"If you get Pauly Shore, you get all of Pauly Shore": The joyful return of The Weasel

After loss, the '90s comedian is back with a "goofy and raunchy" new movie the world needs now & many more projects

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published September 4, 2020 7:00PM (EDT)

Pauly Shore in "Guest House" (Lionsgate)
Pauly Shore in "Guest House" (Lionsgate)

Cher Horowitz once advised that it's useless to go searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. And if you watch the trailer for "Guest House," the 52-year-old comic's first starring film role in over a decade, you will likely not confuse it with "Tenet." But that doesn't mean  Pauly Shore can't surprise you.

Directed and co-written by Sam Macaroni — who comes with a background in action films like "John Wick 3" — the movie feels like "Neighbors" in reverse. A well-behaved young couple (Mike Castle and Aimee Teegarden) movie into the home of their dreams, only to discover the guest house is occupied by a very hard partying, one-man mayhem machine named Randy. Pandemonium  ensues — the kind that comes with drug use, profanity and boobs. It's the kind of role Shore could have played 25 years ago, except that having the character be a rough-edged, middle-aged man instead gives the whole thing an unexpectedly tragicomic note.

If you are too young to remember the '90s, you likely can't fathom exactly how huge Pauly Shore was. The son of legendary Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore and comic Sammy Shore, he started doing stand-up in his teens. He became a breakout celebrity as an MTV personality, where he defined his persona as the embodiment of the chill Southern California dude.  He went on to star in a string of slapstick-heavy hits like "Encino Man" and "Son-In-Law." Then, much like Hammer pants, he fell out of fashion.

Shore never stopped hustling, making his own films, doing stand-up and hosting a podcast. But  the past few years have changed him — there was an ugly public dispute with his brother regarding their mother and her club, and then, in rapid succession, the deaths of his parents, his sister and his best friend. He is unguarded in his grief and unambiguous about his quest for light in the darkness.  Speaking with Salon recently, he was not the chaotic character Genx-ers know as The Weasel. He was soft spoken, reflective and self-effacing. "I want to be joyful in my life," he says. And when you ask him about the new "Bill & Ted" movie, he won't hesitate to crack, "We've got to do 'Encino Man 2.'"

The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

This is one of your biggest roles in a while.

Yeah, they dusted me off. It's hilarious.

It feels like a very Pauly Shore movie. It's wild. It's raunchy. It's dirty. Tell me how you got hooked up with this story.

It was Sam Macaroni, the director and the writer of the film, with these two guys. They wrote this film about a guy living in a guest house that won't leave. And they connected with Barry [Brooker] over at Grindstone and my friend, Jared [Goetz] over at Lionsgate. I think Barry said to Jared, "Hey, we want Pauly to be a police officer in this film. Do you know Pauly Shore?" And Jared was like, "Well, yeah, he's one of my best friends." It was just a weird timing thing.

Then I guess the director had seen me on Joe Rogan's podcast. From there, the director was like, "Screw the police officer. We want Pauly to be the lead." That's when they offered me the lead. I read the script and then that's when I thought [about] the concept. It always starts with the concept and the story. From there you've got to go in and do your surgery on the script and work with the team and soften the character, and kind of that's what I did. They gave me free rein to kind of clean it up and make it a little bit more relatable and softer.

So this all came about because of that interview on Joe Rogan, where you were talking about your career and where your place is on the call sheet on any day.

I just think that he and a lot of other people are kind of frustrated going, "Why the hell isn't Pauly Shore doing movies? This guy starred in several movies. People like to laugh and he seems like the guy that makes people laugh, why is it?" You ask me why, I don't have the answer. You can't beg Hollywood to put you in movies.

That's not the way to go about it. After my run in films, I always kept working. It's just, if they're not offering you movies, they're not offering you movies. That's just, that's life, you know?

And you shift and you do your own movies. That's what I did. The last twenty years I've been producing and directing and starring in my own stuff. If you look at the stuff that I've done in the last 20 years, I've done tons and tons of stuff, but I just haven't starred in a studio-type film like this in awhile.

Tell me about the character Randy. He has a backstory. He doesn't just spring fully formed in this house. You find out more about where he's coming from and why he does the things he does. How do you describe him and how did you change him?  

Yeah, he's a little Zach Galifianakis meets The Dude, you know, Jeff Bridges.  

He's a guy who doesn't want to leave his house. I don't want to give the story away, but that's what I liked about the thing. There's a reason. There's always got to be a reason and the reason why he was acting crazy and doing stuff. Yeah, that's kind of who he is, but he doesn't want to leave the house. He's got the roots in that house, and so that was his way of acting out.

You said that you worked with Sam on the character. Were you a collaborator in what this character eventually becomes?

Well, yeah. I have been a collaborator not just in this, in all my films. Every movie I've ever done, I've gotten in there with the writers. If you get Pauly Shore, you get all of Pauly Shore. I'm not just showing up, especially if it's starring me and it's got my name on it. I've got to direct these guys on how to make this guy likable and more relatable. That's kind of where I come in with what I do. So yes, I worked with him in developing and also help casting. All the comedians are my friends. Erik Griffin and Bobby Lee to Punkie Johnson, and then Sam brought in his crew Steve-O and Billy Zane.

It was very much a collaborative effort. Everyone respected one another and everyone let each other bring what they brought to the table.

I want to talk about the stunts, because the director has a background in that world. Probably my favorite moment was when you do this beautiful balletic, fight sequence. That seems like something I hadn't seen from you before.

It's interesting, because it's hard to look at things from a different perspective, but you have to. I realized this script, the stunts, I had never done stunts like that. Thinking back on my career, "In The Army Now," we did a lot of stunts, but this was a real physical kind of game here.

They obviously brought in a stuntman. I worked with the stuntman, and Sam was a great director, very meticulous and focused. And the fact that it was R-rated, I don't even know if I ever did an R-rated film, where I starred in an R-rated film either. I was thinking back on that. Have I done smaller parts in R-rated movies? Yeah. But I don't think any of my roles, I don't remember starring in an R-rated film. [His mockumentaries "Adopted" and "Pauly Shore Is Dead" are rated R, mostly for language.] So you've got stunts, you've got R-rated, and it's a lot like my comedy. My comedy is definitely PG-13, leaning into R.

You're a little more family friendly than maybe people give you credit for, Pauly.


Thinking about this movie, and the "Bill & Ted" movie, it's hard for me not to, as a member of Gen X, think maybe there's an appetite for a certain kind of comedy that many of us haven't seen in a long time. There's almost an innocence to it, even though this is an R-rated movie. What are you finding now as a comic? What's the feedback you're getting from audiences about what they like, what they want, what they need right now?

I think you nailed it. It's exactly what you just said. I mean, it's so obvious. The world is such in a weird spot. We're in this big transition, and it's dark and everyone is trying to make the best of it. Obviously, you want to look at what you have, not what you don't have, but it's really hard to do that.

This has been a curve ball that we've all been thrown and no one's ever expected it. For "Bill & Ted" and my movie, you know, maybe these movies coming out at a time where it wasn't so dark, wouldn't be getting as much attention. I think the fact that we are in a doom and gloom place makes the timing even stronger for both of these films to just kind of step away from what the hell is going on.

There are so many dramatic movies and documentaries now; it's like they just don't stop putting out just sad content. So that's why the timing, I think, is good for the world to see something that is silly and goofy and raunchy.

You have been improvising so much the last several years in your career; you have been a self-starter. You've got your podcast, you just started something new. I want to hear about the whole journey, Pauly, from L.A. to Maui, to Vegas, that you've been on in just the last couple of months. Can you tell me how that happened?

Well, it's kind of like my life was a movie. It was like I just ended the second act and now I'm going into the happy stuff at the end. It's kind of a weird analog. I don't want to say the dark part of my life is in the past, but it feels that way.

I've had a lot of personal stuff happen to me, whether it was through my family or my parents passing, my sister passing, my best friend passing, all within two, three years of my life. I just wanted to go back to the happy Pauly. The Pauly that America fell in love with years ago and not the guy that's burnt out from the personal stuff. Because I'm very emotional with my family.

My mom, I was her baby. Everyone was like, "Oh, Mitzi Shore." I don't really care about that part of her. I care about, she was my mom. I lost my mom and just that alone, being the baby of the family, losing your mom and your dad right after it? It's hard.

I just didn't want to be in L.A. anymore. I wasn't happy there. I'd been there my whole life. You know, I'm 52. I've never lived anywhere else. And Vegas, to me, seemed like a really fun place that had opportunity. There are a lot of stages here. There's other celebrities out here. Nicolas Cage is out here. Carrot Top's out here. Louie Anderson's out here. You know, these are all my friends.

I wanted to get a big house. My whole life I've lived in a big house. Growing up, I lived in the house. When I became known, I lived in a big house. The last seven years, I lived in the apartment in Silver Lake, which was charming and I loved it, but everything changed and I didn't want to be there anymore.

I just wanted to be in a place that surrounds with joy and I want to be joyful in my life. That's why I decided to move here. I walked in this house that I live, it's an old school Vegas area. It's called Rancho Circle, really beautiful. It's very private and it's quiet. When I walked in the house, I felt my parents. They said, "You're home now." That's what I felt when I walked in here, I feel like my parents are here. So I feel safe. It was a good move. Now I'm here and I'm enrolling lots of young cameramen and editors into comedy, into the comedy world. Because it doesn't really exist in Vegas, comedy production, and it's something I'm interested in developing out here.

It sounds  like your life is in some ways running on a parallel track to that of the character that you play in the movie. That you're a guy who has been through loss and is looking for a home.

Yeah. I guess. Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is similar.

You just started the new iteration of your YouTube channel with "Pauly-okie." How are you reaching out to your audience now in this time when you can't get on a stage?

Through the stuff that I've learned in the last 20 years, I'm able to kind of enroll people around me with my vision of, "Let's do this Pauly-okie thing." That was a big deal. Now we recorded all the songs that are going to air. Every Friday, there's going to be a new song.

And then every Thursday I have my podcasts. And then every Monday I have a new show that I'm putting together called "Sweatin' with the Wiez." Everyone thinks I look like Richard Simmons, so I'm going to do these workout videos with a dance partner and we're going to do them in my backyard. It'll be fun, silly, silly stuff.

"Guest House" is available on digital and demand Sept. 4.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Guest House Interview Movies Mtv Pauly Shore Sam Macaroni Steve-o