Q&A: Pauly Shore on Being Honest and Taking Care of His Mother

Pauly Shore rose to fame in the late ’80s as a standup comedian and MTV VJ, leading to starring roles in “Encino Man,” “Son in Law” and “Jury Duty.” In the last decade, his film career has turned more introspective and satirical, including the 2003 mockumentary “Pauly Shore Is Dead.” His most recent work, the documentary “Pauly Shore Stands Alone,” follows him as he tours small towns in the Midwest while caring for his Parkinson’s-stricken mother, Mitzi, owner of Hollywood’s Comedy Store. “Pauly Shore Stands Alone,” which won best documentary at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, will premiere on Showtime on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.

This documentary isn’t your average road tour film. What was the idea behind it?

Well, I did it at a time when there was a lot of heaviness in my life, living in my mom’s house that she had since I was a kid. It was hard, you know what I mean? I guess as an artist, I wanted to do something at a time that I was going through something that probably a lot of people my age are going through right now, which is how to deal with your elderly parents. And then in the documentary we come to find out who my mom actually is — that she’s not just my mom, she’s a mom for all these comedians. We get her story out there, and all this is happening while I’m going about my day of what I do, which is tour the country, and this particular tour I was playing these smaller towns in the Midwest. So I just thought that it would make an honest documentary about my life at that time. When you watch it, I think it’s funny.

Was it difficult for you and your mother to bring cameras in and document your personal life?

Yeah, I would say so. It’s almost like when you’re a comic or a singer or an artist, you have to talk about what you’re going through. I just wanted to tell a story. I think it’s a story that’s very relatable.

You grew up around this legendary comedy club. As you look back on growing up in that environment, how do you think it influenced you as a performer?

I think growing up around the Comedy Store has made me very honest with who I am, and I think it makes my comedy very honest. It’s helped me with that. There’s a lot of people who have a front, and then when they’re not on, they’re a certain other way. The Comedy Store has helped me just be myself, because it’s a very raw environment. You can’t really hide when you’re on stage. That original room is a very honest kind of place.

You’ve been doing standup for 25 years now, and you have this very specific public persona. Do you find that public image affects how you perform, and affects you as a person as well?

I think it’s good and bad at the same time. I think it’s great that I made it and that people know who I am, but it’s also bad being just known for one thing. I think Robin Williams went through it as well. A lot of people come up with their own thing and then they try to get away from their own thing. You always want to be remembered for your last thing, not something you did a long time ago. A friend of mine said to me recently, “How are you doing? Financially, what’s going on? How’s business?” I say I don’t make the kind of money Chris Rock makes on the road, but I make a living. I think at the end of the day, I’m fortunate that I can go out on the road and make a living doing what I love to do. It doesn’t really matter what size the venue is as long as people show up and everyone seems to be happy. The stuff that I’ve been doing in my career in the last 10 years, ‘Pauly Shore Is Dead,” “Adopted,” I do for me. I don’t do things for the money. I’m not motivated by it. Yes, I would love to make a million dollars on something, but if it’s not something that I want to do, then I wouldn’t do it. It’s not like I make millions of dollars doing these projects, but I get to control and own the content and I get to do it the way I want to do it. I guess when the pieces fall in the documentary and it comes out, I’ll look back on it and be like, yo, that was really a nice piece that I did. I’m just really proud of it. I like the music. I like the feel. I like the shots.

There’s a moment in the trailer where you say that you gave up a long time ago worrying about what critics said about your work, but with something so personal like this, do you care about that critical reception a little more? 

With age you just naturally stop caring as much. It’s kind of like with age you stop wanting to get laid as much, with age you stop wanting to party as much. With age, you look at things about what you have as opposed to what you don’t have. The bottom line is, we’re not going to all live past 80, and I’m 46. So I have a certain amount of life left on this earth and I don’t want to go through it going, “Oh, is someone going to like it? Or not like it?” I do it for me. I like the story. I think it’s relatable. A lot of people who’ve seen it have come up to me being like, “Man, that was awesome. I just buried my dad.” Or, “My father had this.” Or, “It was really hard on the family.” So I think people sympathize with what I’m going through.

What’s something that your fans are going to take away from this documentary that they might not have known before seeing it?

That I care for my fans and that I care for my mom and I just care. I’m not 25 years old anymore. I’m not some druggie. I’m not banging chicks every night. I’m not an E! True Hollywood Story. I work really hard at what I do. I enjoy making people happy.

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