Beverly Hills native Pauly Shore was babysat by comedians, hung out at the Odyssey and attended the same high school as Angelina Jolie, Lenny Kravitz and Nicholas Cage. Oingo Boing used to play his swim gym. His mother Mitzi, owner of Sunset Strip institution the Comedy Store, advised and entertained Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Roseanne, David Letterman and Sam Kinison long into the night. In the late 80s and mid-90s, Shore enjoyed fame as an MTV darling, touring standup and lead in the comedies Encino Man, Son in Law, In the Army Now, Jury Duty and Bio-Dome.
“It’s what I always wanted to do: be a rock ‘n’ roll star,” he says at the onset of his new Pauly Shore Stands Alone, grainy footage framing the permed mane, cut-off shorts and fuzzy yellow vest Shore rocks in a deafening theater. “I’m not the king, I’m the Weasel. This is the closest you can get without playing music.”
Flashing forward to early 2014, Showtime's documentary, which premieres today, catches up with a Hollywood kid closing in on 50. Shore’s got circles under his eyes, a bad back and enlarged prostate. Career-wise, he’s touring a string of bars, bowling alleys and strip-club basements across Wisconsin and Minnesota. Mitzi requires full-time care as she battles Parkinson’s. After 40 years, her house — Pauly’s childhood home — must sell to offset medical expenses.
Where 2003 mockumentary Pauly Shore Is Dead lampooned his career decline from arm’s length, Alone is an honest, self-aware, even sweet portrait of coming to terms with the passage of time. In it, Shore is spontaneous, decidedly quick-witted and beloved by his Midwestern fans, but he also carries unmistakable weight on his shoulders.
“It’s just a straight documentary about a guy that’s in his 40s, no kids, still kind of screwing around and he’s taking care of his mom,” Shore describes, sipping coffee outside a café a block and a half from his place in Silver Lake, where he’s lived since May. “We find out who his mom is, so it’s added extra pressure because I’m taking care of the mom of all these comedians. She’s two people: She’s my mom, and my mom also happens to be the creator of the Comedy Store. It’s really about a son and his mom.”
At Alone’s Nov. 12 screening, Shore choked up while publicly thanking Mitzi’s decade-plus caretaker Alfred onstage in the Comedy Store’s Main Room, which was packed with pals including Ron Jeremy, The Aristocrats director Paul Provenza and several tables of curious young comics. “Part of the documentary is reintroducing my mom to this generation,” he continues, “to keep her alive and keep her legacy alive. When she was running the club, she really cared about the comedians as people, about their development, all of it.”
Shore has also launched his podcast Pauly Shore’s Interested, in which he’s sifted through comedy history with Chris Rock, Andy Dick, Marc Maron and Andrew Dice Clay. Over the next two years, he promises to meet increased demand for insight into the L.A. scene’s origins.
An autobiography, one-man show and another documentary of Shore’s life are in the works. “I’ll go deep into the archive footage and more into the story of who I am, who my parents are, how I was raised at the Comedy Store, and also the MTV days,” he says. Though he’s not exactly sure what he’ll do with it yet, he’s also kept roughly 150 hours of personal Super 8 videotape captured across the 90s.
Despite increased competition from smaller venues and bars for audiences, Shore believes the Comedy Store will stay relevant through 2022’s 50th anniversary and beyond.
“Comedy is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle,” he says. “Comics need to get onstage. Whether it’s at the Comedy Store, at Meltdown or some other club. And the Comedy Store has a great history that comics want to feel, almost like an old ballpark in New York or San Francisco: ’This is where Babe Ruth or so-and-so hit their hundredth home run!’ Comics want to be on the stage their heroes were on. It might get a new coat of paint, some new carpet here or there, but as long as I’m around, it’s staying.”
Pauly Shore Stands Alone debuts tonight at 8 p.m. on Showtime, with subsequent airings through January.
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