It seems like an unlikely career gambit: an on-the-road documentary that features Pauly Shore performing in tiny Wisconsin towns in winter, dealing with a drop in popularity as well as some terrible news from home, as his mother Mitzi struggles with Parkinson’s disease.
Yet, that is the current work by Shore that is getting attention. “Pauly Shore Stands Alone” is on Showtime On Demand and is the latest chapter in a career that’s had its share of highs and lows. Shore brings his stand-up comedy on Dec. 12 to the Nugget Casino Resort.
Shore knows that “Stands Alone” is a departure, even though he’s done reality-style works before on TV or video.
“Everything I’ve done has always been goofy or tongue-in-cheek or winking and having fun,” Shore said during an interview from his home in Los Angeles. “But for this particular piece, I said to myself, ‘Don’t do any of that.’ It’s me for real out there.”
Shore added that it also represents, in some way, what others go through.
“Everyone in life goes to work and puts on a smiley face, even though everyone has issues,” he said. “A divorce, a breakup, you mom is dying, your wife cheated on you, or whatever. They have to put on that face. So this is me at work, going through this stuff with my family.”
With details on the health struggles of Mitzi Shore, who founded the famous Comedy Store nightclub in Hollywood, Calif., and the rigors of the road shown in sardonic detail, was “Stands Alone” painful to watch for Pauly Shore? Or did he like what he saw because his vision was on the screen?
“I think all of the above, I have to say. I knew what I wanted: the music, the feel, the look the style. So that’s how I wanted it to be,” he said, noting that Oscar-winning musical documentary “Searching For Sugar Man” was an inspiration for his film.
Though the stand-up world is where he said he feels at home, Shore’s career arc has been nothing if not varied. Starting as a teen doing club shows, Shore developed a distinctive “every-dude” persona around Cali-slang, played as broadly as possible. Through that early work in the late ‘80s, he earned VJ time and his own show on MTV, called “Totally Pauly,” which ran for six years.
It was the successful 1992 comedy “Encino Man” that propelled Shore to more mainstream notoriety. He had a few years of ubiquity in the mid-‘90s, with continued MTV appearances, a successful HBO special called “Pauly Does Dallas,” and more films such as “Son In Law” in 1993 and “Bio-Dome” in 1996. Though out of the mainstream spotlight, Shore kept busy over the years with appearances on Howard Stern and David Letterman’s shows and a “mockumentary” called “Pauly Shore Is Dead” in 2003 that is the absurdist version of his real life shown in “Stands Alone.”
Shore said he travels about half the year doing shows.
“I’ll maybe do a heavy month of shows and then I won’t do any,” he said. “It’s what I do. I travel around. I grew up around comedy, it’s what I did before films, and I’ll be a comic until I die.”
Although he starts with a baseline of written material, Shore said he lets the audience dictate where the show will actually go at each performance.
“I’d say it’s like a surfer, where you drop in a wave and if you have the skill you can do whatever you want, but every wave is maneuvered differently,” Shore said. “Or, it’s like playing tennis with someone, where there is a rhythm that you have to figure out and go with.”
With the shows as the bedrock, Shore’s spent the rest of his time in the 2000s and 2010s with his own production company, Landing Patch. It includes his own comedy specials and films as well as a podcast series he hosts that features a wide variety of guests from comedy, politics sports and the entertainment business. Guests include Chris Rock, Ziggy Marley, Arsenio Hall, pro baseball pitcher Brian Wilson and former Republican National Committee leader Michael Steele. The podcasts are on Shore’s YouTube page, and a video compilation of highlights is in the works for next year.
With this online presence, you may think that Shore would be supportive of the Internet and its progress. But, as it happens, Shore said it’s really messed up the entertainment business.
“It’s kind of sad really, that in order to make it the old fashioned way, the best way, was with your talent,” Shore said. “Now with Instagram and Twitter and everything, it’s not through talent. Of course, there are some who are talented, I’m not saying that. But, you get the Justin Biebers and people that are just squeaking through.
“I feel like everyone has just saturated the market. But that’s the way it is now – you go to wherever the cheese is, especially in comedy. You can’t really fight it.”