I started my career at 17 working for Mitzi Shore at The Comedy Store. I was a doorman, yet another of my duties was to babysit for Peter and Pauly Shore who were something like 7 and 9 years old. It was good work if you could get it. There wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting or welding to be done, just hanging out with two little rugrats wedged deep into the Beverly Hills rich kids crowd. At the time I washed up on Mitzi’s nightclubs doorstep, they lived with Mitzi and the comedian Steve Landesberg in Dorothy Lamour’s old mansion just up Doheny drive above Gil Turner’s liquor store.
It was rare air for a boy fresh from the suburbs of Detroit to be breathing. Peter and Pauly’s friends were the kids of some major hollywood staples. Paul Rydell, Tony Bill, Ryan O’neal, etc. One night we had a seder dinner at her house and Andy Williams, Art Metrano, and Richard Pryor all stopped by. It was that kind of night. We’d all smoke pot together in the kitchen as Mitzi would be preparing dinner.
I was always wondering what the hell I doing there. I was the answer to one of those ‘which things doesn’t belong in this picture?’ puzzles. Argus Hamilton, Ollie Joe Prader, and I would take Pauly out to skateparks in distant lands I’d never heard of called, El Monte, and Covina. We’d squire him to events at Beverly Hills high, the school he would eventually attend, and out to Malibu to drop him at famous kids of famous parents houses on the famous Malibu colony.
My all time best memory of that time in my life, and there were a lot of them, I loved the Shore family then and still do today, points out the moment I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. We were sitting in Mitzi’s kitchen as she was making breakfast and an eight year old Pauly came in irritated and deeply concerned. He rattled off this line of dialogue, word for word without irony, satire, or even a smirk of jest.
‘Mom? What the fuck? You’re letting Peter go to Maui over Christmas with Ryan and Farrah and you won’t let me go to Japan on tour with Connie Stevens?’
(They did in fact both go on each of these trips that Christmas with the sons and daughters of the above icons.)
BABY SITTING PAULY – THE SEQUEL
Cut to last week. forty-seven some years later and I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, babysitting Pauly again. Opening up for him as a middle act at the Funny Bone in Omaha and then in the next state over at the Des Moines Funny Bone.
I’m doing anything I can to get my stage/sea legs back after a twenty five years absence from stand-up, a truly unforgiving art in terms of making it easy to jump up any old time you want decades later. The comedians you know and love, all have one thing in common. They’re always on stage. Pretty much every night. Even nights off they’ll find a room to jump up in. Yes, it’s addicting, but it’s also what it takes to be great. You have to show up at the party constantly, always working in new stuff, shaping, molding, cutting, changing, kneading.
PAULY NEVER LEFT THE PARTY
After his meteoric rise as an MTV jock and then a run as a bonafide movie star in a series of niche films, the curve of Pauly’s career was flattened by time, a change in culture, and a general planet wide weariness of ‘The Weasel’ shtick. Pauly was hurt by the air coming out of the celebrity bag, but he kept on undaunted. Always. The one thing he never stopped doing was going out on the road. With Sam Kinison, his father, Sammy Shore, or a long line of young comics he’s nurtured along and helped get their stage legs, taking them on his tours, including, Bobby Lee, Sandy Danto, and many, many others.
I joined that line last week. I had a fantastic time. It was strange as hell being out on the road playing comedy clubs again. I was one of the very first of the comedy club headliners in the eighties. I opened Mark Ridley’s comedy club in Detroit. Was his first headliner as he was the first comedy club that wasn’t a showcase club in the major cities of LA, New York and San Fran. My group of comics, Bruce Baum, Bob Saget, Gary Shandling, Dave Coulier, Rita Rudner, Rich Shydner, and later Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, Mark Schiff, Gary Muledeer, and Dennis Miller, were the first swarm of comedy club comics touring the country. We played in rooms that popped up in just about every state in the nation, seemingly overnight. Clubs that became chains, with names like Giggles, Zanies, Punchline, and Hilarities. Clubs that were one-offs like the Cleveland Comedy Club, or the Pittsburgh comedy club, or Bea’s Comedy Kitchen.
The Shores, Pauly and Sammy Shore, Peter Shore with Mitzi and Pauly.
BACK ON THE ROAD
Not that I missed it, or had longed for it in any way, but it was fun being back on that version of the road. The Funny Bones are sturdy, well run clubs. In nice mall courts that feel very America 2022. That was one the biggest revelations to me. Mid-America 2022 is not a lot different than California or New York. At least not on the surface. It’s a hell of a lot whiter. That’s for sure. It made me realize how comfortable I am with the diversity of the rest of the country, and even London. It’s more normal for me to wander streets amid faces of all colors ,and people from all places. Being in a mall in a sea of white faces is just not ordinary to me anymore. It would be like going into a restaurant and being told they serve only one kind of bread. I may never order gluten-free toast, but it makes me feel safe that it’s on the menu. Makes me comfortable.
Pauly sold out every single show. He sells out all of his shows.
They come out, wherever he plays. They want to see him, yes, remember a moment in their lives, but it’s more than that. They come for a few reasons other than the nostalgia. One, he loves them. They feel it. From the minute he hits the stage they know they’re appreciated. Not taken for granted. Two, they don’t get to see a lot of famous people up close. Not like this. Not someone who’s movies they’ve seen many times over. Is it curiosity? Maybe to some. To me it seemed like many of them had come and seen him quite a few times before over the years.
As I said, Pauly never stopped playing the road. Hitting the clubs. In every state. Year after year after year. Thirty some years on, he couldn’t help but become a damn good comic. A great comic. He wasn’t when he started. (Who was?) He was a novelty act. A kid almost playing a comic. It was deep in his blood though. How could it not have been? Time and circumstance forced him to cure, mold and morph into a fantastic club act. One of the best.
Is he the most beautiful sea shell the ocean has smoothed out and spit up onto the comedy beach? Maybe not, but you realize when you see the set he’s a rare find. A polished and precious shiny object. He takes the stage with a motorized confidence and never for one minute in the next hour stops, let’s up, shows mercy, and more important, lies. He’s honest and authentic. He’s Pauly. He’s an open book. Everything he say is true. Self depreciatory, yes, but genuine. His jokes are, at his expense, commenting on culture, a peek into the trappings of fame, and the tools for the task of making you laugh hard and thinking of nothing else for an hour or so.
The set is a barrage. It’s not Seinfeld, but it’s not Rip Taylor either. It’s somewhere smack in the middle. It’s a silly, genuine, factual ride. A cavalcade of audience participation, confession, mirth, and self flagellation. He loves being bathed in the love and the laughter. It’s obvious. He loves burrowing into the womb a comedy club becomes. His joy is your joy through osmosis. He has fun, you have fun. You go home happy and he goes on to the next town.
I have to say I was impressed with his act. Very impressed. I didn’t expect to be. I was. Happily.
SEE HIM LIVE
Go see him. It’s a treat you owe yourself if you’re a stand-up fan. If only to see what a modern road dog does. The Amazing Jonathan’s and the Bob Foxes of the world are all dead or retired. Pauly is still climbing the stage. He’s not in the Kreisher, Burr, Sebastian concert world, though he once was for a brief moment, but he’s out there. Live. Channeling his dad and host of great legends from the past. It’s a treat. I promise. I was there for my own needs. To get stage time, but I did get to see a great American stand-up show in the middle of white bread America. I enjoyed it.
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