, “Oh, my brothers are being this” or “This girl did that” or “What should I do here?” My dad, I can’t call him and say, “Hey, how was the show?” All that stuff, those things are gone.
Everyone says, “Oh, they’re still with you.” A lot of times when I go to sleep at night and I’m feeling anxious or I’m feeling sad, what I do is I always sleep with a pillow. Pick up a big pillow — a body pillow — and I pretend that’s my parents. That helps me out, because I’m hugging it.
That connection is still there.
Because you’re by yourself. Those thoughts that we all have before we go to sleep, that’s some real shit right there.
After Ke Huy Quan and Brendan Fraser won their Oscars, there was a lot of online chatter about them both being in Encino Man. Has that spurred any talk about doing a sequel?
I personally don’t think there should be sequels to these movies. I know the fans will like it, but unless the script is really good and the direction is from a younger generation, and we’re (playing) the older guys and it’s smart… But it’s a Disney thing. I think they’re probably going to just do another Encino Man without me and Brendan and Sean (Astin) as a series. But whatever.
It’s interesting, because when my movies came out, everyone shit on me a lot. And a lot of it, I don’t think it had to do with the movies. It had to do with shitting on me. Because I was so out there and I was on MTV and I was a little over-the-top. My stuff was silly and it wasn’t smart — it was a little goofy. Anytime someone is up there, they want to shoot at them — that’s kind of what happened. But then, now, here we are, the dust settles. I sell shows out on the road based off of my films. So, I guess the critics were wrong because those movies still hold up. Every one of them. Even Jury Duty at the time got panned — you watch it, it’s adorable. Stanley Tucci’s in it, and it’s cute. Even for me: You step away from it, and you’re like, “Oh my god, these films are adorable.”
Were you actually watching the Oscars when Jimmy Kimmel made that joke about you?
Yeah, but I didn’t see that part — I was on the way to an Oscars thing in Vegas. I just missed it. But then, all of a sudden, the text messages started coming in: “Oh my god, he made fun of you…” And I wasn’t (angry). I was just like, “All right, all good.” Because he does it all the time.
Did you think he might make a joke at your expense just because they were both nominated?
I wasn’t thinking about it, but I was happy he did.
The friends who texted you, were they mad on your behalf?
No, they thought it was cute — because it was cute. It was a funny joke. A funny joke is a funny joke. It’s called roasting someone — like, who gives a fuck? I grew up around comedy since I was four. If I can’t take a fucking joke, no one can take a joke.
I like Jimmy Kimmel. I’ve been around for a long time — I’ve watched everyone — and I’m really proud of him. Because I got to be honest, when he first came on the scene, I was all about Letterman: “There’s no way he’s going to be a Letterman.” And I’m not saying that he’s as good as Letterman, but what I’m saying, he’s carved out his own thing. He’s really come a long way, and I’m very proud of him. He’s come into his own. And I think that that’s hard to do. I think he’s the best out of all those (late-night) guys. He’s gotten better, and that’s what it’s about. His performance at the Oscars was great. I thought he did a great job. I’m happy for anyone that does good. Anyone.
Often, a comedic actor wins an Oscar for doing a drama. Have you thought about that?
Have you seen Sin City Psycho?
You got to watch that. Definitely watch that before you write this. It’s a 10-minute short (directed and co-written by Shore in 2018). I play a sociopath. I’m unrecognizable. It’s a real scene. It’s not like a goof. I told my managers, “I’m not interested in comedy. I’m just interested in the drama.” I actually have a script that I just finished reading called Bad People. The producers are coming to my house on Wednesday, and they want me to play the lead in it. It’s a good script and it’s good producers, good directors. I haven’t signed anything, but it looks good.
And Bad People is a drama?
It’s like a real heavy drama. (I play) a serial killer.
Does that scare you at all in terms of it being so different from what people know you for?
No, it’s what’s inside of me.
What part of it is inside of you?
My heart and my chops and my acting. I love acting, and this is what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for something different. That’s why I’m not doing comedy when it comes to acting again. I get a lot of offers, but I’m like, “I don’t want to do comedy.” I don’t want to say I’ve mastered it, because I always want to do comedy, but it’s not where I’m at as of today. As of today, I got a lot of stuff inside of me.
Is this turn toward dramatic fare a byproduct of getting older?
I don’t know, I think it’s just where I’m at right now. I don’t know what to say. It’s just, where I am as of now, 55, I’ve been through a lot. I know my way around characters. I know how to prep. Nicolas Cage is my neighbor in Vegas. Nicolas Cage! He wants me to do drama, too. He says we’re going to do something together.
Have you talked to him about acting?
No, I’m just in awe of him like you’re in awe of him. When I sit and have sushi with him, or he texts me and picks me up — I have photos, tons of videos, but he doesn’t let me post any of them, which is hilarious. We’ve kind of signed a friendship NDA. (Laughs) The first thing he says to me, he goes, “Dude, we’ll hang out every day. We’ll be friends, but don’t post pictures or videos of what we do.” I said, “That’s fine.” Because I know people would go crazy if they saw us together.
We talk a lot. I grew up watching him in all these different roles, and when he texts me, I get this fuzziness. When I talk to him, I smile.
When you were making movies and critics gave you a hard time, I always wondered if it was partly because you came from MTV, and MTV was just everywhere in the culture. The feeling was, “How dare these MTV guys become movie stars?”
Sandler (who was on Remote Control) was able to squeak through it, which is brilliant. Sandler was able to keep going.
Unfortunately for me, I took it personal. If anyone reads this, don’t take rejection personal. When someone doesn’t want you, it’s hard not to take it personal. I have this saying: A no is a yes. So when someone says no, it really means another door is opening. And I didn’t do that, because I was so young, and my feelings got hurt. So when I went away, I believed in the critics, and I believed in the box office, and I believed in what people were saying — and it burned me out. I didn’t hit drugs, it wasn’t like that. I hit a sadness. I lost my smile. I lost my joy.
I didn’t pat myself on the back, which I don’t know if it’s a Jewish thing in me to beat myself up. (Laughs) But it’s important in life that we all pat ourselves on the back. And it’s important in life to look at it half-full, not half-empty. And that’s something you get as you get older, especially after COVID. I went to my group therapy, which I’ve been involved with for a long time. And then I did Pauly Shore Is Dead, which to me was my best movie I’ve ever done.
And that movie came out of what you learned in group therapy?
I let go. I stopped taking it personally, and then I wasn’t that guy anymore. I just became a guy that was laughing at that guy, and I had my sense of humor back. That’s why Pauly Shore Is Dead — I don’t want to say it was brilliant, but it’s a brilliant film. It's so raw.
Did fans get Pauly Shore Is Dead’s point? Or were they still wanting the Weasel?
No, they got it. It took me a long time to figure out the tone — it took me five years to make. The audience dictates the edit — you don’t dictate the edit. So I tested it a lot, but once I locked it, then it did what I wanted to do, which was appeal to my fans — and it appealed to people that weren’t my fans. It was Curb before Curb. When I do die — whenever that happens — and all my (work) starts popping up, they’re going to fucking be like, “Fuck, this guy was way ahead of his time.”
How do you deal with that: Telling yourself, “Someday, people are gonna realize how funny I am”?
You just try to be patient. I have another saying that I came up with: “If you have one foot in the future, one foot in the past, you’re shitting in the present.” You got to learn about your failures, never stop believing and find the thing that gets you out of bed, which is my work. I love it. And I also love helping people. I have assistants around me, I have people that I help out. Like my mom, I get off on helping. If you go down the line of all the people that worked for me — whether it was opening for me or my assistants — there’s a list, and I love it. And I’m still friends with mostly all of them.
With Encino Man, is it true that you basically rewrote your dialogue so that it sounded more like you?
Well, what happened was, I was hot off of MTV and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who ran Disney at the time, found out about me. They were producing this movie, Encino Man. And then Peter Paterno, who ran Hollywood Records, said, “You got to meet Pauly Shore. He’s like the hot guy.” And then Jeffrey brought me in, and they said, “We want you to play the caveman.” And I said, “I’m not playing the caveman.” He’s like, “Why?” I go, “Cavemen don’t speak. I have a whole language.” He goes, “Okay, we’ll rewrite the best friend for you.”
You’d never been the star of a movie before. That was pretty ballsy on your part.
That would be tying me up — the whole thing was me speaking. I’m not acting as a caveman, it’s fucking stupid.
You weren’t worried that they’d just say, “Never mind, there’s the door”?
No. He didn’t do the research on me properly. He just knew he wanted me in it because I was hot on MTV. I did what was best for the script — and what was best for the script was to play the second lead, not the lead, and then get a real actor to play the caveman, someone that I can bounce off of. We all know the best comedy comes from someone that’s a straight man next to you, which is why my movies work. I don’t like movies where everyone’s fucking goofy in them — like shtick, shtick, shtick, shtick, shtick.
I was very focused on making sure that the lead was a really good actor. Obviously, Ben Stiller read — all these different people were reading — and it was just like, “No, these are comedians. I want a real actor.” So when Brendan came in, I saw his tape, and I’m like, “That guy’s fucking awesome.” He had these big blue eyes. And then we screen-tested together, and there was the comedy.
Encino Man reminded me of E.T. There’s really something very sweet and innocent about playing something real in a situation that’s not real. There’s this fantasy — this make-believe — and obviously a caveman’s not real, obviously an alien like E.T. is not real, but it played real. I love those types of movies. You don’t really see those types of movies that much anymore. Every one of my movies: always comedy and ends with heart and a message. That was who I was. That was my style.
In Pauly Shore Stands Alone, a longtime friend of yours says that it’s impressive how well-adjusted you are considering how you grew up amidst the chaos of the Comedy Store. You left that comment in the movie, so I assume you agree with him.
Well, I’m sitting here with you. I’m sober. I’m not a sober man, but it’s not like I smoked weed before this. And that comes from me just being lucky — I don’t have the gene that my father had, which is alcoholism, where he had to drink to go on stage. I’m lucky that I don’t have that — that’s the first thing. And the second thing, I learned what not to do. I saw all these guys fuck up their careers, everywhere around me. No one ever sat me down and said, “Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do this.” But I saw the drugs, I saw the bankruptcy, I saw all this shit. So when I made my money, I saved it. I’m pretty well off because of it.
A lot of people when they get famous early, they blow through their money.
Well, also, I’m a minimalist. I mean, look how I’m dressed — I’m not the guy with the watch and the fucking car. I fly Southwest, dude, I don’t care. I like to be connected. That's totally Pauly.
You just flew back from Austin on Southwest?
Did you get spotted a lot?
Always, everywhere. And I say hi. I take a picture.
What’s the ratio of feeling like, “I’m tired, I just want to sleep on this plane” versus “It’s nice to have fans say hi”?
50/50. (Laughs) The worst is when you’re taking a piss at the stall and you’re holding your dick and somebody’s like, “Oh, fucking Pauly Shore, what’s up, bro?” I’m like, “Dude, dude, I’m taking a piss, bro. Give me a second.” But I’m in the entertainment business — why would I be mad if I get recognized? I’d be mad if I’m in the entertainment business and I didn’t get recognized. Because then you failed. Your job is to get recognized.
How does it feel to be 55?
It sounds old as fuck.
You’re not married, you don’t have kids. For a lot of people, those are signs of adulthood.
You always have to do what’s right for you — not what’s right for society. I grew up in a situation where I didn’t have family. My parents divorced when I was three or four. My dad was always on the road doing his thing — he was around, but he wasn’t around. And my mom was busy with the comedians, and she had different relationships with different men. Sam Kinison was my fucking mentor, so we’re talking porno stars, we’re talking Playmates, we’re talking strippers. You throw all that in one fucking lunch pail, it’s going to be hard to be in a normal situation.
I also really enjoy being by myself. There’s something really nice to be in bed by yourself. You can do whatever you want when you’re by yourself in your bed. If I had a girlfriend, I’d probably have her own room in my house. I have a friend of mine that has that with a guy that she lives with. She’s like, “I got my shit over here in my room. He’s got his shit over there in his room.” And now you say, “Am I ever going to (get married)?” I might meet her when I’m walking back to my house right now. I don’t know. I’m open.
When you go on stage at the Comedy Store now, what does it feel like for you?
It’s hard, it’s different.
Do you talk about that when you’re up there?
A little bit. But it depends on what the audience tells me what to do. If I’m on stage and I’m feeling that I should talk about the Store, then I go into that shit — if I feel like talking about observational shit about nothing, about politics, then I go into that. I might talk about my piss surgery. I just had a piss surgery called Resume. It’s good, it helped me — I did it at Cedar Sinai. You wake up with a catheter in your dick, you have a piss bag, you let it sit for a week, and then they take it out. And then you don’t piss as much, because I was peeing a lot in the middle of the night.
How scared were you before that surgery?
Very scared. Because you think, “Surgery. Dick surgery. They’re going to put a thing in your fucking…” But then I make that material.
I think both. My brothers are running it — I’m not running it. Being more involved with the business right now isn’t what I should be doing. Five, 10 years (from now) could be different. But I think it’s a good thing for other comics to see me there, and it’s also good for me to be there, because it feels like I’m my mom in a way, where I’m there with the comics. But it’s hard — it’s not easy.
After my (Austin) set, Joe was like, “Oh my god, that was fucking awesome.” And I go, “Well, the only time you’ve ever seen me was at the Comedy Store.” He’s like, “What’s the difference?” I’m like, “Well, that’s like my home club. That’s like my family.” When I’m at the Comedy Store, I feel like I’m Mitzi Shore’s son. When I’m on tour, I’m Pauly Shore the comedian. It’s a weird thing.
There’s a lot of talk these days about nepo babies.
What’s a nepo baby? Nepotism?
Yeah, the idea is, “Oh, they’re famous because they had a famous father or mother.” A lot of younger actors who are the children of famous actors are being summarily dismissed because of that.
Number one, it should motivate you. It motivated me pretty heavy. I had to become — I don’t want to say famous, that sounds stupid — but I had to become known quick because I was Mitzi’s son. So I went from high school, 17 years old, to hitting MTV at 21. So I only had about four or five years. And I knocked it out. And then I became bigger than everyone.
In high school, people knew whose kid you were.
Yeah, but everyone was the son of someone at Beverly Hills High School. No one cared.
Did you like high school?
It was amazing. It was heaven. Beverly Hills High School in the 1980s, are you kidding me? It was a blast. It was like a Molly Ringwald movie. It was just like Pretty in Pink. Kids showing up in their BMWs. Oingo Boingo played in my swim gym. David Schwimmer was in one of my classes. Lenny Kravitz went there. It was like a John Hughes film.
Were you the class clown?
Yeah, but whatever I got into in my life, I always took really serious. When I started surfing, I made sure I learned how to surf good down in San Diego, Pacific Beach — I got really good at surfing. Skateboarding, 11 years old, I was on the Junior Pepsi team. I’d get free skateboard stuff. We’d go to Reseda Skate Park — Mike Binder used to take me out there. Breakdancing, I was taught by Suga Pop, who was the best, he was in every Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton and James Brown video.
I worked really hard at those things that I liked. As far as school, I’d have to say I was a C-minus average, because I didn’t really like classes. I got good grades in the stuff (I liked) — I was in the dance company, I was into that. I was into art. But I hated math and biology. I still don’t use a computer to this day. I have an assistant organize everything. I hate computers. I do it all on my phone.
Do you visualize getting that next big opportunity? Are you thinking, “I want to put myself mentally in the position so that when that break comes, I’m ready”?
I’m always ready. The talent’s been there the whole time. Fortunately for me, there’s the internet, so I can create whatever I want to create, so I constantly put stuff out there — I’m getting my fix. But as far as Hollywood, that’s one phone call. Everyone wants that one phone call from someone that’s going to elevate them. My story’s no different than anyone else’s story. And it’s not about the success of what you’re doing, because you can’t control that. At the end of the day, it’s about doing things, whether it’s a small video on YouTube or whether it’s some big thing.
Everything happens for a reason, and because I put myself on the streets back in my 30s, I learned how to produce, write, direct, act, edit, score. If I didn’t do that, then I would be hosting Dancing With the Stars. I’d be the guy that hosts America’s Videos. I’m not saying that’s a bad career, but I put myself out on the street — my version of the street — where I’ve got to figure it out. And that’s what Pauly Shore Is Dead was. I always say that was the first part of the second part of my career. I can go anywhere in America and I can make anything, which is a powerful thing.
Do you know how much stuff I’ve done since Pauly Shore Is Dead, the last 20 years? We’re talking Pauly Shore Is Dead. We’re talking Natural Born Komics. We’re talking Adopted, which is Nicolas Cage’s favorite movie I’ve ever done. We’re talking Vegas Is My Oyster, which was a huge special I did for Showtime. We’re talking Pauly-Tics, another Showtime special. We’re talking Stands Alone. This is me creating stuff from scratch. Not a lot of people can do that.
So you’re not getting approached by producers saying, “Okay, what if we do something with the Weasel, but now he’s 55?”
The Weasel seems really removed from the guy you are now.
I’ll work with anyone as long as they’re going to elevate me and it’s going to challenge me. So if they come up with a creative way — like The Wrestler, a comedy version of a guy that is down and out, if it’s a good script…
You’ve thought about a comedy Wrestler?
Of course. Who hasn’t? Who doesn’t want the call from Darren Aronofsky?
Have you heard from either Brendan Fraser or Ke Huy Quan since the Oscars?
Ke, we talk. Yeah, we talked a couple of times on direct message. I haven’t reached out to Brendan. I’ll reach out to him.
Where did the Weasel voice come from? When did you first do it?
I think it was on MTV, on Totally Pauly. I think it was walking down Sunset — it was basically my first week on MTV — and it just kind of happened by accident. “Weee-zzzel, budddddy.” It was just stupid. And then I started pausing between words and, “Hey, check out this video. It’s going to be maaajor.” This cadence thing just happened, and then it took off.
So you weren’t drawing off anything? It just popped in your head?
People would call me the Weasel, but they never described the voice. No one said, “Oh, you should do the weasel and you should have this voice.” A lot of people were saying, “You should be the dude of comedy.” I didn’t understand that. So, no, the weasel and the voice, all that shit, it just kind of happened naturally. It wasn’t like Pee-wee Herman (where Paul Reubens was like), “Let’s think about this.” I used to dress in my mom’s clothes. I’d dress in Steven Tyler’s clothes, and I’d just put on her knit shirts, and then we would just go.
Your entire childhood, you were surrounded by famous people or the kids of famous people. How is it for you to be around “regular” people?
What happened is when I was probably 19 or 20, Sam Kinison took me under his wings, and he was from Peoria, Illinois. Sam was the first person to take me out to the middle of the country, and ever since then, I’ve been going there because I feel the authenticity of those people and this connection. I feel more comfortable with those people than I do in West Hollywood. I guess I yearned for those people because I grew up around famous people. That was one of the reasons why I really love the middle of the country — I never was around it. Plus, that’s rock ‘n’ roll — rock ‘n’ roll is in the middle of the country. Look at those old Poison videos — Bon Jovi, “Wanted Dead or Alive.” You got 20,000 people (in those videos) — those are my people. That’s where I get my love, and that’s where I’ll be until I die. Like George Burns, just be touring America — I love it.
When you were young, you were going to the Playboy Mansion. That’s definitely not a normal life.
I’m on MTV, I’m at the Playboy Mansion, I’m hanging out with the guys from Alice in Chains. I was in heaven. I was pinching myself. No, that wasn’t normal at all. It was abnormal.
Are you funnier now than you were in your 20s?
Absolutely. I became more relatable. As a stand-up, I felt disconnected. Now I’m the outsider. Before, it was all about my personality: “Yo, bro, what’s up?” It was all about persona and not so much the material. Now it’s about the material. I like making fun of myself. I like being self-deprecating. I love it. It makes me laugh.
When you were on Rogan’s show a few years ago, you said that it makes you sad to watch your old movies. Is that still the case?
Yeah, it’s hard, because it was such a fun time. If people ask, “What was your funnest time ever in your life?” I would have to say my 20s, because I was starring in movies and I love movies. And then when they took it away from me. I started creating my own stuff. Trust me, I was having fun doing Adopted and Natural Born Komics and all that shit, but it’s different because, as a star, you just show up and everything is done for you.
Do you think you enjoyed it enough at the time? Is there any regret on your part that you didn’t?
No, I enjoyed it. But that’s what Sandler has: He got to keep doing movies the whole time. I didn’t get to do that. But that’s life. What are you going to do? It is what it is.
No one ever teaches young people how to be famous. Like you said, you got lucky that your life didn’t implode.
I learned what not to do through (Kinison). It’s weird: He died at 38, and I’m 55. So young.
You know, there’s not that many comics out there that perk my ears. When I sit in the back at the Comedy Store, I watch the comedians — the whole audience is like, “Ha, ha, ha, ha.” And I’m like, “No.” Because guess what? I saw Richard Pryor on that stage. I saw Robin Williams on that stage. I saw Sam Kinison on that stage. No one’s going to beat that. Chappelle, Rogan, a couple guys, Burr — especially Chappelle, he’s at that level. Rogan’s gotten really funny — he’s another guy that I think has gotten funnier with time.
Chappelle has faced some controversy about jokes he’s made. Rogan gets criticized, too — and now he has this anti-woke club. Do you think about what’s not okay to say in comedy right now when you’re coming up with stand-up material?
I don’t know. I’ve never been the kind of guy that’s been racist, even before this whole movement. I’ve never been the kind of guy that’s been deliberately inappropriate. That’s not who I am. I don’t say I would get a pass — because I don’t want to say that — but I think people know that I was raised in a situation with a bunch of people that are inappropriate and that of course (I’m) going to be inappropriate.
I say this thing in my act: “If I ran for president, I’d probably win because I got the Democrats and the Republicans. I got the Democrats because I was raised around Blacks, Jews, gays, Latinos, trans, all these (people on) the left. And I got the Republicans because of all my films and MTV.”
When people say, “When will Pauly Shore get his comeback?,” does that annoy you? Is it irritating to feel like you need a comeback?
I don’t need anything. Yeah, I want to get the call. I want to go to the set. But I don’t need it.
Do you want to show anybody?
I want to show myself.
There’s no part of you that thinks, “I’ll show those critics who shit on me…”?
No, they had their right to say what they said. I did a lot of stupid… Bio-Dome wasn’t the most thought-provoking comedy, but it still did really well for me.
I’m going to show myself because it’s in me. I want to say, “Yo, you did it.” When you watch Sin City Psycho, you’ll see what I'm saying. You’ll be like, “Fuck, fuck, oh wow.” I wanted to do that for me — it’s not like I did it for anyone else. Of course I wanted people to see it and respond to it — like, “Oh my god, he should do something different, this is cool. Wow, I never seen him like that.” But it’s not like a strategic thing — it’s what’s inside of me to do something different.
So what’s your dream project?
Anything that’s unexpected. Working with someone that you never expect me to work with and delivering a performance in a role in something that you wouldn’t expect.
I think my story is more interesting than anyone’s story as far as if I could pull this off — or when I pull this off. I’ve gone down a road that is so one-sided for so long. These guys like Brendan and Mickey Rourke and Simon (Rex), they never had what I have as far as a shtick. You look at Robin, you look at Steve Martin, you look at Eddie Murphy — Bill Murray is a great example, when he started doing drama. I just need that phone call. And if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m going to keep doing my thing.