Look Who Washed Ashore
When you Google Pauly Shore, one of the suggested searches that pops up is this question: Is Pauly Shore still alive?
That could be due to some confusion over the veracity of his 2003 mockumentary Pauly Shore Is Dead. But it’s probably at least a little bit because of the fact that the once-ubiquitous comedian has largely disappeared from the spotlight. After a brief-but-fervent stint of popularity in the early-to-mid ‘90s — when he had his own show on MTV followed by a string of movies — Shore faded from the public eye.
But despite the apparent frequency of people inquiring about his death, he is not only still alive, but he’s also still working in entertainment — albeit in a smaller capacity than he once was. These days, Shore can be found back where his career started: doing stand-up comedy. And up next for Shore is a stop in Honolulu for a show at 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at Hawaiian Brian’s, sponsored by Hawaii’s Natural High.
“I am happiest when I am on stage — it’s like my happy place,” Shore says.
What he likes about it, he explains, is “just the love that I get from people wherever I go.” He does, of course, recognize that that love is largely hinged on the past — people mainly still know him for films he did more than 20 years ago.
“I am fortunate that whatever it was I did in my career, a lot of people are familiar with me,” he says.
But it’s his more current work that is perhaps his most dynamic. In recent years, Shore has produced, directed and starred in a number of comedy specials and mockumentaries. And while his present work may rely a little on the past, it seems that there might just be a future for Shore.
The son of comedian Sammy Shore and Los Angeles’ The Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore, Shore had been primed early on for a life in comedy. Growing up, he was constantly surrounded by comedians. (In his 2014 documentary Pauly Shore Stands Alone, he recounts how as a kid he’d sometimes be woken up late at night by after-hours Comedy Store parties taking place in his living room.)
He doesn’t really recall what drew him to comedy, but he did his first stand-up gig at just 17. One night, his manager arranged for MTV to come see him perform. It was the first step in what became a meteoric rise: The network offered him his own show, Totally Pauly, where he’d interview people and introduce music videos.
The gig led to films, starting with Encino Man, in which he co-stars alongside Sean Astin and Brendan Fraser as a high school outcast who accidentally digs up a frozen Neanderthal and tries to pass him off as a classmate. His character was a version of an alter ego he had created doing standup and had gained widespread popularity on MTV, a spacey slacker dubbed The Weasel.
Shore was never warmly received by critics. Roger Ebert’s reviews of Shore’s performances were nothing short of scathing — the worst was for Jury Duty, in which Ebert wrote: “(Shore’s) appeal must be limited to people whose self-esteem and social skills are so damaged that they find humor, or at least relief, in at last encountering a movie character less successful than themselves.”
But audiences embraced him — in those days, he could easily pack a concert hall for a stand-up show and often was greeted by enthusiastic fans who knew all his catchphrases. “I had little girls waiting to see me, screaming, crying,” he told Rolling Stone in an interview from that era. In the four years following Encino Man, Shore was everywhere, with films that threw The Weasel into different situations — a small-town farm (Son In Law), the military (In The Army Now), a courtroom (Jury Duty) and an environmental experiment (Bio-Dome).
Reflecting on the peak of his career in a 2014 Rolling Stone article, Shore said, “I kinda became my character.”
Like The Weasel, Shore himself came to be known for chasing girls and partying hard. It’s an image, it seems, he got stuck in — and once the character was played out, it didn’t give Shore a lot of places to go. In retrospect, he muses, he should have been more selective with his projects.
“I wasn’t really strategic when I was on a roll,” he admits. “I didn’t listen to my manager, I didn’t listen to my agents. I kind of was just, I don’t want to say I was out of control, but I just wanted to work, and I wasn’t thinking of the repercussions of picking particular projects. When offers came in, I did almost everything they offered me because I just liked working.”
By the time he landed his own Fox sitcom, Pauly, in 1997, it seemed the shtick was up; the show was cancelled after just five episodes.
“After I did In The Army Now, I was on top, and after that, I should have slowed down and not done Jury Duty or Bio-Dome, and then my sitcom after that,” he continues. “They weren’t really right for me, and I should have maybe gone away and maybe just worked on my stand-up.”
Shore’s peak may be long-passed, but the way down has been perhaps more interesting.
He still regularly tours doing stand-up comedy, pops up occasionally in the mainstream — including a guest-spot on Hawaii Five-0 last year and a recent cameo on Workaholics — and runs his own production company called, in true Weasel form, Landing Patch Productions.
In the last 15 years, Shore has spearheaded his own projects, many of which have taken on a meta quality. There’s the self-deprecating Pauly Shore Is Dead, where he fakes his own death to try to restart his career, and Adopted, a mockumentary of Shore traveling to Africa to adopt a child. In his most recent project, Pauly Shore Stands Alone, he revealed a new side of himself — more Pauly, less Weasel — as it follows him through a tour of out-of-the-way mid-Western towns. The film is a thoughtful, even poignant, reflection on what happens when your best work, and your best years, may be behind you. It’s personal and revealing, showing Shore dealing with middle age — his mother’s waning health and an enlarged prostate — and a comparatively middling career.
“In the stuff that I do, I am always kind of goofing off or playing a character,” Shore says. “And then in Pauly Shore Stands Alone, I told myself, I don’t want to goof off; I want to just roll and not goof off and see what happens.
“It’s relatable, and I thought that people would watch it and relate to what I am going through,” he adds.
Looking ahead, Shore has some new ventures in the works. He’s scheduled to release a series of interviews he’s done with various celebrities, from Judd Apatow to Ziggy Marley, on Crackle. And he had a meeting with Showtime a couple weeks ago — the specifics of which he won’t discuss yet (“I don’t like to talk about things unless they have a release date”).
In past interviews, he has admitted that when his career began to fade, it was tough; he took it personally. But these days, he says he’s happy with the work he’s doing. Still, he does admit that if a studio film were to come around, he’d consider it. He says he especially would love to work with a producer or director “that you would never expect me to work with.” (He lists Quentin Tarantino among directors he’d want to collaborate with.)
“I am kind of at a place now where I don’t want to fight with it,” he says. “Doing my projects are cool — I finance them, I control them, I own most of them — and I am really proud of them. So I am fulfilled that way. And my stand-up is cool, and I have a nice following …
But you know, if the situation came to me, I would obviously be excited. But it’s not something I’m fighting for. It’s like trying to get back with an ex-girlfriend: If they don’t want to get back with you, stop trying to get back with them, you know what I mean?
“What’s that saying — if you love ‘em, you’ll let ‘em go and they’ll come back, or how does it go? I don’t know.”
Tickets for Pauly Shore’s Aug. 6 show start at $25. For more information, visit hawaiianbrians.com.