Pauly Shore was signing autographs after a stand-up gig when the buxom, drunk brunette approached him.
“Remember?” she whispered into his ear.
He took a quick glance at her tattoos and her midriff, which was bare, but still did not recognize her.
“What did we do?” he asked.
“What do you think we did?” she teased. “At the Playboy Mansion?”
If you’re wondering where Shore has been for the last two decades, it’s here. In a Milwaukee comedy joint housed in the basement of a strip club, where he’s propositioned by women he apparently slept with 20 years ago.
This is what you learn about the comedian in “Pauly Shore Stands Alone,” a documentary he directed about himself that airs on Showtime on Thursday. As you might have guessed, the film is, at times, depressing.
Cameras follow Shore, now 46, as he drives alone through the Midwest to perform in tertiary markets for people who still recognize him from “Encino Man.” He makes between $5,000 and $8,000 per gig and often clicks the seats himself to make sure he’s paid for every ticket.
Back in L.A., he’s dealing with the failing health of his mother, Mitzi Shore, who founded the Comedy Store and now has Parkinson’s disease. He’s renting out his Nichols Canyon mansion for money. Oh, and he’s having issues with his prostate.
It’s a far cry from his life in the ‘90s, when the Weasel – his surfer brah alter ego – was hosting debauched Spring Break specials on MTV and starring in movies like “Son in Law” and “Bio-Dome.” As his friend Whitney Cummings puts it: “He was like Seth Rogen. He was a movie star. He was just one of those guys who was so incredibly famous, like Jason Priestley from ‘90210.’ The Weasel was in the vernacular of our lexicon along with slap bracelets and beanie babies.”
“Heaven,” Shore muses. “I was a rock star, pretty much.”
It was November, and he was sitting in his office at the Comedy Store, which was kind of a mess. There were various chargers on the floor. Pens and dollar bills on his desk. An open suitcase. Two interns from USC huddled around laptops. But posters of his projects were nicely framed on the wall, as was a beautiful black-and-white portrait of his mother in her 40s.
“I see her as that,” he says, pointing at the photograph. “And I see her now, and she’s not that. So, to me, she’s not doing well.”
Since filming his documentary two years ago, Shore sold his mother’s home and moved her into a smaller place where she has a 24-hour caretaker. He visits her a lot, even though she doesn’t usually remember who he is.
Shore’s brother, Peter, has taken over daily operations of the Comedy Store, but Pauly helps out with booking sometimes and still performs at the venue frequently. This month, there’s a big sign advertising his documentary on the side of the building.
Right, so the movie: Why? Is he looking for sympathy? Trying to make a buck? Hoping for a comeback? It was, after all, a 2010 documentary about Joan Rivers – featuring a lot of similar footage of her relentlessly performing in far-flung parts of the country – that helped give her career a second wind in her 70s.
“Because it’s relatable,” he says. “I think this stuff is really funny. A lot of people have urination problems. A lot of people have to carry their bags to their rooms. … That’s all real stuff, and I wanted to show it.”
He admits, though, that part of the impetus for the film is to prove himself as a stand-up. Because his parents were both comedians – his dad is Sammy Shore – and he did a few movies, he doesn’t think he’s seen as a real comic.
“People come up to him all the time and are like, ‘The Weasel! The Weasel!' And I’m like ‘Dude. That was 20 years ago,'” Cummings says. “But once you become a part of the cultural zeitgeist, it’s hard to be seen any other way. There’s this idea that, ‘Oh, you’re doing stand-up? That must mean you’ve failed as a movie star.’ It never occurs to people that you want to do stand-up as a living.”
That does seem to be the attitude of most of Shore’s fans. In the film, numerous fans come up to him asking why he doesn’t star in movies anymore.
“And what am I supposed to say?” Shore says. “That I’m not super popular and I’m not starring in movies because Hollywood doesn’t want to give me movies?”
Instead, he just smiles and sort of shrugs it off. That’s the thing about Shore – he honestly doesn’t seem to have that much self-pity. The way he talks about being a (somewhat) Average Joe, it’s like he views his life now as a sociological experiment.
“There’s something that I really like about my life: I like flying coach,” he says. “There’s something about being connected with people in coach. Pauly Shore in coach is funny. Everyone looks at me like, ‘What are you doing back here?'”
He just got an apartment in a fourplex in Silver Lake, a part of town that was formerly entirely unfamiliar to the Beverly Hills high school graduate. He likes eating a sandwich after a gig instead of drinking his face off at a strip club. And he says he doesn’t want to have one-night stands because he’d rather wake up early to work out at the gym.
“Since life has beat up on him a bit he’s a lot easier to be around,” says his pal Marc Maron, a comedian who’s taken some lumps himself.
And yet there’s still this part of him that longs to seem cool. He insists girls still throw themselves at him and says he'll “sometimes hang out with celebrities at Tao in Vegas.” He’s been seeing a “really sweet” girl for a while with whom he has a “nice friendship,” but he’s still scared of marriage, likening it to bungee jumping. He also doesn’t really dress his age, wearing flat-brim caps and bandannas around his neck.
So, yes, there is a part of him that’s hoping his agent gets a zillion calls from industry people who see his documentary and go, “Oh, right! That guy is funny!”
“But I’m not expecting it,” he says. “I’m 46. I just don’t get as affected as I was back then when things weren’t working out. The other day, a friend asked me what I was up to, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t make Chris Rock money.’ And he goes, ‘Do you make a living?' And that’s what matters. I found something I enjoy that I get paid to do, so I think I’m pretty lucky.”
‘PAULY SHORE STANDS ALONE'
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Rating: TV-MA-L (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with an advisory for coarse language)